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  • Lloyd Rothwell

Melbourne Cricket Ground – Melbourne Stars

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Melbourne Cricket Ground Brunton Ave Richmond, VIC 3002 Australia

Year Opened: 1853

Capacity: 100,024


The Stars of Melbourne

The Stars are one of two Melbourne franchises established when Cricket Australia launched the Big Bash League Twenty20 cricket tournament in 2011. The BBL represented a move away from the traditional state-based model of domestic cricket up until that point, and was a deliberate marketing ploy to create new fans with more modern and exciting team identities. The Stars are owned by Cricket Victoria and have consistently achieved strong results, having qualified for the semi-finals every season bar one. Unfortunately a penchant for losing finals matches at the pointy end of the season means they’re yet to taste glory.

The Stars play their home games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), one of the great sporting cathedrals in the world. With a capacity of 100,024, the ‘G is the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere and the largest cricket ground in the world. The stadium opened in 1853 and has hosted international cricket, rugby union, and rugby league, in addition to having served as the main stadium for the 1956 Summer Olympic Games and 2006 Commonwealth Games. The MCG has been the venue of two ICC cricket World Cup Finals (1992 and 2015), and hosts an annual test match each summer beginning on Boxing Day (December 26th).

The MCG has also hosted AFL football since the 19th century. Under the AFL’s policy of centralised stadia, numerous clubs play some or all of their home games here including Melbourne, Richmond, Collingwood, and Hawthorn. Close to capacity crowds are regularly achieved each year for the AFL Grand Final and the traditional Anzac Day Clash between Essendon and Collingwood.

Food & Beverage 3

The food options are largely just the basics for Stars games, as only limited outlets are open. The MCG has proven to be one of the more price conscious major venues in Australia over recent years. While any reduction in the cost of attending live sport should be applauded, stadium food is always an expensive proposition, and this proves to be the case at the ‘G too. By way of example, a single staple item such as hot chips costs around $5, however anything more substantial (like a burger), will be approximately $12. The drink selection is not huge, with beer priced around $10, spirits $11.50, and wine $10.40. Soft drinks from Coke cost $4.70, with bottled water slightly cheaper. The quality is ok without being outstanding.

Atmosphere 4

The MCG has been substantially renovated over the years and is a modern stadium the equal of any other around the world. The ground is broken up into four broad seating areas; the Great Southern Stand (Gates 4, 5, 6), Ponsford Stand (Gate 1), Olympic Stand (Gate 3), and the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) Members Pavilion. The MCC is off-limits to the general public, with the remaining areas available for general admission. Keep in mind that given the size of crowds relative to the overall capacity, the upper decks will likely be closed off. As it is utilised by so many teams and sports, there are not many features unique to the Melbourne Stars.

On the plus side, as a stadium of national significance there are many cool features to explore at the ‘G. It’s worthwhile arriving a little early to explore the surroundings and enjoy the pre-match entertainment. If you have time you should definitely visit the Australian Sports Museum and consider arranging for a tour of the ground. The museum received a $17m redevelopment in 2019/20 and is housed in the Olympic Stand. Check for opening times but museum entry has previously been included in the price of your game ticket.

There are numerous statues placed throughout the precinct featuring some of the all-time great superstars of cricket, AFL, and athletics. Additionally, keep an eye out for historical plaques and honour boards dotted around and throughout the venue – such as the XVI Olympiad plaque at the entrance to the Olympic Stand and the boards listing all players who have represented Victoria in first class cricket (men and women) downstairs in the Ponsford Stand.

Lillee Statue at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Photo by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey

Neighborhood 5

The MCG is found within the Melbourne sports and entertainment precinct east of the city centre. The immediate area includes the Melbourne Park Tennis Centre (featuring Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne / John Cain Arena, and Margaret Court Arena – home of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, as well as netball and basketball), and AAMI Park (rugby league, rugby union, and soccer), in addition to several community and elite training centres. Sports history buffs should take note that Punt Road Oval, now a training venue, was the original home ground of the Richmond Tigers AFL Club.

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. The southern capital has a thriving laneway culture of bars, coffee, and restaurants. Craft beer is popular too, with Slowbeer a must for aficionados, despite having recently moved slightly further away to a larger premises in Fitzroy (351 Smith St). Richmond is historically a working-class neighborhood and features lots of old pubs. The Corner Hotel (57 Swan St) is well known as a live music venue but also garners lots of game day traffic.

First-timers to Melbourne should be sure to see some of the more popular tourist attractions. Head up Eureka Tower (7 Riverside Quay, Southbank) for a bird’s eye view of the city, take a tram out to the beachside suburb of St Kilda, and checkout the Queen Victoria Market (Queen St, Melbourne).

Fans 3

Expect the biggest crowds when the Stars host their crosstown rivals, the Melbourne Renegades, however attendances of 20,000 or more are common for most other games. Keep in mind that for the most part, the BBL is run around the long summer school holiday period. There are occasional games on either side of the holidays, and these will draw a smaller crowd. The fans are well decked out in the team colour of green and are big adopters of the KFC sponsored “buckets.”

Access 4

Getting to the precinct is relatively easy, although public transport is probably the best method. The stadium is close to trains (Richmond and Jolimont), trams, and busses. Visitors who are staying in the CBD will find a well-defined and easily walkable path along the Yarra River and up to the MCG. If driving, car parking is available in Yarra Park. It’s best to check for live updates via the MCG app or Twitter account as there is limited parking. Despite the appearance of a coliseum, like most cricket grounds, the MCG is made up of several separate grandstands, meaning access is generally limited to the stand in which you are seated. Expect the usual security and bag checks prior to entry.

Return on Investment 4

The cost of attending a Melbourne Stars BBL match at the MCG is fairly standard. An adult ticket will set you back around $30. As with most venues there are discounts for pre-purchase, children, and family passes. BBL is a great family-friendly experience, and offers decent value for money.

Extras 5

The MCG has a wonderful history and occupies a unique place in Australian sport, and indeed, culture. Take the time to enjoy the precinct and soak in the history, and be sure to visit the newly renamed and renovated Australian Sports Museum. Expect some form of pre-game entertainment, or watch the players warm up. During the game there are cheerleaders, mascots, and typical crowd engagement activities such as dance-cam.

Final Thoughts

Consider this remarkable coincidence. The very first international cricket test match was played at the MCG in 1877 between Australia and England with the locals winning by a margin of 45 runs. Unbelievably, in a Centenary Test played to mark 100 years since the first match, also at the MCG, resulted in an Australian victory by exactly the same margin!

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