Ever since I first saw an old ad in Soccer News promoting Hakoah playing games at St Kevin's Oval in the 1950's I've been fascinated with the idea of top level football being played there.
Going the opposite direction at Heyington Station will take you to what is now Kevin Bartlett Reserve, home of Richmond in NPL1. The St Kevin's Ovals sit wedged between the College next to the station on the west, the Monash Freeway to the north, the Kooyong Tennis Club with it's historic stadium to the east and the Glen Waverley railway line to the south.
The claim "Victoria's Premier Soccer Ground" seems a bit far fetched. Public transport access would have been good, car parking more problematic. Facilities would probably have been pretty basic, no different to the other roped off pitches in open parks that prevailed in that era. If the ground surface is what it is like today, that would probably have been something to boast about though.
There was also a pavilion, as captured in this photograph from Soccer News in 1954:
Now from the Freeway, and the Gardiner's Creek Bike Trail that runs under it, you can see a pavilion between the two ovals. Closer inspection reveals it to be a more modern building than what would have stood on the site when it was a Victorian Division One soccer venue.
To the right (as you look at it in the photo) of the building I found the following plaque:
So that would have been the quaint building captured in Soccer News. Behind the plaque is a tree probably planted at the time of the new facility being built, and behind that a rubbish bin. Which gave me an opportunity to try and take a photo from roughly the same spot the Soccer News photographer took his from.
So that is where top level football was played in Melbourne as it entered the soccer boom of the 1950's. Hakoah would soon find their way to making Middle Park their new home. Securing enclosed grounds was a major issue as the game moved from primarily being participant-based into becoming a spectator sport with the emergence of powerful, ethnic-based clubs.
It may remain unknown to most, but St Kevin's Oval is a part of Victorian football history.
(Click on photos to enlarge)