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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Round 4 saw the MCG host its 2500th game when Carlton and Essendon faced off. In a way, it was fitting two of the League's foundation clubs played this historical game. Indeed the milestone could well have been reached some years ago except for the fact that the powers that were way back in 1896 refused to allow the new game of Aussie Rules to be played on the ground for fear it would ruin the surface for summer cricket. The first game of footy was played at the hallowed ground in 1879.

With 99.5 million fans attending games over the years, the stadium, sometimes referred to as "the people's ground", will hit the 100 million mark in a few weeks. It can be safely assumed that most Melbourne residents have been to the MCG, whether it be to watch a football match, a cricket game, rock concert or even a religious event. However, there are many who live far away from this grand dame of sporting meccas with no opportunity to visit. That includes some current AFL players.

Melbourne's Herald Sun caught up with a number of Carlton and Essendon players on the eve of the "G's" milestone for their comments. Essendon's Jobe Watson can remember, at five years old, standing on the boundary line in tears as he watched his father Tim Watson's Essendon lose the Grand Final to Collingwood.

In stark contrast is Carlton's Jeff Garlett, recruited from Swan Districts in WA. He never saw the MCG until just hours before his AFL debut. It was the same night Ben Cousins ran out for his first game for Richmond. Carlton's Eddie Betts had attended a match at Etihad, but had only seen MCG games on TV before playing at the ground as a member of the TAC team Caulder Cannons. It was the 2003 Under-18 Grand Final. Betts, who debuted with Carlton in 2005, said he was over-awed by the crowd noise. He was so distracted by the roar of the fans that his coach Denis Pagan gave him a spray for not concentrating on the match. In a twist, the opponent for that game was Essendon. Fellow teammate and WA native Chris Yarran at least saw the G when he was 15 years old and part of the AFL's Kick Start program. He was amazed at the size of the ground. He was even more amazed when he ran out for his first game against Collingwood in 2009 in front of 80,000 plus fans. Carlton's Jeff Garlett agreed with Betts and Yarran when he debuted in Round 1, 2009.

Essendon ruckman Paddy Ryder was a member of the West Australian Clontarf Academy (founded by former Fremantle coach Gerard Neesham). His first experience at the G was as a member of the Academy team which played a "curtain-raiser" game ahead of the 2005 Dreamtime match between Essendon and Richmond. One year later, he debuted for Essendon on ANZAC day in front of 91,000 fans. His first taste of the MCG came when he flew over from Perth in 2005.

Melbourne's Herald Sun came up with a few lists regarding events at the MCG over the years.

MCG FOOTBALL BY THE NUMBERS

1 - Richmond's Bill James played just one game for the Tigers, the 1920 Grand Final against Collingwood. Richmond defeated the Pies 7.10 (52) to 5.5 (35). James kicked one goal from a half-forward flank.

3 - Tied Grand Finals in 1948, 1977 and 2010. Essendon defeated Melbourne in the 1948 replay, the Kangaroos took out their second Premiership against Collingwood in 1977 and Collingwood was the better team against St Kilda in 2010.

4 - AFL clubs use the MCG as a home ground: Melbourne, Richmond, Collingwood and Hawthorn.

14 - The most goals kicked by a single player: Gary Ablett (in 1989 and 1993) and John Longmire (1990).

18 - Laurie Nash (South Melbourne) kicked a record 18 goals for Victoria against South Australia in 1934.

34 - Essendon's Charlie Hardy debuted at the ripe old age of 34 in 1921. It is still a record.

47 - AFL matches at the MCG in 2012.

200 - Tiger Kevin Bartlett played 200 games at the ground.

464 - Tiger Matthew Richardson holds the record for most goals at the MCG.

TEN BIG MCG MOMENTS BEYOND FOOTBALL

1877 - Australia hosts England in the first Test cricket match (and in 1971 hosts the first one-day international against the same team when the third Test is abandoned due to constant rain).

1929 - Don Bradman scores his maiden Test hundred (112) against England. In 1948 at the MCG he retired hurt on 57 against India, in what would become his final Test innings in Australia.

1956 - More than one million people attend the first Olympic Games in the southern hemisphere. The Games are a success, and end for the first time with athletes mingling during the parade at the closing ceremony, a tradition that has been followed ever since.

1959 - Religious gatherings have accounted for big attendances at the ground: at least 130,000 at the Billy Graham crusade in the late 1950s; slightly less for the closing ceremony of the 40th Eucharistic Congress in 1973. One of the visitors was Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who returned to Melbourne 13 years later as Pope John Paul II, hosting a mass at the MCG.

