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Western Oval

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Western Oval

Whitten Oval
Western Oval
Former names Western Oval
Location Footscray, Victoria

37°47′57″S 144°53′12″E / 37.799166°S 144.886748°E / -37.799166; 144.886748Coordinates: 37°47′57″S 144°53′12″E / 37.799166°S 144.886748°E / -37.799166; 144.886748

Surface Grass
Capacity 15,000
Western Bulldogs (admin + training) (VFL/AFL)

Whitten Oval is a stadium in the inner-western suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia located at 417 Barkly Street, Footscray. It is the training and administrative headquarters of the Western Bulldogs Football Club, which competes in the Australian Football League.

Formerly known as the Western Oval, it was renamed in honour of Ted Whitten, a former player, captain and coach for the Club. A statue of Whitten was also erected at the entrance of the Oval.


The Whitten Oval is the centrepiece of a reserve that, from 1860, was a stone quarry used by the railways. In 1866, the quarry was turned into a reserve that included botanical gardens. Other former quarries within the City of Footscray that were turned into public gardens in this era include the Yarraville Reserve, which is the site of the current Yarraville Oval, off Williamstown Road; the Yarraville Gardens, off Hyde Street; and Footscray Park, which fronts the Maribyrnong River.[1]


In 1879, after moving from ground to ground, the local council finally grants the local football club permission to use the Western Reserve as their home ground.[2]

In 1883, the Footscray Football Club was formed. A year later, the club began hosting games in the botanical gardens. While the gardens became known as the David Spurling Reserve, the oval within the gardens became the Western Oval.

In 1941, the Club packed up and left Western Oval and played their home games at Yarraville, leaving the oval free for soldiers on the way to the battles of New Guinea during World War Two. In 1943, the club returned to Western Oval.[2]

1955 saw the ground record attendance set for the oval when 42,354 turned out on 9 July to see Footscray defeat Collingwood by just six points in round 12 of the 1955 VFL season

In 1995, the oval was renamed the Whitten Oval after the death of the football club's favourite son, Ted Whitten. The driveway leading from Barkly Street to the car park behind the oval was named Whitten Avenue.

Finally, in 1997, the last official AFL game was played at Whitten Oval. In what will go down as one of the most memorable matches within the Club's history, the Western Bulldogs defeated the West Coast Eagles by two goals. The match was known distinctively for a "before the game" fight between Michael Gardiner of West Coast and several Western Bulldogs players.

After the appointment of Campbell Rose as Chief Executive of the football club in 2002, discussions commenced on a redevelopment of Whitten Oval in which construction commenced in 2006.

Canary Island Palms

Fifteen Canary Island date palm trees line the footpath north of the oval, facing Barkly Street. Three Canary Island pine trees are behind these palms. To the west of the oval, between the car park and Hocking Street, there are two more palms.

Of the 15 palms that line the reserve's northern border, 10 are south of the entrance to Whitten Avenue and five are north of the entrance. Behind the palms, to the north of the entrance, is the Lions Club of Footscray Memorial Playground. The palms are believed to have been planted about the 1920s, during a beautification scheme overseen by noted landscaper David Matthews.

Football Stadium

The ground previously seated up to 25,000. It is currently not used for league matches, but is undergoing a redevelopment, and it has been hinted that it could soon be up to AFL standard.

The ground is known famously for being particularly long and narrow as opposed to many other grounds, with deep squarish pockets, and for the wild wind which bellowed over the ground, particularly at the Geelong Road end of the ground. These reasons, most specifically the wind, meant that the Western Oval was the site of many abnormally low scoring games, inaccurate scoring tallies, and games where more than 80% of all scoring was kicked to one end. The ground developed a demographic of the "ground visiting sides hated to play at", with passionate Bulldog supporters and unique playing conditions making it an arduous task to leave with a win.

Windy Days at the Western Oval

In a game typical of the worst that the Western Oval wind could offer, Footscray beat Fitzroy in a close game by the score of 14.9.93 vs 13.7.85 in Round 10, 1964. Of the total of 178 points scored in the game, only 7 were scored against the wind. When Footscray met Fitzroy in Round 17, 1927, only 6 of 173 points were kicked against the wind. In 1948's Footscray vs Geelong game, only 2 of the 58 scoring shots were made into the wind. The wind was so fierce that when the Geelong full-back Bruce Morrison kicked the ball off after Footscray had scored a behind, the ball floated back over his head and went through the goals. The Goal umpire signalled a "forced behind". While these are extreme examples, it was common to see no more than two or three goals kicked into the wind, while fourteen or fifteen would be scored at the other end.

Whitten Oval redevelopment

In September 2004, during Grand Final week the Western Bulldogs pulled off one of the most exhilarating coups in the Club's history, with Prime Minister John Howard visiting the oval and announced that his Liberal Government will be contributing $8 Million to spearhead a $19.5 million redevelopment of the Whitten Oval. [3][4]

Once completed, the redeveloped ground will include a 120 place childcare centre, a conference and convention centre and a state-of-the-art sports, medical, and health care centre. President David Smorgon claimed that the announcement will be recorded as one of the most significant in the Western Bulldogs history. [5]

Federal government: $8.0 Million [6][7]
Western Bulldogs Forever Foundation: $5.5 Million [1]
State government: $3.0 Million [8][9]
Local council: $1.0 Million [10]
AFL: $1.5 Million

Construction of the redevelopment commenced in 2005 with the demolition of the old scoreboard and the stand on the outer wing (The E.J. Smith stand). [11] Completion of the redevelopment was planned for late 2008 with a large indoor sports hall (incorporating netball, basketball and soccer) scheduled for completion in 2009.

The Elite Learning Centre, a multi-purpose space including exercise and training facilities as well as treatment and laboratory rooms, opened in July 2008. [12] In early 2009 the Western Bulldogs Management moved into their new facilities at the ground.

Mid 2009 construction began on the childcare facility and is visible from the Whitten Oval carpark.

Current activities

Post use as a VFL/AFL stadium, the Whitten Oval is now primarily used as the training ground for the Western Bulldogs.

A number of local community groups, schools and sporting organisations utilise the ground; particularly because of its close proximity to the Melbourne CBD and local transport. The ground also plays host to a variety of commercially orientated tenancies including retail (The Western Bulldogs merchandise shop, Bulldogs Central) and health (Physioplus Footscray). It also headquarters the WMR (Western Metropolitan Region) division of DEECD, which oversees all government schools in Melbourne's West.

The West Footscray railway station and local bus lines service the oval well.

The Western Region Football League (WRFL) and the Victorian Women's Football League (VWFL) utilise the ground for games and finals.

A local Rec Footy competition, the Western Bulldogs Family Day and a host of other community activities throughout the year mean the oval is constantly used.


External links

  • Whitten Oval at Austadiums
  • "Around the Grounds" - Web Documentary - Western Oval
  • Whitten Oval "From Vision to Reality" - documentation of the redevelopment by the Western Bulldogs
  • Bulldogs Central - the Western Bulldogs Merchandise Outlet
  • Physioplus Footscray - a physiotherapy and massage therapist practice operating at the Whitten Oval

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