I have created a new blog category today, and will endeavour to unearth some of the lost golden nuggets of Geelong, and in due course pay homage to some of the region’s more interesting and/or forgotten historical figures. The hidden gems of G-Town, if you will.
For the uninitiated, Geelong is the 2nd-largest city in the Australian state of Victoria. Situated on Corio Bay, it is 75 kilometres (47 miles) southwest of the state capital Melbourne. This port city was named in 1827, a derivative of the local Wathaurong Aboriginal name for the area, Djillong. Geelong is sometimes referred to as a ‘gateway city’, being centrally located to popular Victorian regions including the surf coast and Great Ocean Road, the famed 1850s gold rush city Ballarat, and Melbourne. With a population today in excess of 220,000 it offers the benefits of both a small metropolis and a large township. City and country. Beach and ‘burbs. It is in many ways idyllic.
I am a proud Geelong person. I am also a proud Geelong Football Club supporter, and a proud descendant of four of the club’s past players. The GFC is a professional Australian Rules football club, and is one of 18 teams in the AFL (Australian Football League, and pre-1990, Victorian Football League). Established in 1859, the club is the 2nd oldest in the AFL, and one of the oldest football clubs in the world. (Internationally renowned football (or soccer) clubs are younger – Manchester United (est. 1878), Liverpool (1892), Real Madrid (1902)… Quite remarkable really!) Known since the 1920s as the ‘Cats’, the GFC was previously nicknamed the ‘Pivotonians’ and the ‘Seagulls’, with these monikers referencing the city’s early industry and its seaside location.
The Cats host AFL matches at GMHBA Stadium, part of a sports complex called Kardinia Park. Prior to this, for the period 1878-1940, the club’s home ground was Corio Oval, located in East Geelong. The oval was used by the Army as a military training camp during World War II, which prompted the club relocation.
I wonder how many Geelong Cats supporters or life-long Geelong residents would know about this? Or indeed, how many might have discovered this inconspicuous commemorative plaque, signifying the old Corio Oval location in Eastern Park? Weekend joggers or dog walkers may stumble across it occasionally. A conference centre stands on the edge of the space today, neighbouring parkland. It’s hard to imagine a footy oval and packed grandstand there, with crowds of around 20,000+ witness to the fierce rivalries of the era. Geelong versus Melbourne, Geelong versus Collingwood, Geelong versus Richmond… And grandfather Hardiman versus anyone who dared to offer him a deft clip… or so the legend goes.