The Temple Down the Road
Viking, $39.95 hb, 322 pp
The Melbourne Cricket Ground was established on its present site in 1853. The first cricket match was played there the following year. It was a busy time in the early life of Melbourne: the University of Melbourne, the State Library of Victoria, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society and The Age newspaper were all founded at this time. At a recent social gathering in Melbourne, someone asked which of these institutions was the most important and influential. Nobody hesitated in reply: it was the MCG, of course.
For the uninitiated, the MCG may be dismissed as a big ugly concrete bowl where uncouth things happen. Yet, for generations of Victorians (if not Australians), it is a place of wonders, one that, as Brian Matthews puts it, has ‘an atmosphere so undeniable, so heady and so exhilarating that even a corpse would be stirred’. The Temple Down the Road is a book of considerable enjoyment for those who have at some time or other succumbed to the boisterous charms of the MCG. It is a meander through the history of the site and the stadium, a personal memoir of events and experiences, and a reflection on the role of the MCG in the sporting, spiritual and cultural landscape of its city, and beyond.