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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is one of the greatest sporting venues in the world. Known to locals simply as, “The ‘G,” the venue opened in 1853. With a capacity of 100,024, it is the largest stadium in Australia. Owned by the Victorian State Government and managed by the Melbourne Cricket Club, the stadium is home to numerous cricket (Victorian Bushrangers and Melbourne Stars) and AFL teams (Richmond, Collingwood, Melbourne and Hawthorn).
The MCG plays host to three of the biggest sporting events in the land; the traditional Boxing Day cricket test match, the AFL Grand Final and the AFL Anzac Day match between Collingwood and Essendon. Not only that, the MCG was the main stadium for the 1956 Summer Olympic Games and 2006 Commonwealth Games.
The final of the 1992 ICC Cricket World Cup between Pakistan and England was also played at the MCG, as will the final of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. The venue has also hosted international soccer (football) and rugby union. Regular upgrades have kept the MCG at the forefront of modern stadium trends. Most recently, this has included the opening of the Great Southern Stand in 1992 and the rebuilding of the Members, Olympic, and Ponsford Stands in the early 2000s.
AFL has been played regularly at the MCG since the formation of the Victorian Football Association in 1879. The MCG has almost exclusively hosted the AFL Grand Final since 1901. Numerous clubs have called the MCG home over the years, ensuring a regular stream of football at The ‘G.
Richmond FC was formed in 1885 and joined the VFL, precursor to the AFL, in 1908. The Tigers most successful period was the late 1960s and early 1970s during which time they won four premierships. Since then they have experienced only sporadic success, with a sole finals appearance in 2013 their best effort over the past 10 years. After many years at nearby Punt Road Oval, Richmond has now called the MCG their home ground since 1965.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The 'G offers all the standard food and beverage offerings, along with some additional offerings. Also, don't discount the food stands outside the ground. As with most stadiums in this day and age, items are priced at a premium. In most cases expect to pay around $10 for your food and an average of $8 for a beer.
There is a reasonable amount of variety on hand, including outlets for Crust Pizza and Red Rooster. The menu is limited but the quality is good and with a pretty quick turnover, freshness is relatively good. In my opinion value for money is best with these two options. This is in contrast to some of the stands selling wraps, baguettes and pastries which didn't look they were moving at all.
The baguette, with smoked leg ham, tasty cheese, Dijonnaise and lettuce, appeared to be little more than a glorified ham and cheese roll for the hefty sum of $9.50. Soft drinks and bottled water are priced at $5 with coffee and hot chocolate $4.90 for a large that in most instances would be a small or a medium at best.
As you enter and move through the stadium you can feel the history. Statues of past greats dot the concourse surrounding the venues. There are numerous exhibits on display inside the venue adding to the sense of occasion and atmosphere. Indeed the National Sports Museum is located within the MCG. Entry is included in the price of your ticket. On game day the museum opens two hours prior to the first bounce and closes at game time.
While the 'G itself is a marvellous venue with its own sense of atmosphere, there is not a lot to personalise the experience to the Tigers. The AFL has pursued a centralised stadium policy which has resulted in the nine Melbourne based clubs sharing only two stadiums; the MCG and Etihad Stadium. While this ensures a good quality of venue with larger capacities, obviously there are less unique features to be experienced.
Get to the game early, visit the museum and enjoy exploring this great venue. Once in your seat, enjoy seeing the warm up and the two teams enter the arena through their personalised banners. Richmond attracts good crowds; in most cases expect around 40,000 fans.
The stadium and playing surface are especially large, meaning that you'll often be some distance from the action, particularly if you're seated at ground level. In these cases you'll likely need to take advantage of the large video screens at either end. If you are at ground level in the vicinity of the goal posts there is some netting up during warm up, but this is removed prior to game time.
The MCG sits adjacent to the Melbourne city centre, creating a multitude of options for pre or post game activities. The MCG itself is located within Yarra Park with a number of other sporting and entertainment arenas in the surrounding precinct; Melbourne Park Tennis Centre (Australian Open), Hisense Arena (ANZ Championship Netball), AAMI Park (NRL and Super Rugby) and the Myer Music Bowl. There are often opportunities for sporting double headers within the precinct.
Most areas of the city are within easy walking distance. There are plenty of pubs and restaurants in the nearby suburbs of Richmond and East Melbourne. Further back are Flinders Street and Southbank, both of which offer quite trendy establishments which should cater to most tastes. The Crown Casino is about a 20 minute walk away.
Melbourne is a trendy city; well known for quality coffee and good shopping. Further afield are South Melbourne which has some nice cafes and St Kilda which is home to numerous attractions.
Richmond is one of the better supported clubs in Melbourne. Their crowd is knowledgeable, good humoured, passionate and engaged throughout the game. Club gear is always on show, if not jerseys, then certainly beanies and scarves. There is plenty of banter between Tigers fans and opposition fans without it turning into genuine animosity. The crowd is mostly family friendly with any negative comments largely profanity free.
The MCG is conveniently located close to the Melbourne Central Business District with easy access via train or tram. Walking is also an easy option if you're close by. Indeed the walk along the Yarra River is quite pleasant if approaching from the west. If driving, car parking is available in Yarra Park for $10. If this is your plan then follow live updates via the MCG app or Twitter account.
The venue itself can obviously cater to large numbers of people. However, various areas will still be quite congested if you're moving about between quarters. There are plenty of ushers and security staff who are quite visible although if you're early enough you should still be able to get a decent look at the ground from different vantage points.
Tickets to Richmond games vary between $25 for general admission through to $60 for category one seats. Most seats offer a good experience although in such a large stadium the nosebleed seats are a long way up. Overall, the stadium and Tigers offer good value for money. The venue itself is unique within Australia and the Tigers crowd makes for a great AFL experience.
The MCG is specifically awarded extra points for the long history of the ground and the celebration of the history of sport. The National Sports Museum definitely deserves a visit. The museum has numerous exhibits over two levels in the Olympic Stand and is also the home of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. If not on game day, make the museum a part of your trip to Melbourne. If you choose this option then also take a tour of the venue.
The MCG is a must-visit venue in Australian sport. If you're in town during the AFL season, then a Richmond home game presents a great opportunity to experience this special stadium.
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