Remembering the Gabba hill

John Coomer Roar Guru

By John Coomer, John Coomer is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    Maybe I’m getting too old, but a day at the cricket at the Gabba is nowhere near as much fun as it used to be.

    When the Gabba was redeveloped in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the sacred patch of grass known as the hill went into history. That area on the western side of the ground was replaced by a concrete stand with wall-to-wall plastic seating.

    The ground lost a lot of its soul and character then as well.

    The Gabba hill was a place where you could stretch out, relax, drink full strength beer, watch some cricket, or even have a sleep late in the day if you needed it. And for those seated in the stands, when the game out in the middle was meandering along, you could always rely on the hill to provide some entertainment.

    It wasn’t always a barrel of laughs if you were on the hill itself of course. Lining up for your shout to get beers was a marathon trip, and occasionally tempers would fray towards the end of a long day under the hot Brisbane summer sun.

    Usually not much damage was done though. The paddy wagon was always nearby for any blokes who’d had one too many, and 99 per cent of people on the Hill were just there for a good time and knew what to expect.

    If you still have a hill at your city’s major cricket venue today, be thankful. A patch of grass among the concrete provides some choice for spectators and attracts characters – something that is generally lacking from the modern day Gabba crowd experience.

    Sporting events these days are very corporate and family friendly, which is fine, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of creating atmosphere. You can still have the best of both worlds – family friendly areas as well as a hill.

    What are your favourite hill memories, either at the Gabba or any other cricket venue?

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • December 30th 2015 @ 5:37am
      Redsback said | December 30th 2015 @ 5:37am | ! Report

      I can remember a pretty good time being had by all of us (post-redevelopment) absolutely giving it to Murali, such that he had to change his position within 1 or maybe 2 balls.

    • December 30th 2015 @ 9:43am
      Bakkies said | December 30th 2015 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      The problem is Australian ground stopped being designed for Cricket purposes. Concrete bowls that are more suited to AFL.

      • December 31st 2015 @ 10:06am
        SuperEgz said | December 31st 2015 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Luckily Adelaide managed to keep its hill when the AFL moved to Adelaide Oval.

        • Roar Guru

          December 31st 2015 @ 11:04am
          John Coomer said | December 31st 2015 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          Good point. Adelaide got their redevelopment right, the Gabba didn’t.
          Adelaide also kept their traditional scoreboard to help retain the traditional feel/character of the ground, which is another thing that wasn’t done in the Gabba redevelopment.

    • December 30th 2015 @ 1:08pm
      Pottsy said | December 30th 2015 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

      I’m Tasmanian so I’m lucky enough to still have a hill. My favorite memory would have to be the atmosphere for the 2006-07 Shield Final. Much better – on weekdays – without the rent a crowd – than many Tests.

      • Roar Guru

        December 31st 2015 @ 11:13am
        John Coomer said | December 31st 2015 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        I’ve never been to Bellerive, but it looks to be a great venue to watch cricket. That Final you mention I think was Tassie’s first ever title from memory, it would have been great for you as a Tasmanian I’m sure to be there for a historical moment in a Hill type of atmosphere.

        When Qld won their first ever Shield title in 94-95 the Gabba hadn’t been redeveloped, and the atmosphere at that game was incredible with the Hill in full swing.

        • December 31st 2015 @ 3:52pm
          Pottsy said | December 31st 2015 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

          One day I’ll write an article on that Final.

    • December 30th 2015 @ 8:50pm
      Tommyknocker said | December 30th 2015 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

      I remember sitting on the hill at the Gabba while my grandpop drank tallies and us kids played with an old bat and tennis ball. Back in the 60’s when Shield cricket got crowds. I miss the hill at Lang Park too.

      • Roar Guru

        December 31st 2015 @ 11:15am
        John Coomer said | December 31st 2015 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        Good point, the original Lang Parkwas pretty special too, though I think its redevelopment overall was better handled than the Gabba’s.

    • Roar Guru

      December 31st 2015 @ 3:29pm
      Paul D said | December 31st 2015 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

      My enduring memory of the Gabba remains my first visit, as an 8 year old to watch day 3 of the test between Australia and England in 1990/91. It was a low scoring game, England finished their second collapse of the match early on Day 3, and then Taylor and Marsh knocked off the 160 odd to win in an unbeaten opening stand – a vast difference from the rest of the game, where about 30 wickets fell for 500 or so.

      We were on what I think was the old eastern part of the ground, I remember the dog track in front of us. I was there with my uncle and his son, and we had a great time running around watching the play.

      I remember a huge guy waddling past shirtless on another beer run and some wag at the back of the crowd picking that perfect lull in the hubbub of the crowd to bellow WHAT A GUTTT in that leather lunged voice the veteran heckler can muster – the roar of the crowd and the laughter had me in stitches.

      It was a great day, and a great experience for a young kid at the cricket – I understand that the spectacting experience had to be sanitized somewhat owing to changing expectations and attitude, but I can’t help but think we’ve lost some of the pleasure and atmosphere in watching cricket in these all-seater stadiums.

      They work for AFL, it’s a high octane game and there’s plenty of action on the field to keep you immersed in the game. But cricket lends itself to a more relaxed viewing experience, and so I lament the demise of the hill and what it offered spectators in the past.

      • Roar Guru

        December 31st 2015 @ 4:01pm
        John Coomer said | December 31st 2015 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

        Well said Paul!

        The freedom to move around as a kid is something I also fondly remember of the old Gabba, prior to the concrete jungle that it has become.

        The dog track was a unique aspect too, but I wasn’t sorry to see it go as it kept the crowd further back from the action. I can remember ducking across it trying to get a few autographs now and then, except during some World Series Cricket one dayers in the late 70s when the ground was absolutely jam packed and they let people actually sit on the track itself. We could just lean over the fence when blokes like Dennis Lillee were at fine leg.

    • January 1st 2016 @ 9:59am
      marfu said | January 1st 2016 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      Thanks for your piece John as we were only lamenting the loss of The Hill at the BBL the other night. The ground is now just like all the other sterile antiseptic “cake tin” style stadiums around the world and I would struggle to know which ground I was at if I woke up there after a three day bender. It is still has great atmosphere when close to full but is like a ghost town otherwise.

      My first memories of The Hill are from watching the antics of those brave enough to sit there from under the fig trees on the Eastern side. I will never forget the beer can fights which looked like a huge swarm of killer bees above the crowd. It is amazing that no one lost an eye or worse as beer was cheap enough back then to not even think twice before throwing a full one!

      My other enduring moment was when Brisbane’s sporting aficionado Happy Jack in his trademark sombrero, during a slow passage of play, raised his Australian flag on the ramp that went over the dog track to a standing ovation of the rabid Hill faithful.

      Anyway the consensus of those that think they know from the BBL the other night is that all ground redevelopments must compulsorily include a hill of some sort so that the character is retained. Adelaide has proved that it can be done.

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