- Victoria Park -
Park – A Last Hurrah
After farewelling Victoria Park back in 1999, Collingwood had spent the next three seasons using the famous venue as a training ground. As the years rolled by, the ground’s condition worsened, and the club made a decision to move away from the stadium, to the new Lexus Centre. And while no one was unhappy with the idea of training at a world class venue, it was still sad to know that a ground so many people had grown up at would now be turned into housing.
In season 2002, Collingwood, after seven years in the football wilderness, stepped back into finals action after a terrific season. Senior players such as Buckley, Burns, Rocca and Licuria were firing and young guns Lonie, Davis, Fraser and Scotland were stepping up to the fore. The turnstiles clicked all over the nation as people flocked to grounds everywhere to see the Magpie Machine in action. Membership was up, as were attendances, as the Pies charged towards the finals for the first time since 1994.
After an unexpected victory over the fragile Port Adelaide, and a crushing win over the Crows two weeks later, the Collingwood bandwagon was in full swing, with newspapers filled with stories and photos of Magpie players and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks calling for all of the state to get behind the Pies. After a solid turnout at the training session prior to the preliminary final against Adelaide, the Magpie army was in full swing for the Grand Final, with a crowd of ___ swarming in to see the Pies before the Grand Final. The carparks were packed, and the roads jammed, as people of all ages came in to the ground to see the Pies. The trains were packed, and the streets packed full of cars, with barely any space near the ground. When I arrived, we parked our car about five or seven streets away, along with many other supporters, with about half an hour before training commenced.
We made the
trip across the Eastern Freeway overpass, as the ground got nearer and
nearer. Finally, we arrived at the magnificent ground, with hotdog stands
doing a roaring trade, people singing the club theme song, and AFL Grand
Final Record being sold outside the ground. The ground was bathed in sunshine
as we walked through the gates once more – to a massive roar of
the large crowd. We made our way around the R.T Rush Stand, with many
other supporters around us. We soon settled on the southern side of the
stadium, along the wing. Eddie McGuire was marching around the ground,
with the chant of ‘Eddie, Eddie, Eddie’ echoing through the
stadium. Then, finally, the players emerged, led by Jason Cloke, who earlier
in the week was suspended for two weeks by the AFL tribunal for striking
– despite an emotional appeal that night. After Cloke, came skipper
Buckley and experienced heads such as Betheras and Rocca. The rest of
the squad then emerged, to the massive roar of the crowd. Children jumped
the fence, and sat on the boundary line before being sent off by security.
The team began the session with a lap of the oval, to the enormous roar
of the Magpie supporters.