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End of an era: No more footy at Junction Oval

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If you couldn't get a kick out there you couldn't play anywhere
Brownlow medallist Neil Roberts

THE GOALPOSTS will be put away at the Junction Oval for the final time next week following the last ever game of football at the historic venue in inner Melbourne.

The Junction Oval was home to St Kilda from 1897-1964, South Melbourne (1944-46 and Fitzroy (1970-84). It was Melbourne's training base from 1986-2010 and hosted three Grand Finals – 1898, 1899 and 1944.

It was also the home for the VFA grand final most years from 1945-87.

An amateur game between Old Melburnians and Caulfield Grammarians on Saturday will bring down the curtain, after which work will commence on the $40 million redevelopment of the facility that will create a new year-round home for Cricket Victoria and the Victorian Sheffield Shield team.

A late bid by St Kilda to share the facility and train at a new ground across the road was rejected by the Victorian Government earlier this year.

In this week's AFL Record, St Kilda champion and 1958 Brownlow medallist Neil Roberts joined former Fitzroy star Garry Wilson in a visit to the Junction Oval for one last look at its football configuration.

Roberts said the Junction had the best playing surface "in the southern hemisphere" because of its sand-based soil that never turned to mud.

"If you couldn't get a kick out there you couldn't play anywhere," he said.

"It was an intimate ground to play footy on and while it wasn't especially long it had some width and you could always find some space," Wilson said.

Roberts said that local knowledge dictated that you play down the grandstand flank on the Albert Park Lake side of the ground. Wilson remembered superstar Fitzroy full-forward Bernie Quinlan kicking goals to the Fitzroy Street end from barely past the centre, particularly on days when the wind was howling from the north.

The loss of the Junction Oval to football is a sad day for traditionalists, however, the redeveloped venue will be suitable to host first-class cricket, meaning the MCG will now be available to the AFL earlier each year, with the season projected to start as early as the middle of March from 2017. 

THE JUNCTION OVAL
Games played (1897-1984): 734

TENANT CLUBS
St Kilda: 1897-1964
South Melbourne: 1944-1946*
Fitzroy: 1970-1984
Melbourne (training only): 1986-2010
*Lake Oval unavailable

GRAND FINALS
1898: Fitzroy 5.8 (38) d Essendon 3.5 (23) Attendance: 16,538
1899: Fitzroy 3.9 (27) d South Melbourne 3.8 (26) Attendance: 4823
1944: Fitzroy 9.12 (66) d Richmond 7.9 (51) Attendance: 43,000

Read the full story in the round 17 edition of the AFL Record, available at all grounds.