The Evolution of the MCG

Once a paddock, the Melbourne Cricket Ground is now one of Australia's most iconic landmarks. This story traces the evolution of Australia's great home of sport.

Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1853 sketchMelbourne Cricket Ground

1853 - Police Paddock

Founded in 1838, the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) played across three different locations in Melbourne before being granted permission to establish a permanent ground in "Police Paddock” in 1853. 

This sketch from 1853 refers to the location as “Cricket Ground Melbourne” and may be one of the earliest references to a now immediately recognisable name.

Lithograph depicting Grand Intercolonial Cricket Match, 1858 (1858) by Henry GloverMelbourne Cricket Club

1854 - The First Members Pavilion

In 1854, the MCC constructed the First Members Pavilion, as seen here in this 1858 lithograph. The first match between club members was played on the new ground in September of that year. The First Members Pavilion was limited to approximately 60 seats - and would be later replaced by a more substantial edifice in 1881.

Photograph of Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1877 (1877)Melbourne Cricket Club

1877 - The Reversible Stand

The first public grandstand, as seen in the right of this photograph, was built in time for the First Test in March of 1877 and had a capacity of 2000 spectators. Known as the Reversible Stand, the grandstand featured a unique system of ropes and pulleys, which allowed for the seating to be reversed so that spectators could watch football in the adjoining Yarra Park.

Melbourne Cricket Club foundation stone, 1881 (1881)Melbourne Cricket Ground

Second Members' Pavilion

The Second Members' Pavilion was opened in 1881 and was a more substantial stand to meet the needs of the growing number of members of the MCC. It stood until 1928 when it was demolished to make way for the Third Members' Pavilion.

Print, "THE NEW GRAND STAND, MELBOURNE CRICKET GROUND" - 1877 (1877)Melbourne Cricket Club

1884 - The Grandstand

In 1884, Reversible Stand was destroyed by fire and replaced by a new structure, known simply as the Grandstand. Servicing both the general public and MCC members, the stand was significantly more spacious than its predecessor. The Grandstand stood until 1955, when it was replaced by the Northern Stand.

Photograph of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia v Stoddart's XI - March 1895 (1895)Melbourne Cricket Club

This panoramic photograph from the Fifth Test Match in March of 1895 shows the expansion of the ground with (left to right); The Press Box (c.1876), the Smokers’ Stand (erected 1884), the Second Members’ Pavilion and the Grandstand.

Huge crowds watched England win the Test and the series.

Panoramic photograph of Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia v England Test match - 1911/12 (1911)Melbourne Cricket Club

1906 to 1912 - The Grey Smith & Wardill Stands

In 1906, the Grey Smith Stand replaced the Smokers' Stand and the ground's expansion continued in 1912 with the construction of the Wardill Stand.

In this panoramic photo from the Australia vs. England Test Match of 1911/12 you can see the Wardill Stand, Scoreboard, Grey Smith Stand, Second MCC Pavilion, Grand Stand, Open Wooden Gallery, Scoreboard, Stables, Harrison Stand and the Bar.

Photograph, Melbourne Cricket Ground - 1926 VFL Grand Final (1926)Melbourne Cricket Club

1926 - The Open Concrete Stand

Taken during the 1926 Victorian Football League (VFL) Grand Final, this photograph shows the addition of the Open Concrete Stand, built that same year to increase crowd capacity. Melbourne defeated Collingwood in the 1926 Grand Final in front of a crowd of 59,362 people.

Aerial photograph of Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1928-29 (1928)Melbourne Cricket Club

1928 - The Third Members Pavilion

This aerial photograph, taken from a balloon in 1928, shows the Third Members Pavilion in its final stages of construction which was built to accommodate the growing membership of the Melbourne Cricket Club. The iconic shape of the MCG is now starting to take form. 

Melbourne Cricket Club foundation stone, 1928 (1928)Melbourne Cricket Ground

The Third Members Pavilion was demolished as part of the redevelopment of the MCG in 2006. This Foundation Stone is now displayed at the MCC Members' entrance.

Aerial photograph of Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1936 VFL Grand Final (1936)Melbourne Cricket Club

1936 - The Southern Stand

In 1936 the Harrison and Wardill stands were demolished to make way for the new Southern Stand. With a capacity of 48,000, it became one of the world's biggest spectator facilities.

Aerial photograph of Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia v England Test match - Feb 1961 (1961)Melbourne Cricket Club

This revolutionised attendances at the ground, allowing depression-era crowds of 80,000 or more watch their greatest sporting heroes play, including Don Bradman and Collingwood's Coventry brothers.

1956 Opening Ceremony AerialMelbourne Cricket Ground

1956 - The Olympic Games & The Northern Stand

Radical changes were made to the ground to accommodate Melbourne's 1956 Olympic Games. The addition of the Northern Stand made crowds in excess of 100,000 possible. This image shows crowds streaming into the MCG for the Opening Ceremony. The ground was filled to its new capacity with 103,000 people watching the event. 

Photograph of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, World Championship of Cricket - 1985 (1985)Melbourne Cricket Club

1985 - The Light Towers

The addition of 6 light towers at the ground saw Australia's coliseum of sport lit up for the first time in 1985. The radical change to the look of the ground enabled the playing of evening games in cricket and football.

1992 - The Great Southern Stand

In 1992, the entire Southern Stand was replaced by the Great Southern Stand, in time for the 1992 Cricket World Cup. The new stand had a similar capacity to the the one it replaced, but was a more modern stand, with better sight lines and comfort for fans.

2006 - Commonwealth Games

In late 2002, work commenced on the demolition of the Ponsford and Olympic Stands, along with the Members Pavilion, to make way for three new conjoined grandstands that encompass the entire northern side of the stadium. This huge redevelopment was completed in time for the Commonwealth Games in March, 2006.

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