Alex G. Gillon Oval (Brunswick VFA), Victoria

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Photograph courtesy of the Brunswick Sentinel.

Above is a scene from the opening round VFA match between Brunswick and Coburg on Sunday 18 April 1976. This was an important day for the Magpies. On this day, the Brunswick Football Ground was renamed Alex G. Gillon Oval in honour of the long-serving city councillor and VFA president. Brunswick’s new social rooms were officially opened, the Second Division flag of 1975 was unfurled, and Brunswick became the second ground in Melbourne (after VFL Park, Waverley) to boast an electronic scoreboard.

The 12,000 watt scoreboard was worth $10,000 (about $60,000 in today’s money) and stood 42 feet (≈13 m) high. Brunswick city councillor Graham Kermonde had promised that he would provide the scoreboard to Brunswick if the club won the 1975 premiership. The councillor spent three and a half months drumming up support from Brunswick businessmen to finance the board.

It is interesting to see this scoreboard again after 23 years. I had forgotten how distinctive it was. Although it is hard to read in the photo, it was easy enough live. Up the top is an ad for Deluge Skylights, which is still going today (advertising at the VFA obviously did work!). Below that is the team name BRUNSWICK, and some kind of welcoming message for opening day. The photo was taken 12 minutes into the third quarter, with Coburg leading 8.11 (59) to Brunswick 4.6 (30).

The rows of numbers below each team score puzzled me for a while, but it turns out that they were the scores at the end of each quarter of the game. The ‘Wickers had trailed 1.4 to 3.5 at quarter time (it says 01.04 and 03.05 on the board), and 2.6 to 8.9 at half time. I don’t remember any other scoreboard (apart from television screens) that recorded completed quarter scores of the live game. The bottom row seems to be the umpire’s name (the VFL had just introduced a two-umpire system, and it seems likely that the VFA hadn’t got around to that yet), while around the ground scores from other First Division games were displayed on the left-hand side. The Brunswick-Coburg game had obviously been allocated the letters A and B, because the scoreboard records J, K, C, D, E, F, G and H as the codes for the other eight First Division clubs (as a VFA follower, you didn’t get to find out the scores in the other Division until the 6 o’clock TV news or the Monday newspaper).

As for the on-field action in the photo, well, B. Valentine (5) of Brunswick is contesting with R. Beattie (Coburg). And obviously Phil Cleary is waiting for the crumbs. The Magpies kicked six goals in the last term of the game to end up going down by a respectable 21 points, 11.15 (81) to 14.18 (102).

The new scoreboard’s debut was not without drama. Testing on the eve of the match revealed a malfunction. Cr. Kermonde worked until 3am on the Sunday morning to ensure that the scoreboard was working perfectly on the big day.

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Behind the scoreboard, Lloyd Kermonde twists the knobs to update the scores (photo: Brunswick Sentinel). It looks like he has set 17.14 (116) to (possibly) 18.15 (123).

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Now, here is a shot that I took at Brunswick’s last VFA game, 5 May 1991. By this time the club was known as Brunswick-Broadmeadows, although there seemed to be little Broadmeadows involvement (except perhaps financial). You can click on these to make them bigger, although it is obviously not a great photo. Number 22 for Brunswick was Scott Leydin, while 14 for Oakleigh was Andrew Sutherland. There is not a huge crowd there, although that was only to be expected with both clubs struggling. The media had reported before the game that Brunswick would fold if it lost heavily in this game. I was therefore hoping for an Oakleigh win, but not a huge win. In the event, a 14.18 (102) to 30.19 (199) defeat was enough to persuade the Magpies to throw in the towel.

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Rino Pretto lines up for one of his 13 goals at Brunswick on 5 May 1991. Pretto kicked 879 goals for Oakleigh from 1984-92 and also played at Fitzroy, Camberwell, Coburg and Dandenong. Pretto would often celebrate important goals with his famous ‘moose call’, which involved a jubilant bellow accompanied by an ungainly dance. It wasn’t until Pretto transferred to Dandenong and started kicking bags of goals against Oakleigh that I realised how irritating the moose call was to opposition supporters!

