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The Jim Deane Grandstand at Hickinbotham Oval
|Former names||Noarlunga Oval|
|Location||1 Lovelock Drive,
Noarlunga Downs, South Australia
|Owner||South Adelaide Football Club|
|Operator||South Adelaide Football Club|
|Field size||Football: 170m x 135m|
|South Adelaide Football Club (SANFL)
Hickinbotham Oval (originally Noarlunga Oval) is an Australian rules football oval in Noarlunga Downs, a southern suburb of Adelaide. It has been the home of South Australian National Football League (SANFL) club South Adelaide Football Club ("The Panthers") since 1995.
After previously spending 111 years (in two stints, 1882-1903 and 1904-1994) playing their home games at the Adelaide Oval which is ironically located on the northern side of the Adelaide city centre and the Torrens River, the Panthers decided to move to the southern suburb of Noarlunga in the early 1990s. The club had played two games at the Bice Oval in Christies Beach (approximately 1.5 km from Hickinbotham) in 1992 and 1993 in order to gauge support in the area for the Panthers. The 1993 game saw some 8,000 fans crammed into the oval to see the Panthers take on local rivals Glenelg. That overwhelming community support was one of the determining factors in South Adelaide's decision to permanently move to Noarlunga, becoming a community based club for the first time in its then 119-year history.
The Panthers clubrooms and administration offices, which had previously been located on South Road at St Marys (directly opposite the Mitsubishi Motors factory at Tonsley Park), were also relocated to the Noarlunga Oval.
The oval has a capacity of 12,000 people, with seating for up to 1,000 in the Jim Deane Grandstand, named in honor of South Adelaide's 1953 and 1957 Magarey Medallist. The record crowd for Noarlunga is 10,123 attending an SANFL match between South Adelaide and Glenelg on 6 May 1995 – the first SANFL match played at the venue. As the oval is located at the top of a hill, it is known for its cold southerly wind and wet weather coming straight from the nearby Gulf St Vincent, something which is generally unpopular with spectators as only the grandstand, and a roofed, standing room only area in front of the change rooms, offer any protection from the weather.
Hickinbotham Oval's dimensions are 170×135 m giving it the widest playing surface in the SANFL. To entertain fans, South Adelaide have also introduced a gas powered fireball which shoots up at the start of all four quarters of Panthers night games. The fireball, located in the south east corner of the ground near the scoreboard, also ignites every time the Panthers league team kicks a goal.
Along with the Norwood and Richmond Ovals, Hickinbotham Oval is one of only three SANFL grounds not used for cricket during the summer months. This generally means the centre square of the ground (where the cricket pitches would be located) is not as susceptible to becoming a mud patch after rain during the football season and sees the oval generally regarded as having one of the better surfaces in the SANFL.
In late 2010 the South Adelaide Football Club obtained permission from the City of Onkaparinga to install four light towers at the oval with the intent to host night SANFL games at the venue (two mobile phone towers at the ground also carry lights giving a total of 6 light towers). As the oval is located at the top of a hill, (unlike most other suburban SANFL grounds, which are located in among suburban homes and streets, the exception being Elizabeth Oval), it is also located away from local residents with plenty of free car parking available across Goldsmith Drive (behind the Northern goals) in the Centro Colonnades car park, and as well as the members car park located behind the grandstand. This made gaining permission to install the lights easier as the impact on local residents from the lights and parking was minimal.
The oval is the only SANFL venue where spectators can park their cars around the ground itself on the northern and eastern sides of the ground, giving it a country feel with people often watching games from inside their car or on top of the bonnet (large nets are in place behind the northern goals to protect cars from footballs kicked there). Other than the Jim Deane Grandstand, the main spectator areas are the north western grassed bank, while the grassed area behind the southern goals is a non-smoking and alcohol free family area.
The first official SANFL night game was played at the oval on 21 April 2011 with the Panthers defeating Port Adelaide in front of the grounds current night attendance record of 2,700. However the lights failed at the start of a Souths v Adelaide Crows game and the organisers have had to reorganise the fixture for the 2015 season.
As Hickinbotham Oval has the largest spectator capacity, and has the most modern facilities of any outdoor sports venue in the southern suburbs, it has been used as the Grand Final venue for the Southern Football League since 2005.
Jimmy Deane's Entertainment Venue
Hickinbotham Oval, being only 19 years old (as of 2014) and the newest suburban ground in use in the SANFL by some 30 years, is generally regarded as having some of the better player and officials facilities in the league. The oval has also been extensively redeveloped in recent years with the Panthers opening Jimmy Deane's behind the Jim Deane Grandstand. Jimmy Deane's is an entertainment and restaurant venue which includes bar and SA Lottery facilities, a function room and gaming lounge with electronic poker machines. Poker and karaoke are also offered, on Thursday and Friday nights respectively.
Hickinbotham Oval is easily accessed by both road and public transport. The oval is located approximately 600 metres south of the Noarlunga Centre Interchange which is serviced by both bus and rail, with the rail line having been upgraded in 2013, and an extension beyond Noarlunga Centre to Seaford which opened in February 2014.
Unfortunately attendances at the oval for SANFL games suffers because of its location, and is not helped by South Adelaide having a small fan base despite the efforts of the club (South Adelaide has not won the SANFL premiership since 1964, the longest current premiership drought in the league, and has not played in the Grand Final since 1979). Hickinbotham Oval is located approximately 45 km south of Adelaide, with most clubs located closer to the city and the nearest being Glenelg (15 km). Non-Panthers supporters have shown a reluctance for travelling the distance to the venue either by road or public transport, especially as football is played in the winter and Hickinbotham's reputation for being cold. The problem is not just South Adelaide's though, the Central District Bulldogs are located as far North of Adelaide as the Panthers are South. Despite also being easily accessed by road and public transport, the Bulldogs home of Elizabeth Oval also suffers from lower attendances due to many away fans' reluctance to travel.
References and notes
- Prior to 1995, the South Adelaide Football Club's home ground was Adelaide Oval.
- Alan Hickinbotham, fullpointsfooty.net
- Panthers match fixture @ safc.com.au
- Storer, Mark. "No more night games in 2015 at Noarlunga after failure of Hickinbotham Oval lights". ABC.
- Hickinbotham Oval at Austadiums