The Oakleigh football ground is part of Warrawee Park, in Melbourne’s southern suburbs. Oakleigh Football Club was formed in 1891 and joined the Victorian Football Association in 1929, from the Melbourne District League (where it had won the flag in 1924.) It won eight VFA premierships, the first in 1930 and the last (in second division) in 1988.
The photo above was taken in May 1987 by Oakleigh supporter Jeff Lawton.
‘Oakleigh were known as the Devils, although they were mostly (and unimaginatively) called the Oaks,’ recalled Jeff. ‘Their guernseys were purple with a gold monogram. Oakleigh players who went on to play in the AFL during this period were Kevin Dyson (Melbourne and Sydney), Simon Verbeek (Carlton) and Cory Young (Richmond and West Coast).’
Caulfield were in their last VFA season in 1987, with Oakleigh following suit seven years later. [The final score of that game in May ’87 was 19.21 (135) to 8.5. (53) ]
‘The VFA scoreboards differed from the VFL in the letters that were used for around the ground scores.’ noted Jeff. ‘The VFL scoreboards used A/B (for VFL Park matches, usually), C/D (for Princes Park matches, so it seemed), E/F, G/H (often for the MCG matches), K/N and R/S (the latter seemed to often be Kardinia Park matches).’
Behind the new scoreboard are headstones from the old Oakleigh General Cemetery, which closed in 1960. The headstones sit happily beside the footy ground, a playground and the RSL. The scoreboard’s most immediate neighbours are the late Susanna Mackie (died 1883, aged 73), her daughter Annie Martin (died 1864, aged 24) and a grand-daughter Elsie Adelaide (died 1883, aged 11 weeks.)
When I visited the ground on the first day of winter a passer-by said hello as I stood in the car-park trying to imagine games here in the old days. ‘I started following Oakleigh back in the 30s,’ said Kevin, a spritely 84 year old. ‘My dad was the head trainer back then.
‘I come down here twice a day and walk a few laps of the oval. There used to be carnivals and parades at the ground, years and years ago. And there used to be a small grandstand right here, where we’re standing.’
Kevin has lived in Oakleigh all his life and expects to die there too. ‘I don’t want to die at home, though. No-one will find me. I want to die on the interchange bench. That way a council worker will find me and take care of things. And maybe they could bury me in the old cemetery.’
Warrawee Park is now home to TAC Cup Under 18 team the Oakleigh Chargers.
Football Grounds of Melbourne by Santo Caruso, Marc Fiddian and Jim Main (2002)