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On This Day: St Kilda's record-breaking Moorabbin debut

54 years ago today, St Kilda played its first ever game at Moorabbin Oval. - St Kilda Saints,Collingwood Magpies
54 years ago today, St Kilda played its first ever game at Moorabbin Oval.

Throughout its 146-year history, St Kilda has called several places home.

Junction Oval was the birthplace of the Saints in 1873, before brief stints at Waverley Park (1993-1999) and then later the Linen House Centre in Seaford.

But it was on this day in 1965 when history was made, with St Kilda playing its first ever game at Moorabbin Oval.

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The move to Moorabbin saw St Kilda sign a 75-year lease with Moorabbin Council in 1964, resulting in its training, playing and administrative base departing Junction Oval; its home of 91 years.

Ongoing disputes with St Kilda Cricket Club over the ground was the catalyst for change, as was the Saints’ desire to own, operate and have full control over its facilities.

The establishment of the social club, investments into the quality of the playing surface and the increased crowd capacity, while facilitated largely by Moorabbin Council, was driven by the devotion of the players and coaches of St Kilda.

Six months of direct involvement from the Saints’ stars in building their new footballing residency – right down to walking in lines to pick up stones from the newly-laid playing surface – were done in the hopes of ushering in an era of prosperity for the club.

They were building – both literally and figuratively – a new home and a new beginning, as the bayside club entered a new and unknown frontier in the south-eastern suburbs.

And when the Saints ran out onto Moorabbin Oval this time 54 years ago, the fruits of their labour didn’t go unrewarded.

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As the red, white and black guernseys emerged from the race, the thunderous roar of 51,370 people rocked the suburb of Moorabbin, as people flocked from everywhere to welcome the Saints to their new home.

To this day, it’s a record crowd that Moorabbin Oval has never broken.

Led by St Kilda Hall of Fame legend Darrel Baldock, the star-studded Saints of the mid-1960s – inclusive of Ian Stewart, Carl Ditterich, Ian Cooper, Ross Smith and Verdun Howell – emerged victorious by six points over Collingwood.

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It was the perfect start to a new chapter in the club’s history.

The Saints took out its first of three minor premierships (1965, 1997, 2009) with 14 wins from a possible 18 games – conceding just the one home victory against Essendon.

 

More importantly, the Saints appeared in their first Grand Final since 1913.

Cruelly, it would be those same Bombers who stood in the Saints’ way of premiership glory, claiming the decider by 35 points.

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But that glory ultimately came the very next year, in the form of the now legendary one-point heart-stopper that cemented Moorabbin as the Saints’ spiritual home.

Moorabbin Oval served as the home ground for the Saints until 1992, before moving to Waverley Park in 1993 off the back of the AFL’s strategy of ground rationalisation to clear up club debt.

While the Saints now play their home games at Marvel Stadium and have done so since 2000, the legacy of Moorabbin lives on and continues to grow.

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The full return to Linton St for training and administration purposes in 2018 has seen Moorabbin Oval – now RSEA Park – become the focal point for everything St Kilda.

Many memories were made in the Animal Enclosure, and many more will now follow.

Games will return to the hallowed turf in the form of the VFLW/VFL double-header on Sunday 5 May, with the Southern Saints and Sandringham Zebras due to take on Collingwood and Frankston respectively.

For those who bleed red, white and black, Moorabbin will forever have a special place in their hearts.