1981 - Australian tearaway Dennis Lillee, fresh from removing Viv Richards with the final ball on Boxing Day, has Larry Gomes caught at first slip to break Lance Gibbs' Test record for the most career wickets.

1992 - A record crowd of 87,182 watches Pakistan defeat England in the World Cup cricket final.

1994 - Shane Warne takes a hat-trick against England, the first at the MCG in 90 years.

1997 - The first international rugby union game at the ground, a Test match against New Zealand, draws more than 90,000 spectators.

2006 - The opening and closing ceremonies and the athletics events for the Commonwealth Games.

2009 - Some of the world's greatest acts have performed at MCG, including the Rolling Stones, U2, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the Three Tenors. In 2007, the Sound Relief Concert to assist those affected by bushfires attracted a crowd of 80,518 with artists including Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly and Kings of Leon.

FIVE INFAMOUS MOMENTS

1914 - University loses its Round 18 match to St Kilda, its 51st consecutive defeat and its last League game.

1981 - With New Zealand needing six to tie the third of a best-of-five One Day Series and tailender Brian McKechnie on strike, Australian captain Greg Chappell instructs younger brother Trevor to bowl underarm, provoking uproar in both nations and the rest of the cricket world.

1955 - Melbourne's Frank Adams collides heavily with Magpie Des Healy late in the Grand Final, knocking both players unconscious.

1995 - Umpire Darrell Hair no balls Sri Lankan off-spinner Muthiah Muralidaran seven times in three consecutive overs from the bowler's end.

1997 - The Socceroos look to have booked their tickets to the 1998 World Cup Finals after going ahead 2-0 against Iran, only for the visitors to slot home two late goals and qualify via the away-goals rule.

FIVE WEIRD MOMENTS

1910 - In one of the first powered flights in Australia, French pilot Gaston Cugnet flies a monoplane from the MCG turf, barely clearing the fence and crashing on the adjoining tennis courts.

1961 - West Indies batsman Joe Solomon, facing leg-spinner Richie Benaud, is given out when his cap falls off and hits the stumps.

1982 - Teenager Helen D'Amico runs onto the MCG during the VFL Grand Final between Carlton and Richmond, wearing nothing but a Blues scarf.

1999 - In Round 22 night match between Richmond and Carlton, the scoreboard at the city end catches fire, delaying play for 25 minutes.

2010 - After securing an Ashes series win, the English cricket team does a "sprinkler dance'' in front of its adoring fans.

OTHER EVENTS AT THE MCG

1879 - Light towers were put up and two games were played under lights. However, some fans complained of poor lighting in parts of the ground and the "experiment" was abandoned. The next night game didn't happen until 1985, Collingwood vs North Melbourne.

1970 - Queen Elizabeth attends a game and greets the players.

1970 - The highest attendance ever as 121,696 fans crammed into every available seat and space to watch bitter enemies Carlton and Collingwood battle it out in the Grand Final. Collingwood fans were rejoicing and Blues fans were in despair at half-time as Carlton trailed by 44 points. Carlton coach Ron Barassi replaced Bert Thornley with Ted Hopkins (now head of the AFL's official stats company Champion Data). Hopkins kicked four goals in the second half and Blues stormed home to win by 10 points. It remains the greatest Grand Final comeback in League history. It was also the game in which Carlton legend Alex Jesaulenko took his famous mark.

1982 - Another Grand Final involving Carlton, this time against Richmond. It had nothing to do with player heroics, great goals or comebacks. Out of work stripper Helen D'Amico streaked onto the field with nothing but a Carlton scarf draped around her neck (this also disappeared at some stage). She headed straight for the very quiet and hermit-like Bruce Doull (Jesaulenko once commented that he had been at the club for three years before Doull even said "hello").

1993 - An epic game. It was shootout between eventual Premiers Essendon and the previous year's runner-up Geelong. Gary Ablett, Sr was at one end and Simon Madden was at the other. Ablett booted 14 goals while Madden registered 10. Essendon won the game 23.18 (156) to Geelong's 19.18 (132).

1995 - Anyone who saw it had to be moved to tears as Ted Whitten, Sr., supported in the car by his son, had a lap of honor in his last public appearance before his death. He probably heard the cheers from the crowd but could not see them as cancer had rendered him nearly blind.

Source: heraldsun.com.au, AFL Record Season Guides, 100 Years of Austalian Football, author notes

Article last changed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 3:53 PM EDT


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