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Ground Sizes

DavidSSS

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Dec 11, 2017
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I heard this week that Richmond were training with the dimensions of the Adelaide Oval on their training ground up at the hub.

We often hear talk of how different grounds affect different teams, how the different grounds and their dimensions affect each team. Most of us can probably recall the week after playing at Subi was always a challenge. If you are old enough you will remember when Waverley was called VFL Park and what a huge ground it was.

So, what are the ground sizes, what are the rules, how has this changed over time, what is going on?

Well, I thought I would try and find out.

I could find no single source of truth on ground sizes, but I did find a lot of information which I will expand on below. I figure this is going to take a few posts so I will get going in the next post.

DS

PS - did I mention I like a bit of history?
 
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DavidSSS

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Ok, so where do we start?

Why, at the beginning of course.

When I was a kid I remember reading about the earliest games of football (we don't have to specify which version of football here because Australian Rules is the oldest codified football in the world, yep, older than Association Football or Rugby or Gridiron, we were first with a set of rules). The earliest games were played in Yarra Park near where the MCG is today and apparently the goal posts were 2 miles apart.

But the earliest reference to ground size I could find was from a publication called The Footballer published in 1876, yep, that's 1 year before the VFA was formed. Back then it was called Victorian Rules but there is some info on interstate versions in this publication and the SANFL started in around 1876 from memory.

The graphic in The Footballer looks like this:

1876 Ground size.jpg

Hmm, that's interesting, it ain't an oval.

Clearly there have been some changes and we now know and love the fact that Australian Rules is played on an oval, something unique to our game, but it wasn't always that way.

So what do the rules say about ground sizes?

Well, they do change over time, but here are a few samples:

In 1928 the Laws of Australian Football specified a ground size:
  • Between 150 and 200 yards (137.16 and 182.88 metres) in length.
  • Between 100 and 150 yards (91.44 and 137.16 metres) in width
In 1970 the Laws of Australian Football specified a ground size:
  • Between 150 and 200 yards (137.16 and 182.88 metres) in length.
  • Between 120 and 170 yards (109.73 and 155.45 metres) in width
The Laws of Australian Football 2020 state:
  • The ground shall be oval in shape
  • Between 135 and 185 metres in length
  • Between 110 and 155 metres in width
Fairly similar but you can see that the very narrow grounds of today would not be as narrow as those in the past. Mind you, there do seem to be some anomalies which I will get to later.

DS
 
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DavidSSS

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Ok, so we have an oval shaped ground.

I will be posting a pile of comparisons below but before we get to that you have to ask yourself a question: what is an oval?

Ovals come in a variety of shapes. All the comparison graphics I will post have an implicit assumption that the oval is symmetric, not just both sides of the oval but also the angles. This will become apparent in a minute. But the main point is, and to put it in footy terminology, you can have 2 ovals the same dimensions with very different shapes leading to deep or shallow pockets.

The best way to see this is with pictures.

Here's a nice old oval:

Brunswick_Street_Oval_c1925-35_-_Airspy_slv_H91.160_447.jpg

Egads, look at those pockets. This is Brunswick St which Fitzroy played at until 1966.

As a contrast:

Sydney Showgrounds.jpg

Yeah, not remotely the same shape. This is Sydney Showgrounds when it was named after some cleaning company, later pics look like it now has deeper pockets.

As you can see ovals, football ovals included, come in quite different shapes.

DS
 

DavidSSS

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Ok, so now we know the parameters, let's look at the size of all the grounds currently used by the AFL (I will get on to the old ones, but not tonight, I have a game to watch!).

Bear in mind that the sizes can change over time and that the sources for this info disagree.

