2015 Special Induction – North Hobart Oval

Ground Details
Construction broke ground – 1921
Ground opened – 1922

Tenants
North Hobart Football Club (TFL/TSL/SFL) 1922-2013
Sandy Bay Football Club (TFL) 1983-84, 1993-97
Hobart Football Club (TFL) 1986-97
Southern Cats (TFL) 1998-99
Tasmanian Devils (VFL) 2010-13
DOSA Football Club (Old Scholars Fa) 2010-13
Hobart City Football Club (TSL) 2014-Present

Official Attendance Records
24,986 – Clarence vs. Glenorchy, 1979 TANFL Grand Final
24,413 – New Norfolk vs. Clarence, 1970 TANFL Grand Final
23,764 – Day 2, 1966 Hobart Carnival
23,368 – Final Day, 1966 Hobart Carnival
20,364 – Sandy Bay vs. Clarence, 1971 TANFL Grand Final
20,193 – Clarence vs. New Norfolk, 1981 TANFL Grand Final
20,047 – DAy 1, 1966 Hobart Carnival

The 2015 induction into the ‘Special Category’ of the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame is the iconic North Hobart Oval.

Located in the inner northern suburbs of Hobart, the site that North Hobart Oval now occupies has had a varied history. It was Hobart Town’s original brickfields in 1844, then becoming home to convict women awaiting hire as domestic servants who were housed in buildings at the Domain end of the ground. In later years the buildings were used as an immigration depot and finally an invalid depot, which closed in 1882. Subsequently the area was used as a refuse dump where livestock also grazed.

Construction of the oval took place in 1921. The first grandstand to be built was the Ryde Street (George Miller) Stand in late 1921. The structure was badly damaged by fire in 2012 but rebuilt in 2014. Construction of the 840-seat Argyle Street Stand (known today as the Horrie Gorringe Stand began in 1923 and was completed in time for the 1924 Australian National Football Carnival. The grandstand remained unaltered until the rear half of the structure was gutted-out in 1991 to build the North Hobart Football Clubrooms, which later became the headquarters for AFL Tasmania. The Letitia Street Stand was also erected in 1924. It was built of wood and was in a poor state of repair by the time it burned down in an arson attack in 1987. It was replaced by the Doug Plaister Stand, completed in 1988.

Other works carried out included the building of the concrete Roy Cazaly Stand during 1960-61 and the building of players’ tunnels at the foot of the Horrie Gorringe Stand in 1964-65. The main electronic scoreboard, opened as the Gorringe Electronic Scoreboard, was constructed in 1972 and opened in time for the 1972 TANFL grand final. Its 569 light globes were removed and replaced in 2011, having been in poor condition for several years, with a new flat screen and time clock installed.

The ground’s inaugural football match was played on 6th May 1922 between Lefroy and New Town before a crowd of 1,000 spectators, with Lefroy winning 9.8 (62) to New Town 7.13 (55). On 9th May 1931 the ground also played host to the first ever broadcast TFL match between North Hobart and Lefroy. It cost the ABC £50 for the rights, with ex-Cananore player D.C. “Dinah” Green providing commentary for the game on radio station 7ZL.

Tasmania’s first VFL/AFL match took place at North Hobart Oval on 14th June 1952, when 18,387 spectators crammed in to witness Fitzroy defeat Melbourne by 20 points, 13.12 (90) to 10.10 (70). Fitzroy would go on to host an AFL premiership season match at the ground in both 1991 and 1992, but due to the uncompetitive nature of Fitzroy at the time crowds were lower than expected, and the cash-strapped Lions pulled out of the experiment at the end of 1992. Subsequently, there were numerous Fosters/Ansett Cup pre-season matches held there during the 1990s, with the largest crowd drawn numbering over 19,300 in 1996 for a match between the previous season’s grand finalists Carlton and Geelong, from which Carlton emerged the victors.