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Here is a scene from round 2 1989. Brunswick beat Oakleigh, 19.17 to 13.15 that day. The Magpies were coming off a massive win over Sunshine, while Oakleigh had a decent side in 1989, so there was a respectable crowd in front of the A.R.Glenn Stand. Note that Oakleigh are in the gold shorts in this game. The VFA could never seem to make its mind up on that. There was a white shorts for away sides rule in 1984-87 and 1991-95, but not in 1981-83 or 1988-90.

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Here is a picture of the A.R.Glenn Stand in 2014.

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The eastern end of the ground has changed a bit since the VFA days…

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…but this view of the ground is not much different to that way it was in the ’80s. The main stand is no longer accessible, which is probably a good thing. I would rank Brunswick as one of the great VFA grounds, alongside Port Melbourne, Prahran and Camberwell. It is interesting that while many of the VFA clubs are gone, the old VFA grounds and grandstands have mostly survived. Conversely, all of the VFL clubs are still around in one form or another, but grounds like South Melbourne, North Melbourne and Footscray have changed beyond recognition.

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Here is a picture of children of Brunswick players posing in front of the old grandstand in 1908 (photo: Brunswick Library).

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The same stand after it was destroyed by a deliberately lit fire on 17 July 1975 (photo: Brunswick Sentinel).

Below are some pictures from the 1975 Second Division grand final, in which Brunswick defeated Camberwell at Toorak Park.

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Ian Orton takes the mark of the day.

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Ken Laker takes a big mark for Brunswick in the 1975 grand final.

8 comments

  1. Great to see some historic photos that bring back memories of Gillon Oval. I was at Gillon when 14,000 packed to see Jacko play against the zebras in 1986.
    Do you know anyone that has any footage of either the 1975 VFA GF v Camberwell, 1980 VFA GF v Yarraville or any footage from Gillon Oval.

    Great site keep up the good work

    Cheers George
    gparas61@optusnet.com.au

    • Thanks George. You’re the bloke who was involved at Richmond Central back in the late ’80s, weren’t you. I remember playing against them a few times. Don’t think we ever won. Yes, I would like to see some footage of those grand finals too. There’s not much on Youtube, is there? Someone will have videotapes lying around somewhere. I have a few Oakleigh games, including the 1984 preliminary final against Brunswick. The Oaks had come from behind to set up a matchwinning lead in the last term when an Oakleigh player (who shall remain nameless) knocked out Lawson of Brunswick with the most shameful elbow I’ve seen. It’s all captured on the tape, including the Brunswick supporters’ reaction. Great timing to do something like that late in a winning prelim final. Maybe this bloke was not very smart. Anyway, I must see about converting those tapes one day.

  2. Great seeing the scoreboard again. I am the person who operated it after the opening game and l also painted the magpie banner under the time clock.

  3. Vin, The scoreboad might have looked great from the outside but it was anything but that on the inside. The globes were always blowing out and to change them you had to pull out the insides of the box housing the globes which were in rows of 3. You couldnt even swing a cat in there and the second level was very narrow. l was given the job by Tony Farrugia who was secretary at the time coming across from Hawthorn and still enjoyed every minute of it. My payment was $10 a game and a Membership ticket.. Cheers Gregg

  4. Vividly remember Grahame Kermonde, my father, working into the night finishing the board at Brunswick. It was an era when Brunswick was a force in the VFA. My mother Marian, was Mayor of Brunswick in 1975. She ‘opened’ the new social club at Gillon oval. Great article. Thanks. Ann

  5. Love the 1908 photo. Crowd in attendance shows how popular local football was then and also the standing of VFA Football. Yes Brunswick was strong in the 70s but rarely ever fielded a bad side. Had great spirit and should be revived. (I knew both Farrugia (real personality)and Kermonde whilst treasurer for two years mid 1976-1978 before being transferred ,by work, to Sydney)

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