Stadiums invoke the competitive spirit, enduring rivalries, and passionate contests, but add ambiance and memories to it, and you have the Manuka Oval in Canberra, Australia. The Oval has brought joy to our youth and comfort to our seniors. It is a stadium where stories are shared, where joys are pooled and where statistics are bragged about. A home for cricket in summer and for Australian rules football in winter, Manuka Oval is a sports-lover delight.
A Brief History
Named after a Mauri tea tree, Manuka, the Oval was initially a public park. After it became enclosed in 1929, the venue has continued to entertain fans of cricket, Australian rules football and occasionally rugby. It is a stadium graced by the presence of cricket legend Donald Bradman and the folklore’s of great Australian rules footballer, Alex Jesaulenko.
The Manuka Oval acquired different brand names such as StarTrack Oval Canberra from 2013 to 2016, and, since 2017 the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Oval, but to the diehard fans it will always be Manuka Oval. With a total capacity of 13,550 people, the games have been sold-out five of the ten times when the Greater Western Sydney Giants played against their rivals.
The Language of Manuka Oval
Watching an Australian Football League match at the Manuka Oval exposed you to a new language. It is here that you will observe a ball magnet carry the team from coast to coast. You will hear a football fan yell chewy on ya boot, and call someone a mongrel when they make a horrible pass. Players have nicknames such as Coxy, Boomer, and Goodsey. Footy is a team game that involves many players to move the ball and the game forward. For the first-timer, watching this Australian invention is an experience to remember.
Manuka Oval and the Australian Football League
Football in Australia can mean a different version depending on the geography or economic class. In eastern Australia, football is rugby, but to the upper strata, it is rugby union. In southern Australia, it is quintessentially Australian Football. Although the Australian Football League (AFL) is rooted in the many kicking games played by the Australian aboriginal, Gaelic, Chinese, and the Indians, it is indeed an Australian invention. To some historians of AFL, it predates other modern forms of football.
In 2012, Manuka Oval became the permanent home for the Australian Football League, including the Women’s League. The Oval has hosted several clubs since 1998, including the North Melbourne Football Club, the Melbourne Demons, the Western Bulldogs, and, since 2012, the newly established Greater Western Sydney Giants (GWSG). A professional AFL club, the GWSG plays four games a year at the Manuka Oval as part of their agreement with the Australian Capital Territory.
This sport also known as ‘the people’s game,’ endures not because of the joy it spreads, but also because of the attention it brings to individuals and tells their stories at the Manuka Oval.