It’s great to see football returning to central Fremantle with the news that Perth Glory will re-locate its offices to Fremantle Oval. Glory will take over what was previously the Fremantle Dockers headquarters – and they will also make use of the expansive gymnasium and medical facilities based at the ground, sharing them with WAFL side South Fremantle.
Apparently Glory will also occasionally use Fremantle Oval’s pitch as a training facility, and may also play some pre-season friendlies and exhibition games there. It would not be the first time that the world game has made use of Fremantle Oval.
What is believed to be the first “international” staged in Australia took place at the Oval in March, 1902, when Western Australia took on the touring English Cricket XI, which stopped off in Fremantle on its way back to the UK after playing the Australian cricketers in an Ashes series over east. A crowd of 10,000 (at 6d entrance fee) turned out to watch the historic clash, which England won 4-0.
It wasn’t unusual in those days for cricketers to turn their hand to soccer. Ian Botham is probably the best example of being able to star at the different sports in recent years, Michael Vaughan is another former England cricketer who was no slouch at football while Australia’s Steve and Mark Waugh were promising footballers before choosing cricket as teenagers.
A Fremantle stop-over became a regular fixture when England’s cricketers toured Down Under – and the State team was called into action again in 1904, and also in 1925 at Fremantle Oval. Other high-profile contests to be staged at Fremantle Oval were State team outings with South Australia (1910), China (1927) and Czechoslovakia/Bohemia (1927).
The last international to be held at the ground was the Young Socceroos friendly against Brazil, which attracted a crowd of over 10,000 in 1992, with Australia winning 1-0. Several State League teams have made use of the Fremantle Oval facilities over the years, the last of them being Fremantle City for three seasons from 1997.
Feature image: The State team that faced England at Fremantle Oval in 1925, with Jimmy Gordon holding the ball. Jimmy, the most prolific goalscorer of his era, was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA in 1996.