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A Short History of the MCG

First 'First Class Cricket Match'The Melbourne Cricket Club was founded in November 1838 when the population of the Port Phillip District was only about 2000.

The first cricket match was played between the MCC and a military team on the Old Mint site in William Street, Melbourne.

However, this area proved unsuitable and in January 1839 the club established its second ground at the foot of Batman's Hill, now Spencer Street Railway Station.

This was Melbourne's cricket ground until October 1846 when impending acquisition for railway use forced a transfer to the southern bank of the Yarra near the present Crown Casino site.

John Pascoe Fawkner had planted the colony's first wheat crop on this field, but it was susceptible to flooding and the club had to advertise more than once for the return of its dressing shed when the Yarra broke its banks!

The MCC's third ground was the site of Victoria's first inter-colonial match (Port Phillip versus Van Diemen's Land in 1852). This was a return fixture as the Port Phillip team had played Van Diemen's Land at Launceston a year earlier to celebrate the separation of the Port Phillip District from New South Wales and the creation of the Colony of Victoria.

In 1853 the club was advised that the route of Australia's first steam train to Sandridge (Port Melbourne) would pass through its ground and they would need to move elsewhere.

On appeal to Governor La Trobe the club was given the choice of three sites - adjacent to the existing ground, at the junction of Flinders and Spring streets or an area within the Police Paddock at Richmond.

An MCC sub-committee chose the third because "the situation was quite as level as desirable yet afforded sufficient slope that without interfering with the game would ensure its always being free from floods". Posterity has applauded the wisdom of this choice.

No major stadium in the world is better situated than the MCG to promote sport and to serve the community through easy access and superior spectator facilities.

The MCG is within 15 minutes' walking distance of the city centre and has two nearby railways stations and tramway and bus links with all suburbs. The surrounding parkland accommodates about 6000 vehicles.

The MCC really started something in January 1856 when it challenged any team in the Australian colonies to a serious game of cricket. Sydney publican William Tunks accepted the challenge on behalf of NSW which played at the MCG on March 27 and won the game.

Having launched regular inter-colonial cricket, the MCC's next initiative was in the international sphere. With the club's encouragement their caterers, Messrs Spiers and Pond, invited an English cricket team to tour Australia. On New Year's Day 1862 H.H. Stephenson's XI played a Melbourne and Districts XVIII before a crowd of more than 25,000.

Don Bradman's farewell inningsThe England captain said the ground was better than any in England and there was no cricket pavilion in the world to compare with the MCG's first public grandstand, a 200-metre temporary structure built in 1854 to seat 6000 people.

A second grandstand seating 2000 and facing the ground and the park (for football viewing) was built in 1876 for the 1877 visit of James Lillywhite's English team. The MCG was the venue for the first England-Australia combination match (Test Match) on March 15-17, 1877 which Australia won by 45 runs - a result to be duplicated precisely in the Centenary Test played on March 12-17, 1977.

The Lillywhite tour stand burnt down in 1884 and was replaced by a fine new structure which catered for 450 members and 4500 public patrons. In 1897 second storey wings were added, doubling capacity. Invariably referred to as "The Grandstand", this building of great character was demolished to make way for the Northern Stand which was opened in 1956 to coincide with the Olympic Games.

On the MCG's southern side the Harrison Stand was built in 1908 with a seating capacity of 4000. The Wardill Stand, added four years later, had a seating capacity of 8000. Both were replaced by the giant Southern Stand complex of 1936-37 which accommodated 48,000 (18,200 seated under cover and 13,000 seated in the open).

The 1906 Grey Smith Stand, seating 2084 in the Members Reserve, and the open concrete stand on its southern side (in the public area) were removed in 1966 to make way for construction of the Western (now Ponsford) Stand.

Apart from the 1956 Olympic Stand, towards which 100,000 was advanced by the State Government as an Olympic Games commitment, all grandstands at the MCG were financed entirely by Melbourne Cricket Club members' subscriptions, until the advent of the Great Southern Stand in 1992 when revenue from corporate entertainment facilities also became an important income stream.

The massive $150 million Great Southern Stand project required special financial arrangements based on a long-term contract with the MCG Trust, the Australian Football League and the State Government. The stand accommodates 44,500 spectators and corporate clients, with more than 40,000 comfortably seated on four levels.

The MCC Members Reserve always has occupied only a minor section of the viewing area. The original wooden members' stand of 1854 was sold in 1881 for 55 to the Richmond Cricket Club. The stand was replaced by a brick structure recognised at the time as the world's finest cricket facility.

This in turn was replaced by the Members' Pavilion, built in 1927 for 60,000. The Members Reserve, which embraced adjoining sections of the Olympic and Ponsford Stands, until recently had seating capacity for 18,500 people and standing room for about 1500.

Following the completion of a $430m redevelopment of the northern side of the stadium between 2002 and 2006 - involving demolition of the Pavilion, Ponsford and Olympic Stands - the present capacity (including seating and standing room) of the MCG is just over 100,000. Up until October 2002, the capacity of the ground was 96,308.

As at August 2006, the MCC had approximately 58,600 Full members and 37,100 Restricted members. The waiting list was more than 160,000 people and growing annually by about 10,000. In current circumstances restricted membership could be offered 12-15 years after nomination.

Ladies were first admitted to membership in 1984.
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