The best measures of all the current grounds I can find (I will put some notes on sources later) are as follows:

MCG is the standard to compare others to:

GroundDimensions
Melbourne Cricket Ground - Melbourne160m x 141m

The rest:

GroundDimensions
Adelaide Oval - Adelaide167m x 124m
Bellerive Oval - Hobart160m x 124m
Carrara Stadium - Gold Coast160m x 134m
Cazaly's Stadium - Cairns165m x 135m
Docklands Stadium - Melbourne160m x 129m
Eureka Stadium - Ballarat160m x 129m
The Gabba - Brisbane156m x 138m
Jiangwan Stadium - Shanghai China160m x 136m
Kardinia Park - Geelong170m x 115m
Manuka Oval - Canberra162m x 138m
Marrara Oval - Darwin175m x 135m
Perth Stadium - Perth165m x 130m
Riverway Stadium - TownsvilleNo Idea!
Sydney Cricket Ground - Sydney155m x 136m
Sydney Showgrounds - Sydney164m x 128m
Traeger Park - Alice Springs168m x 132m
York Park - Launceston170m x 140m

If anyone can find the dimensions of Riverway Stadium in Townsville add them below!

They are all similar size but the best way to look at this is by comparison, see many posts below.

DS
 
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DavidSSS

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First off the comparison ground just has to be the MCG, so here''s what the dimensions of the MCG look like:

MCG Dimensions.jpg

Mind you, it hasn't always been this way, in a 1928 publication there are different dimensions:

MCG 2020 and 1928.jpg

Nothing stays the same!

DS
 

DavidSSS

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Let's go to the other grounds, starting with the Adelaide Oval, we play there tonight, hopefully for a famous win, and it is also first in alphabetical order, here's the comparison:

MCG-Adelaide Oval comparison.jpg

Always been long and skinny as a cricket ground and the same as a footy ground.

More to come, possibly tomorrow.

DS
 

DavidSSS

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Cazaly's Stadium in Cairns:

MCG-Cazaly's comparison.jpg

No idea why a stadium in Queensland is named after Roy Cazaly.

Again, similar size to the MCG.
 

DavidSSS

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Eureka Stadium in Ballarat:

MCG-Eureka comparison.jpg

Yep, looks like the MCG is pretty much one of the wider grounds. Makes sense actually as it is a cricket ground.

DS
 

DavidSSS

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The other G - The Gabba, about to host a Grand Final:

MCG-Gabba comparison.jpg

Pretty much the same shape as the MCG just a tiny bit smaller.

About to be the venue for the first ever all-interstate Grand Final - who could have imagined it would also be an all-Victorian Grand Final.

DS
 
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DavidSSS

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Time to go way away from the home of Australian Football, time to go to Shanghai:

MCG-Jiangwan comparison.jpg

Quite amazed they managed to find a ground with such similar dimensions to the MCG in China. Wonder what that stadium is normally used for as there aren't many games played on a similar ground to Aussie Rules. Maybe it is a track and field venue.

DS
 

DavidSSS

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Ah yes, the notoriously weird shaped ground at that place near Melbourne.

I give you, Kardinia Park:

MCG-Kardinia Park comparison.jpg

Now that's different. Even more so if you look at a picture. One of the wings is virtually straight and I'd have to really have a look at an overhead pic to see if it has deep or shallow pockets. It is a pity I can't find dimensions from many years ago as it would likely have been a different size before the revamp a few years back.

DS
 
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Mantikorr

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That's some great work DavidSSS! Looking at that I'm surprised the cats are 5-0 at the Gabba and we've struggled to play well there a bit this season. Never realised Kardinia Park was so narrow.
 
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UKTiger

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Jul 11, 2010
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So despite the Cats results at the Gabba, the size of the Gabba pitch in relation to the NCG and Kardinia Park should suit our more expansive game style more than the Cats. Whether that happens on the day remains to be seem
 
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DavidSSS

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Gabba should suit us more but I suppose Geelong haven't been playing on Kardinia Park either so who knows.

More to come, next up is Manuka Oval in Canberra:

MCG-Manuka Oval comparison.jpg

Again, very similar to the MCG.

DS
 

DavidSSS

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Here's a big one, but not the biggest, we'll get that when I go through the grounds no longer used, which will be later as I need to do the drawings:

MCG-Marrara Oval comparison.jpg

Almost as wide as the MCG and a fair bit longer.

DS
 

DavidSSS

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They said it would be MCG size, and they weren't far off:

MCG-Perth Stadium comparison.jpg

WA grounds do tend to be quite long, Subi was certainly very long, and this one is close to MCG size.

DS