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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Brookvale Oval is located on the world-famous Northern Beaches of Sydney, New South Wales and has served as the home of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles National Rugby League (NRL) club since its formation in 1947, although the area land was designated Brookvale Park as early as 1911. Brookvale Oval has a capacity of 23,000 and is managed by the local council, meaning it's supposedly a public recreation space. The Sea Eagles have fought running battles against the council, as well as at other levels of government, attempting to improve the maintenance standard of the current facility and to secure a commitment for a substantial upgrade.
A junior league was first formed on the peninsula in 1932, a traditional rugby union stronghold. However, the league was forced north from Manly itself to the nearby suburb of Brookvale. Having first requested to join the NSWRL as early as 1937, the Sea Eagles were eventually admitted to the 1947 competition along with Parramatta. The Eagles have since become one of the strongest and most consistent clubs in the league with the distinction of never finishing last at the conclusion of a season. Manly are traditionally very strong at their home ground, which is often described as “The Fortress” or colloquially as “Brookie”.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The haphazard design of the stadium has resulted in a mismatch of concession stands throughout the grounds. Permanent outlets are often placed where they can be fitted in rather than strategically incorporated into the general flow of the stadium.
The food itself is of comparable quality to that of similar stadiums around Sydney and other Australian cities - meaning mass produced, fairly average in taste, and quite expensive. A standard meal deal (main hot item plus chips and a drink) costs $15.50. The individual main items (pie, sausage roll, hot dog, nuggets, and hot chips) cost $5.50 and do not have a price variation.
There are several additional stands around the ground offering gourmet hot dogs ($7), pulled pork bun ($12), and donuts ($2).
Several different beers are available at the bar including Hahn Premium Light ($6) and James Squire 150 Lashes Pale Ale ($8.10). Pre mixed spirits cost $10, cider is $7.80 and house wine costs $6.90. As usual in Australia, if you need a carry tray you will need to fork out an additional $1.
Brookvale Oval offers a mix of seating options. The largest of the three grandstands runs the length of the western side of the playing field and is known as the Jane Try Stand in recognition of a land donation in the early 20th century. The stand faces the east and offers one level of shaded elevated seating. There's also seating at ground level in front of the concourse. The players race through this concourse and onto the playing surface.
In the southwestern corner lies the Ken Arthurson Stand, named after the long-time Manly Sea Eagles administrator. The Fulton-Menzies Stand sits at the southern end of the ground and honours former players Bob Fulton and Steve Menzies.
The northern end and eastern side are dominated by several rows of bleacher style seating and a grass hill. Plenty of spectators take the opportunity to enjoy the sun and soak up the atmosphere in this area. There is a scoreboard that displays text only at the back of the northern hill.
Brookvale is located towards the southern end of the northern beaches. The suburb has a large industrial presence, but also boasts the largest shopping centre on the peninsula - Warringah Mall. The mall offers plenty in the way of retail as well as a large food court and several cafés and restaurants. Manly Leagues Club (563 Pittwater Rd) is just down the street from the stadium providing standard bistro food and several bars. The other option nearby is the Brookvale Hotel (511 Pittwater Rd). However, to get the most out of your visit to the area, you really need to travel away from Brookvale.
The beaches themselves are amongst the very best Australia has to offer. The closest beach is North Curl Curl, but take your pick of any of the 21 patrolled beaches along this stretch of coastline. A few highlights to consider include Avalon (where an episode of the TV show Baywatch was filmed), Palm Beach (where the Australian soap opera Home and Away is filmed), Freshwater (look for the statue of Duke Kahanamoku who is said to have introduced surfing to Australia on the headland), and the world-famous Manly Beach to the south. Freshwater also offers Harbord Diggers (80 Evans St) and Harbord Beach Hotel (29 Moore Rd).
If you're looking for an extended night out, head down to Manly. Here you will find an abundance of pubs, cafes, restaurants, and hotels spread along The Corso and North Steyne. Some of the more popular pubs include The Steyne (75 The Corso), nicknamed "The Drain" amongst locals, the Ivanhoe (27 The Corso) and Manly Wharf Bar (21 East Esplanade). I'd also recommend the Manly Skiff Club (Stuart St) as a great place to enjoy a cold beer with a sensational view overlooking Manly Cove.
A little closer to Brookvale lies Dee Why, where numerous cafes and restaurants line the beachfront, including my personal favourite Sandbar (25 The Strand). In short, you're in one of the best areas of Sydney, but you will need transport to make the most of it.
Manly fans are infamous for their reluctance to travel to away games, but their passion at Brookvale Oval cannot be questioned. The Sea Eagles Army show up in good numbers, mostly in Manly's maroon colors. An average crowd is between 13,000 and 15,000, which will mean a fairly full and therefore loud stadium.
The northern beaches suffer from poor public transport, traffic, and parking. The only public transport offering a direct service to Brookvale Oval is bus. If you are making a day of it and come via the city, then the ferry is certainly a good option. The ferry provides great views of the harbour and showcases Sydney as a whole; however, you will then need to take the bus up to the oval. Car parking in the surrounding streets is free; however, be prepared for a walk and keep in mind how steep Beacon Hill Road is to the northwest if you park in that direction. Otherwise, $10 parking can be found in nearby Brookvale Public School. The facilities are showing their age and the bathrooms appear not to be well cleaned and cobwebs abound.
Tickets start at around $29 for unreserved general admission areas, and up to $66 for reserved undercover grandstand seating. If the weather is nice, then take your chance on the hill (although you'll be looking into the sun for afternoon games), but be aware that the entire stadium offers little in the way of covered areas. Priced similar to other NRL venues, but to be fair, the majority of them offer a more comfortable and modern fan experience.
Additional points awarded in recognition of mascots Egor and Ellie, cheerleaders, and team store.
It appears as though plans are finally afoot to redevelop Brookvale, which will be a welcome relief. In the meantime, you'll be treated to a traditionally strong team with plenty of fan support for the home team.
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563 Pittwater Rd
Brookvale, NSW 2100
+61 2 9939 6722
513 Pittwater Rd
Brookvale, NSW 2100
(02) 9905 0217
Condamine St & Old Pittwater Rd
Brookvale, NSW 2100
+61 2 9905 0633
Curl Curl, NSW 2096
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