ADELAIDE Oval became the crown jewel of Australian football on Wednesday night.
Retiring AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou launched the AFL premiership season at the redeveloped Oval declaring the return of elite football to the Adelaide CBD as one of his greatest achievements – and the Oval as the game’s best venue.
And this verdict had the unanimous endorsement of the 18 AFL club captains who saw the new Oval for the first time yesterday while work continued on the eastern stand with the rush to the Showdown opener on Saturday, March 29.
Fremantle captain, South Australian Matthew Pavlich, could appreciate the $535 million transformation of the Oval more than most of his AFL rivals.
He played SANFL league and under-age football at the Oval a decade ago when footballers changed in cramped changerooms under the western stand where tall players would bump their heads on the corrugated iron ceilings.
Pavlich will return to the Oval on May 10 to lead the Dockers against Port Adelaide from the AFL’s most spacious and modern facilities for both players and spectators.
“I’m gobsmacked,” Pavlich said on Wednesday.
“They have retained the hill, the Adelaide Oval feeling and made it look spectacular. They have done a fantastic job. It looks brilliant.
“All credit to the AFL for finally getting the SACA and the SANFL together to make this work. It looks fantastic.
“I never thought I would play an AFL game here – it just seemed a fait accompli that the SANFL would stay at Football Park and that is how it would be forever. And I didn’t think I would be playing this long to see it through.”
“I’m gobsmacked… It looks fantastic” – Matthew Pavlich
Pavlich’s – and his colleagues’ – excitement on seeing the new Oval on Wednesday confirmed Power coach Ken Hinkley’s view that neither SA-based team, the Crows and Port, will command an on-field advantage this season.
But Pavlich says the one edge that can be transported from Football Park to the new Oval is the fervent support the Crows and Power have from South Australian football fans.
“When there is 50,000 Croweaters – whether they are Crows or Port supporters – making some noise, I’m sure that will be an advantage to the home side,” Pavlich said.
The Crows and Power teams will get their first practice runs on Adelaide Oval in the next fortnight before they are locked out the venue for the Rolling Stones concert on Saturday, March 22.
Port captain Travis Boak played in the only AFL game at the old Oval, the 2011 season-closer with Melbourne.
He returned to the new Oval on Wednesday noting the stadium is a new symbol of pride for SA football – and the state.
“Walking across the grass today was exciting in itself, so we’re looking forward to playing here,” Boak said.
This article was originally published in The Advertiser and can be accessed here.