TRANSFORMING Eastern Oval into a Chinese tourist mecca might sound outlandish at first. This idea is the icing on a plan with a lot of merit.
When you start to peel back the layers of rich history built up over time at one of the city’s premier sporting arenas, you start to see why.
And there is a lot of history – so much so, that it was in the thinking of how to preserve such history that a few Golden Point footballers wanted a way to keep stories alive. Tap into the nation’s booming tourist demographic to ensure history will be viewed.
Eastern Oval will be back in the national spotlight on Saturday in hosting Ballarat’s first in-season Women’s Big Bash League bout between Melbourne Renegades and Adelaide Strikers.
This is the best cricket oval in Ballarat. Englishman WG Grace, one of the greatest all-time cricketers, planted a tree next to the grandstand in the 1870s because the loved the English feel of it so much. Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting followed suit.
Eastern Oval hosts our top cricketers in finals, premier cricket and has hosted a Renegades practice Twenty20. Most notably, more than 12,000 fans packed Eastern Oval to watch England take on Sri Lanka in a 1992 World Cup clash.
Early footballers had to wait until the mid-1880s to break through class barriers and play on Eastern Oval. Ballarat’s Chinese population served up a series of charity, fun football matches with the oval in the heart of what was the city’s Chinatown.
The 1901 White Australia policy effectively disbanded Ballarat’s Chinese community. Most moved to Melbourne. Their only major trace was in Golden Point Football Club taking on the nickname the Rice Eaters.
Golden Point amalgamated with East Ballarat to form East Point Kangaroos in 1995. A lot of hard work went into uniting rival camps. Only in the past season or so have junior arms come together as Kangaroos, no longer clinging to old nicknames. This was finally rewarded with East Point’s first senior Ballarat Football League premiership in September.
Only, old Rice Eaters now have their parochial East Point grandchildren querying if Golden Point football existed.
They have plans to pool all their history together in a museum at Eastern Oval. They are clear they want this to be a place where history is absorbed, sparking intrigue, rather than collecting dust.
So they looked bigger.
Eastern Oval’s forgotten sporting history features at least 20 tenants: skittles had its own hall by grandstand; lawn tennis was in the south-west; hot air ballooning; cycling; military displays.
Ideally now, they want to bring the Butterfly back to Eastern Oval. Billy Butterfly was a well-loved identity with Chinese heritage about town who had his favourite spot, under the scoreboard, to watch football.
Old Rice Eaters propose a statue of Billy would headline a trove of tales at the ground, and hope the Chinese would like a taste of history too.
History is vital to know where we came from going forward. There is so much to explore at Eastern Oval once you get started.
- PRESS BOX:Great timed shot to host women’s bash
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