Article 4: 1958 – 2008 "50 Years At Richmond"
By WAFC Historian – Mark CJ Beswick
For many years, the West Adelaide Football Club was desperate to find a home base to train and play league football. After much searching, the club finally came up with two suitable sites for a home base. One location was at West Beach while the other was an undeveloped plot known as Richmond Oval. Local government in 1946 acquired two deeds for the allotments that have become part of the Richmond Oval Site. The smaller block (Mrs Vera Low) faced onto Milner Street while a second larger block purchased from Mr Edward Low, stretched as far as Kingston Avenue. Mr Low was a member of West Adelaide until his Death in 1976.
On October 1 1952, a committee led by Mr J. F “Jack” Simmons (Chairman) settled on Richmond Oval. The decision to choose Richmond was due to its geographical location. Richmond was close to the GPO and in the heartland of the West Adelaide district.
After protracted negotiations with the City of West Torrens, the committee entered into an agreement with the Council to lease of the ground for 20 years. The negotiators for the development of this land included Cliff Semmler, Roy B Charles, Brian Faehse and Cliff Todd. In return for this lease, the club at its own expense had to grade, grass and reticulate an area now known as the Richmond Oval. In addition to this, a partially erected grandstand faced east. The total cost for these works was £10,000 not including work done through volunteer labour (reticulation and seeding the sward). Supporters, players, local businesses and officials of the club toiled for many weekends to get the oval ready for league football. Hansen and Yuncken erected the “Brian K. Faehse” grandstand and the oval was ready for training purposes in 1955.
West Torrens Mayor of 26 years Mr Steve Hamra, was instrumental in all stages of the Ovals development. Mr Hamra even loaned the club one of his firm’s trucks to develop the site. Steve was a former president and patron of both the senior and junior bodies of the WAFC and even held official capacities with the Brunswick Football Club.
In March 1955, further talks by the West Adelaide Oval Committee with the West Torrens Council occurred. The Grounds committee sought an undertaking from the Council to complete the oval and have it ready for the 1956 season. The council was not in a financial position to meet the whole burden of this request and as a result, the club had no option but to use the venue for training purposes that year.
Early in 1956, negotiations to complete the entire oval continued. After a year of meetings and persistent requests to the Council, an agreement was reached whereby the West Torrens Council agreed to the lease Richmond Oval to the WAFC Inc. for 20 years. This allowed the club to enter into an agreement with the SANFL to play football on Richmond Oval for 1958. In return for the lease, the WAFC had to make improvements to the ground including:
The completion of the grandstand (roofing & seating),
Fencing off the grandstand area,
Erecting lavatory accommodation,
Terracing of the mound in front of the grandstand
Erect necessary turnstiles, ticket boxes etc.
The cost of these improvements exceeded £20,000. To provide finance, the SANFL agreed to a ten-year loan for £10,000 over ten years. A second loan of a similar amount was obtained from a local trading bank while the scoreboard which was located on the North Western part of the ground, was donated by Halls Softdrinks Ltd. In return for the improvements, the Council accepted the responsibility of maintenance to the oval proper, mound construction and the necessary fencing of the whole arena.
On the 26th of April 1958, Chief Secretary Sir Lyell McEwin performed the opening ceremony for the ground. West Adelaide in front of some 16,000 spectators then went on to claim the first win on the hallowed turf by defeating its neighbour West Torrens by ten points in a wonderful contest.
By Mark Beswick
Sources for this article include –(Blood Sweat and Tears, 1958 WAFC Annual Report and The Russell Family.)