Photos and text by Eric Algra
They must breed ‘em tough down in Tassie.
I’d certainly heard about it and finally, on a recent trip, got to see for myself the infamous Queenstown Oval.
Of course the infamy stems from the ground’s heritage-listed gravel playing surface. Apparently this was chosen over grass, which would only turn to mud due to the high rainfall. One can only imagine the dread players would feel at the prospect of playing here.
Built over a hundred years ago, the oval is home to the Queenstown Crows, part of the Darwin Football Association and, in the past, hosted grand finals for the previous Western Tasmanian Football Association.
Despite its notoriety, the ground itself is set in an attractive location which, I’m sure, would have seen many a tough encounter.
Postscript: The Queenstown Crows won the 2014 Grand Final against Somerset, dedicating their win to team-mates Craig Gleeson and Alastair Lucas, who were killed in an accident at the town’s copper mine in December 2013.
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Used to be the home ground for 3 different clubs, there were occasional brawls at shared training nights. My mate Rob grew up there, his dad was the publican and played for (or maybe even coached) City. The other clubs in town were Smelters and Lyell.
Thanks Chris. Interesting stuff. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of the history of this place when I was there.
My father emigrated to Queenstown from Italy in 1938 to work underground in the massive (then) Mt Lyell mine. There were about 50 Italian miners there, and he was sponsored by one of them.
He told me of his vivid memories of watching football (” this strange rough game where there was lot of fighting and the crowd yelled a lot and were drinking lots of beer”). He wore a hat with a small brim (the Italian style) and people in the street used to stare and laugh at him -because the Australian style was only hats with a wide brim.
He had saved 180 pounds ($360,big money then) in a Tasmanian bank (as well as sending money back to his parents in Calabria) up to May 1940, when Italy joined Germany, against the Allies. One evening, Queenstown police rounded up all the Italians, saying they had to go to Hobart, “to have a chat with the police there’. Five years later he was released from an Internment Camp (“Enemy Aliens”). Never saw the 180 pounds again, but was well fed and survived the war.
Thank you, Terry, for these comments. Vivid and touching. Much appreciated. I suspect football is still a strange rough game where there is lot of fighting and the crowd yells a lot and drink lots of beer. I hope you now have your father’s hat.
No, dad threw the hat away soon after arriving, and bought an Australian style hat to “fit in”! I only have a tin badge,” Butler’s Gorge”, and his Camp No. on it.(He and some other prisoners volunteered for timber cutting work, for a very small wage -“to get away from looking at 4 walls all day”) He went back to Queenstown in 1945, but stayed only a month as all the Italians were gone. I deeply regret never going back to Queenstown with him, as he always spoke about it.
Tasmanian Football has been strangely & disgracefully neglected since the 1970’s. “The Great Laurie Nash” 30’s-those who saw him & historians said he was the greatest footballer OF ALL TIME; 60’s Baldock, Stewart, Howell, Lawrence, Hart, Hudson, Crosswell;,Roach, 70’s. Tasmania beat Victoria in the 60’s! – & lost narrowly to Vic.,WA or SA! Apart from Lynch and Richardson,no Stars since 70’s. BUT the AFL pumps Ireland,NZ, and maybe even USA!?
The VFL/AFL have never publically accepted responsibility for the lost assembly line of Stars, and the sad decline of Tasmania – it would be thrashed now playing Vic.,WA or SA.
Whilst the AFL is to be applauded in creating new markets in Gold Coast & GWS, and grass roots football is booming in NSW & Qld (52% of Aust. population), Tasmania has been left to wither on the vine. Why?
Grant Birchall is a star of the game, and hails from Queenstown
Thanks Terry for the interesting comments. The words about your Dad were very moving.
I sympathise with regard to the state of Tassie football. I grew up always being aware of what a strong football state Tasmania was. (I remember seeing them play at the national carnival in Adelaide in 1969 as a young teenager.)
The neglect you speak of I find to be not only sad, but disrespectful of a state that has contributed so much to the great Aussie game.
Reblogged this on Graham's Blog and commented:
One of the more unusual sporting grounds anywhere in the world.
I’ve heard of a rugby pitch in Kuwait which is oiled sand, but this is just that little bit tougher.
Gormy i believe had the original gravel oval or rec
Not so sure Gormanston had the original gravel but Queenstown ground was around in the late 1800s – Gormanston was also in the WTFA as well as Smelters City Lyell Rosebery Toorak and Tullah at one stage
Smelters Robins, City Magpies, Lyell Maroons, Mines United all played out of the Gravel.
Originally Gormy (The Mountain Men) played up in the hills but ended up playing out of Queenstown as well.
Smelters and City amalgamated in around 1976-77 to become Queenstown Blues.
Lyell and Gormanston amalgamated in 1976 and became Lyell-Gormanston Lions. Both played on Queenstown.
When the WTFA folded following the 1994 season, both Queenstown Blues and Lyell-Gormanston amalgamated and joined the Darwin Football Association as the Queenstown Crows, they won the flag in 2021. I believe ex-Clarence star David “Moose” Lewis was the Crows first coach.
Rosebery and Toorak amalgamted in the 80s and now play out of Rosebery as Rosebery-Toorak, they have had their struggles in recent years.
Zeehan Bulldogs folded in the late 90s, Tullah and Savage River clubs amalgamated at some stage in the late 70s/early 80s but they are long gone.
Strahan Seals are another, folded in 1958 but returned to the WTFA in about 1991 but folded for good when the WTFA went under. Great memories from my time on the West Coast.