A lap around Leederville Oval

• Ron Pooley (15) sports captain of Christian Brothers College in Leederville being presented a winner’s cup at the oval by Father Delahunty, circa 1946.

IN this week’s story of olde from Vincent’s Local History Centre historians, we have the tale of Leederville Oval from its early days as a wetland through to hosting women’s sports while the men were away at war, and the big ambitions to host high level plays in the 1960s and today. 

FEW footy grounds can boast as diverse a history as Leederville Oval. 

A former wetland, the oval at 246 Vincent Street was made a recreation reserve in 1900 and began its long association with football when it was officially opened as home of the West Perth Football Club in 1915.

Over the years, a range of sporting groups have used Leederville Oval. 

Long before the WA Women’s Football League was established in the 1980s, Leederville hosted women’s football matches. Women’s football was first played in Perth in 1915 as a wartime fundraiser.

The games continued into the 1920s, although it was considered a novelty with female competitors described in newspapers of the day as ‘athletic damsels’ and ‘belles on the ball’.

The teams included female staff from popular Perth department stores Boans and Foy & Gibson (pictured) playing Maylands-Norwood at Leederville Oval in November 1921.

Athletics, cricket, tennis, baseball, lacrosse, softball and cycling were also played on Leederville Oval in the 1920s and 1930s.

The grounds were used for open air pictures, fire brigade games and military parades and demonstrations. 

In 1933, Leederville Oval was even the venue for a military and naval tattoo that included a mock battle complete with horses and chariots. 

During actual wartime, Leederville Oval was the venue for various war fundraising and recruitment efforts.

• West Perth play their last game at Leederville Oval, 1993. COV PHO2035.

After the war, Dick Fletcher – who served as West Perth Football Club president from 1946 to 1962 – had a grand vision for Leederville Oval as a major athletic and football stadium. 

In the late 1950s, when Perth was considering where to build facilities for the Seventh British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Dick Fletcher argued that Leederville Oval and the surrounding grounds were the perfect spot for an athletics stadium. After the games, he envisioned the stadium could become the main venue for WA football.

“…Leederville Oval, already the site of an Australian athletic championships, could be made a show place … with the type of development that could be made for the Games, Leederville Oval could accommodate 100,000 people. The whole area would then become a vast sporting centre. The decision to build the Games swimming pool in Beatty Park puts it only a few yards from Leederville Oval. The basketball stadium will also be very close … The games village could still be constructed at Floreat Park with special buses for the athletes having easy access to Leederville, as they would already be doing for the swimmers and basketballers … If Leederville Oval became league headquarters, the Perth City Council could be sure of handsome returns from the ground. I shudder to think what their revenue will be from Reabold Hill.” (Daily News, 27 November 1959).

Dick’s big dream for Leederville Oval never came to pass. 

Nearby Beatty Park was built to host the swimming and diving events for the seventh British and Commonwealth Games in 1962, and Perry Lakes in Floreat Park was the site chosen for the athletics stadium.

Leederville Oval was upgraded for use as an auxiliary venue with a new grandstand erected and named the RP Fletcher Stand in honour of Dick Fletcher.

Leederville Oval continued to be the home ground for the ‘mighty Falcons’ until 1993, when they played their last game in Leederville to a crowd of 20,000 before moving to Joondalup.

Shortly after, staff from the newly formed Vincent council worked temporarily from the Leederville Oval grandstand while the council’s administration offices were built nearby. 

A decade later, Leederville Oval went on to become the home ground for the East Perth and Subiaco football clubs. The City of Vincent is currently working with the clubs to ensure the oval continues to host football for generations to come, and has recently expressed interest in hosting the WAFL Grand Final at Leederville Oval in 2022.

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