North Hobart Oval has hosted three Australian National Football Carnivals. The first was held in August 1924 and was won by Victoria, with a total attendance of 60,705 throughout the carnival. Crowds numbering 67,271 watched the next carnival in 1947, a tournament that was played in deplorable conditions and included an incident during one match where a red setter ran onto the ground and buried a saveloy in the mud in the centre of the oval. Victoria once again triumphed, this time on percentage. The third and final Hobart carnival was held in 1966 and attracted total crowds of 91,347 to witness Victoria once again take out the title, defeating Western Australia in the final.

In addition to the carnivals, North Hobart Oval has hosted many memorable matches between Tasmania and the other states and territories. Some of the most significant of these include Tasmania’s triumph over Western Australia by 2 points in 1970, and the three State Of Origin matches held between 1989-1991. In 1989, 12,342 spectators saw Tasmania break even with Victoria by halftime before Victoria raced away to win. Tasmania got its revenge on the Big V the following year, with a roaring crowd of 18,653 at the venue witnessing Tasmania race away from the Vics in the last quarter to record a 33-point win, its first over Victoria since 1960. In 1991, a peculiar draw from the AFL meant the match was scheduled for 11am on a Tuesday morning. Nevertheless, 14,086 people turned out to watch Victoria rush home with a late flurry to win by 12 points, despite trailing the Tasmanians for much of the day. In the remaining years of the decade Tasmania went on to defeat South Australian, Western Australian and Victorian Football Association (VFA) representative teams, all on the hallowed turf of North Hobart.

North Hobart Oval became headquarters for the TFL/TANFL/TFL Statewide League in 1922 and remained so until the League was disbanded in 2000. The ground hosted a total of 74 Tasmanian Football League grand finals between 1922 and 1999 and 20 Tasmanian state grand finals between 1923 and 1975, as well as the Winfield Statewide Cup grand final in 1980. The last Tasmanian Football League match held at the ground was the 2000 SWL preliminary final between North Hobart and North Launceston, which resulted in a narrow win to the Northern Bombers. After pressure from northern TFL clubs, notably the Northern Bombers, the TFL scheduled the 2000 grand final to be played at Launceston’s York Park, marking the first (and ultimately last) TFL grand final to be held away from North Hobart Oval since 1921.

Following the disbandment of the TFL, the Southern Football League made the ground its grand final venue from 2000 for both the premier and regional leagues, before the league switched its operations to KGV in Glenorchy in 2010. The Tasmanian Devils VFL side also played its southern home fixtures at North Hobart from its inception in 2001 until AFL Tasmania moved the team to Bellerive Oval in 2005. The ground at Bellerive could more adequately host corporate functions, as well as being the site of AFL Tasmania’s Centre of Excellence. There is still finals action at North Hobart today, however, with the ground continuing to host the Old Scholars Football Association grand final each year.

While North Hobart Oval will always be best associated with Australian football, the ground has hosted numerous other events throughout its long history. Cricket, soccer, ANZAC Day sports events and athletics have all been staged there at various times. As an athletic track it was much maligned, yet two world records were set on it: Betty Cuthbert set a new time for the 220 yard sprint in 1960, while Ron Clarke broke Vladimir Kuts’ (USSR) 5000 metre record in 1965. Many other sporting and entertainment events have been held there – including a Military Tattoo attended by thousands in 1987 – but the event that holds the unofficial ground attendance record of 25,000 was the Dr Billy Graham Crusade in March 1959.

Despite its status as southern Tasmania’s long-standing ‘home of football’, the future of North Hobart Oval is looking increasingly shaky, with other stadiums gradually outshining the now tired-looking ground. But regardless of its what its future holds, North Hobart Oval will always have a special place in the hearts of those of us who have witnessed some of the great battles that have taken place there. The ground will forever be the spiritual home of football in Tasmania, and thus North Hobart Oval rightfully takes its place in the Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame.