It’s not one exhibition but two.
IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN
Celebrating 140 Years of the SANFL
STRAIGHT THROUGH THE MIDDLE
Football in South Australia
The two exhibitions which complement each other opened on 7 June and run until 13 August. They are located in the Institute Building and first floor of the State Library of South Australia linked by an interior walkway. At first I couldn’t see the point of having two names but ‘In a League of Its Own’ has been organised by the SANFL Historians Group convened by Chris Halbert and ‘Straight through the Middle’ draws its material from the SLSA’s football collection.
My first visit was rushed as I’d agreed to meet friend Santo Caruso before discussing a book project. In doing so I made the mistake of entering from the Library, noting their display mainly on the Treasures Wall and quickly moving to the rear of the Institute. An adjective like ‘worthy’ came to mind but I was plainly underwhelmed. Where was the passion, the colour, the excitement? I’m glad I didn’t leave things there for I’d missed the best bits.
When I returned I made sure to begin at the beginning.
The recommended route is definitely through the front door of the Institute Building and start with the main SANFL exhibition room on the left.
Garden gnomes which a Melbourne friend suggested looked like Kevin Murray.
Club badge collection.
History at a glance.
Theatrette for viewing Grand Final and State of Origin action.
Detailed Timeline needs more space.
The rear room of the Institute is the next part of the journey. Above is the photo-montage of the Australasian Football Council Carnival won by South Australia in 1911. In the early 1980s it lay in tatters in a Football Park vomitory. I had it restored (along with other Carnival pictures) with cedar frames and for many years they adorned the main Members Dining Room at Football Park. It’s great to see them back on walls in this exhibition.
Visual display from scrapbooks.
From large photo-montage on walkway to Library. Glad to see my colour photo (and Football Budget cover) of Peter Carey at right made the cut.
A pair of unlikely lads.
Santo Caruso admiring legendary ruckman Tom Leahy.
Spectacular wide-angle image of footy at Adelaide Oval is the feature of the Library display.
Eye-catching entrance to the Library.
From the Ken Farmer albums in the Library Treasures Wall display.
Whatever did we do before computers?
I’m so glad I went back for a second visit and I’ll most likely return for a third. One can always have quibbles but mine would be few.
- At the front entrance to the Institute Building the state blazers are a bit dull because they are mainly one colour – navy blue.
- A selection of current SANFL club jumpers would offer much more colour, variety and a contemporary feel. Those which hang from light fittings in the front room are too high up and look puny in that space.
- The timeline is thorough but has insufficient space and its value is lost.
- My only other complaint is that there needs to be a little more fun in the league display. The gnomes are a start but what about the wobble-heads? And it would have been nice to have a little more fan involvement. Where are those duffle coats covered in player badges? Where are the flags and floggers waved by cheer squads?
That’s not much of a grizzle and there’s mountains of fascinating material. While there’s an absence of interpretive boards the volunteer assistants rostered from the SANFL History Group make up for that. On my second visit Chris Halbert and former league stars Ray Trenorden and Malcolm Greenslade were on duty to explain items and open up the viewing experience.
In addition the half a dozen panel discussions held in the evenings have been a brilliant success. The ‘1877 and All That’ panel chaired by Roger Wills in which I took part with James Coventry, Trevor Gyss and Peter Alexander worked exceptionally well and the questions from the audience were of the highest quality.
If you’ve yet to get along make sure you do so in the three weeks that remain.
About Bernard Whimpress
Freelance historian (mainly sport) currently writing his 31st book. For the previous 15 years was Curator of the Adelaide Oval Museum and Historian for the South Australian Cricket Association. Will accept writing commissions with reasonable pay. Most recent book – Adelaide Oval: A Photo-Document 2009.