Waverley Park, formerly known as VFL Park, was a VFL/AFL stadium and was home ground to St Kilda and Hawthorn in it's later years after previously being a neutral venue. It was replaced by the Docklands Stadium in 2000, and in December 2002 the entire stadium was demolished except for the members stand and the members stand mural. It now serves as Hawthorn's training and administration headquarters.
Although the plans had been conceived in 1959 and the land was acquired in 1962, work did not officially begin until January 5, 1966, when the then VFL President Sir Kenneth Luke turned the first sod and the foundations for the K.G. Luke Stand were laid in 1969.
On April 18, 1970, Fitzroy and Geelong played the first game at Waverley Park in front of a crowd of 25,887, but still the ground was far from completion.
The Public Reserve Stands encircling the rest of the stadium were finished at a cost of $4.5 million in 1974 and the car parking was extended to fit a total of 25,000 cars. In 1975 the K.G. Luke Stand was completed. Lighting was added in May 1977, at a cost of $1.2 million, for the first of the 1977 night series televised matches.
In 1982 a monochrome video matrix scoreboard was in operation at Waverley Park for the first time in VFL history, displaying instant replay highlights.
The sprinkler incident
During the 1979 night series in a match between Hawthorn and WAFL side Claremont, the venue's automatic sprinklers switched on without warning. They were shut off after a few minutes delay. Hawthorn went on to win the match.
Twenty six years before the infamous Launceston incident, the 1980 night series grand final ended in controversy when the umpires failed to hear the final siren as North Melbourne were going forward against Collingwood. Kangaroo forward Kerry Good marked the football and took a post match shot on goal which went through to give North a three point victory. The crowd noise drowned out the siren. The crowd was over 50,000 - a record for a night series game.
Government blocks extensions
The final plans for Waverley Park were for a stadium that would hold in excess of 150,000 people. However, when application was made to the state government for the go ahead, the government blocked it due to preference given to the MCG. This was emphasised by the government's refusal to provide planned public transport to Mulgrave. This action, it can be argued, started the venue on the path to it's closure.
1991 AFL Grand Final
The long term plan was for Waverley Park to become Melbourne's main football venue, but only one grand final was ever played there - due to the re-construction work of the Southern Stand at the MCG preventing a large crowd from attending. In 1991, Hawthorn and West Coast contested the grand final with a crowd of 75,230 attending. The day however is more remembered for the infamous Batmobile and singer Daryl Braithwaite forgetting the words of Advance Australia Fair.
In 1996 the lights went out at the stadium in a night game between Essendon and St Kilda, during the third quarter. After declaring the match finished for the evening the AFL commission held an emergency meeting to decide what should happen as there was no provision in the official rules for an event like this. They decided to continue the match three days later.
End of an Era
In 2000 Waverley Park closed and the new Docklands Stadium took over it's position. In 2002, anticipating complete demolition, the National Trust of Victoria moved quickly to nominate the K.G. Luke Stand stand for heritage listing on the basis that the stadium was the first major stadium purpose built for football. This nomination was successful, and only the outer stands were demolished.
After having made such memories in Waverley Park Hawthorn decided to take up residence in the old Stadium for administration and training purposes, In a way perhaps Waverley assisted by helping Hawthorn achieve premiership success in 2008 and maybe still has a lot more to offer.
Waverley Park Records
In its history, 732 AFL/VFL matches have been played at Waverley Park, 70 of which were finals and one grand final.
- Highest score: Fitzroy 36.22 (238) v Melbourne 6.12 (48) in round 17, 1979
- Largest crowd: 92,935, Queen's Birthday 1981, Hawthorn v Collingwood
- Most goals scored in one game: Jason Dunstall (Hawthorn), 17 goals, Round 7, 1992
- Rock concerts: Rod Stewart (1979), KISS (1980), David Bowie (1983), U2 (1998) and Simon and Garfunkel (1983).
- Cricket: World Series Cricket games between 1977 and 1979.
- International Rules Football: Matches between Australia and Ireland.
- Baseball: Home of the Waverley Reds from 1989 until 1994.