AAMI Park takes you by surprise. Exiting the Monash Freeway along the curving Batman Avenue it suddenly appears beside you. Squat and rooted to the ground it emerges, like a giant postmodernist haemorrhoid, from the bottom of Edwin Flack Field.
It has come a long way since I last viewed it two months ago. Then it was still very much a building site with PVC pipes scattered about among water filled tyre marks, a makeshift cafe with potted palms and Versano Coffee umbrellas, and the smell of earth.
The now finished stadium has been described as “a building of iconic form and structural intrigue”. However the aesthetics (enhanced by LED shows on the outer shell) are reserved for those outside.
The inside is all about function. The roof’s interior, plain white and lined with struts, is less impressive but there is superb viewing from all sections as well as spacious walking areas. The shell protects most of us from the cold southwesterlies that once scythed through Olympic Park.
According to the architects the roof was reduced to the north “to allow maximum sunlight onto the turf”. That same opening, as we found out last Friday night, also lets in the rain.
In a previous article The Stadium With Decent Beer, I pleaded to the Brumby Government ,or whoever is responsible, not to grant pourage rights to the Foster’s Group.
Immediately on entering the ground my worst fears were realised. There, staring me down, was a row of beer taps with …. VB logos! Stunned but still hopeful I focused on the two different taps at either end of this lineup only to discover they were Cascade Light.
“Check the fridge!”, I told myself, “There has to be at least some bottles of Stella Artois among the cans of Red Bull and Jim Beam & Cola.” But no. The largest brewer in Australia with licences to brew and import foreign beers, chooses to make available , throughout the sixteen bars in a brand new stadium, just one type….the worst type (well almost, but even Foster’s wouldn’t dare put Carlton Cold on tap).
As one of the numerous and efficient attendants handed me a cup I consoled myself with the fact that it was full strength.
I have since found out , however, that full strength beer will only be available at day games because, according to police, drinkers at night sporting events are likely to go on drunken rampages in the city afterwards.
Which means,of course, that for night games the beer tap logos will be changed to (oh dear god, no!) VB Gold.
The beer wouldn’t be the only thing to leave a nasty taste.
The game against the struggling Broncos was meant to represent the christening of the new Graveyard but right from the start the Storm didn’t look right. They had the same distracted manner they displayed against Manly three weeks earlier when, I believe, they realised ominous news of a scandal was about to break.
The test match had tired its stars and claimed the captain. Perhaps it had also stolen the team’s thunder.
Despite dominating possession in the first twenty minutes Phil Gould commented: “The Storm seem to be lacking that spark”. Fifteen minutes and three Brisbane tries later he asked: “Well what do we have here? What do we have here?”
That’s not to dismiss the performance of the Broncos.
Sam Thaiday is a rubbery, wobbly man with bandy legs; just walking he looks like he’s out on his feet. And yet two days after a best-on-ground performance against New Zealand he was out there again smashing his way through tackles, running (or wobbling) through gaps, and offloading at will. Their youngsters did what they have been doing; scoring points. The difference on Sunday was the solid defence of their line. The Storm breached it seven times (with four tries turned down by the video referee ) but really didn’t deserve to win.
A tired, dark-eyed Lockyer was less enthused about the win than his coach: “I think we may have snuck up on them there”. A similarly drained-looking Cronk explained: “I can handle losing a game of football … but to not give our fans what they thoroughly deserve for what they’ve given us in the last two weeks was very disappointing. Today was sort of meant to be a payback to them and that’s where I’m not too happy with it.”
The chance for that payback will come in the next home game against the Bulldogs. Unfortunately it will be just four days after an Origin game.
The real christening of AAMI Park probably took place on that first training session when the team marched as one towards the thousands of loyal fans. They looked like warriors and were about to put the Warriors to the sword.
I’m really hoping they don’t now go the way of the beer: drained of character.