“Is that the sport that’s kind of like baseball, but not?”
When we told my young cousin that we had visited a cricket stadium, this is the response that we got. He wasn’t too far off, but unfortunately our visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground didn’t teach us very much more about the sport of cricket. We did, however, learn quite a lot about the stadium itself and a bit about the Melbourne Cricket Club as well. I truly had no idea what a prestigious and exclusive group it is.
Getting to the stadium was fairly simple, we just hopped on the tram right near the port where our cruise ship was docked and then took a walk through Yarra Park to Gate 3. We arrived with perfect timing, ten minutes prior to the first tour of the day. Everyone else in our group was Australian except for one couple from England, which meant we were the only people who had never seen a cricket game and had absolutely no idea what was going on. We had decided to visit because we knew that this stadium was a landmark of the city and cricket is a pretty important sport in Australia, even though we knew literally nothing about it. Oh well, here goes nothing!
As soon as our guide brought us down to the grass and started telling us about the iconic fence that surrounded the field, I half listened as I pulled out my phone, logged into the free WiFi, and googled the rules of the game, trying to match what I read with corresponding markings on the field. I finally sort of know what a wicket is. But anyway…
The stadium has a very storied legacy. It was built in 1853, just 20 years after the city of Melbourne was established, and it has hosted a large variety of events since then. Besides cricket and Australian Rules Football matches, it has also seen rugby, Olympic games, World Cup soccer, a papal mass (by Pope John Paul II in 1986), numerous music concerts, and even American baseball (a game between the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox in 1914). It also played an important role during World War II, housing groups such as the Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Marine Corps.
Even with all of those impressive and well-rounded statistics, the heart and soul of the Melbourne Cricket Ground is undoubtedly the Melbourne Cricket Club.
Our guide spoke so passionately about the club, sharing not only facts about membership but personal stories about her late husband’s status as a 50 year member and the hopefulness of her grandchildren in regard to becoming members themselves. We visited the iconic Long Room, where members meet and enjoy a fantastic vantage point for viewing the matches. It is a very classy and elegant space, so much so that there is a strict dress code in place- somewhat in line with business formal attire. Members even have their own dining room, used for prestigious private functions as well as game day lunches and dinners.
Apparently there is a huge waiting list to become a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club. According to their website, people who were placed on the waiting list in the year 1990 are just now being granted full, unrestricted membership! That is basically my entire lifetime!
In addition to those club spaces, we were also able to see the locker rooms and press areas of the stadium. We were able to step onto the field and enjoy fantastic views of the pitch from various angles. Even knowing as little as we did about the sport of cricket, we had a pleasant morning exploring the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Maybe next time I stumble upon a cricket match while flipping past those obscure sports channels I never watch, I’ll pause for a minute and try to learn.
The tour alone costs AU$22 while a combo ticket that also includes admission to the National Sports Museum is AU$30. We gave the museum a miss in the interest of time and the inkling that we may not get a lot out of it considering our limited knowledge of Australian sports. Check out the comprehensive website at www.mcg.org.au for more info!