The MCG celebrates 167th birthday
Empty stands, quiet concourses and siren-less Saturday nights – the last six months have been different to the norm for the MCG.
Today, as the MCG – a cultural icon that has withstood World Wars and the 1918 Spanish Flu – turns 167, we reflect on the year that was from major upgrades, record-breaking crowds and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The six iconic light towers received a makeover – their first major refurbish since they were installed in 1984. More efficient LED lights now brighten the Ground, making for a better viewing experience and increased energy efficiency. The stadium was also fitted with a new, award-winning PA system to make announcements and audio crisper and clearer for fans in the stands.
The MCG hosted five matches in the 2019 AFL Finals Series, culminating with 100,014 fans witnessing Richmond claim their second premiership in three seasons, comprehensively defeating the GWS Giants 17.12 (114) to 3.7 (25) in the Grand Final.
The highlights continued into the summer of cricket. The much-scrutinised MCG pitch provided plenty of excitement in the annual Boxing Day Test and received the highest possible ICC ranking – ‘very good’. The final Test match of the year saw over 203,000 in total witness New Zealand’s first appearance in a Boxing Day Test in 32 years, with an opening day crowd of 80,473 the seventh-highest in Australian Test history and second-biggest for a non-Ashes fixture on Boxing Day.
The summer of cricket concluded with the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Final – with Australia claiming the title in-front of a crowd of 86,174. The match saw Australia’s second-highest attendance for a female sporting fixture, and a world record for a women’s cricket match and T20 match.
From celebrating a record-breaking crowd for the World Cup Final on Sunday March 8 – International Women’s Day – to hosting matches in Round 1 of the AFL Premiership Season without a single fan 10 days later, 2020 has delivered the MCG many highs and lows.
Without a crowd or an event for much of the year the ‘G received a well-deserved break. The hallowed turf is in the best condition it’s ever been due to the break, and ready for a big summer of cricket. Executive Manager of Turf, Michael Salvatore, gave insights as the Arenas team were pushed to their limits to turn the MCG from a cricket setup to AFL in the middle of March.
With some of the season’s flagship occasions – including the traditional ANZAC Day match and Dreamtime at the ‘G – being moved to other dates and locations, the MCG still celebrated the significance of the events.
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ANZAC Day saw a lone bugler playing to an empty stadium, giving regular attendees to the match a moment to continue their tradition of hearing the Last Post played in the middle of the MCG. To celebrate the usual timing of the Sir Doug Nicholls Round, in line with National Reconciliation Week, Wurundjeri artist Mandy Nicholson and her daughter Ky-ya created a unique artwork on the turf’s centre circle.
An eight-game relaunch in the middle of the year saw the AFL Premiership Season resume without crowds, creating a different spectacle with cardboard cut-outs and giant banners filling the place of passionate cheer squad members.
The return would be short-lived, with Victoria’s rising COVID-19 cases seeing the remainder of the season played away from the MCG.
However, just because the games have stopped, doesn’t mean the work does. The ‘G is still kept in pristine condition, ready for its next showcase.
The Arenas team have been busy keeping the hallowed turf immaculate, while the Facilities and Security teams have been looking after the beloved Ground, and the Safety team has been preparing their COVIDSafe plans for when the ‘G can finally welcome fans back into the stands. The work never stops at the MCG.
As respected Australian journalist Greg Baum wrote, “The MCG is a shrine, a citadel, a landmark, a totem. It is to this city what the Opera House is to Sydney, the Eiffel Tower to Paris and the Statue of Liberty is to New York; it symbolises Melbourne to the world.” So with that we wish the MCG a very happy 167th birthday!
Article published from the MCG website.