We are blessed in our region to have a boatload of wonderful football grounds, but there are certainly some that are better than the others.
A question many have debated — but never answered categorically — is this; which Goulburn Valley League club has the ground that is best for watching a footy match?
Outside The Box has now hit every ground in the league and can today exclusively rank all 11 grounds, with Shepparton and Shepparton United, of course, sharing the one venue.
To be clear, this isn’t about which ground creates the best atmosphere or has the cheapest beers, which one creates the best viewing spectacle for interested punters.
A particularly important clarification to make is that food is not being considered here — but will be considered in an Outside The Box Productions feature series ‘‘My Canteen Rules’’ that will hit the paper in the coming weeks.
1. Mansfield Recreation Reserve
One word — colosseum.
It’s not exactly close to most people in the region, but OTB is telling you, this place is certainly worth the trip.
We don’t know who designed the thing but what they’ve done is put the ground at a far lower level than the clubrooms, creating a brilliant effect where you have an elevated viewing point across essentially half the ground.
If you’re lucky enough — and OTB is certainly a lucky organisation — you might get a chance to sit in the Superbox, the most perfect box you will ever find and easily the best vantage point in the competition.
The facilities are great and the cold atmosphere is even better.
If you’re worried your kids will get bored, the Mansfield council has done you an absolute solid, with a playground tucked away in the forward pocket.
When OTB attended, a huge snow mound was also there to entertain the kids, a lovely hat-tip to Mansfield’s skiing culture.
2. Victoria Park (Echuca)
Pack a tent and stay the night on the banks of the Murray — you aren’t going to want to leave this place.
Clearly — in OTB’s opinion — the best grandstand in the area, a stand so high you almost wonder how the construction mob managed to build the thing.
You wouldn’t want to with a grandstand that good, but even just having a stroll around Vic Park is a nice experience.
The smell of the burning fire locals huddle around to stay warm in the middle of winter is everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
3. Deakin Reserve (Shepparton/Shepparton United)
Deakin might be the home of Goulburn Valley sport, but OTB does not feel it is the best venue.
It is still clearly in the upper-echelon, however, and showed it packs a serious punch when it packed in more than 5000 people to host an AFL pre-season game.
There are that many seating options at Deakin it is almost too hard to pick, but if you haven’t sat in the main grandstand you basically haven’t lived.
You have the choice of either club’s social rooms, either of the supplementary grandstands surrounding the field, or you can just park up behind the big sticks.
A truly special place to be, particularly during September.
However — and perhaps this is more an eyesight problem on OTB’s behalf — but from the back of the grandstand, it was rather tough to see the ball under lights, something that ruined what is usually a perfect time at a great ground.
4. Tatura Park
A real community ground that caters to your every need.
Tat Park has the brilliant Ballantyne Centre with the mother of all viewing platforms on the balcony, with the more rustic seated area right beside if you are seeking a more old-school feel.
The visiting rooms and surrounding standing area creates better atmosphere than plenty of home rooms in the competition — this ground has got the lot.
With the caravan park next door, opposition players have been known to drag a Jayco along with them and stay the night, such is the great feeling of the place.
5. Memorial Oval (Euroa)
OTB headed to Memorial Oval last weekend with high hopes — and there was absolutely no let-down.
A majestic setting in among the trees, driving in feels like driving up your own driveway — you’re home.
The cool winter air really soothes the soul, and viewing-wise, the well-located grandstand provides a great angle, or you can line the fence on the forest side and really drink in that beautiful Euroa atmosphere.
Unlucky to be this low.
6. Mooroopna Recreation Reserve
Just a rock-solid country footy venue really, which is possibly the pick of the venues for night games.
There is seating aplenty in the centre-wing stand, and a bit of elevation available too via the forward pocket stand, and both sets of clubrooms.
Whether you plan to stand with your mates and have a can or analyse the footy in intense detail, the Cattery has you covered.
7. Benalla Showgrounds
A mightily underrated ground, in my humble opinion, right on the banks of Lake Benalla.
The monster grandstand — which could be slightly closer to the action — was under-utilised when OTB was there, but remains one of the better vantage points in the league.
The Lakeside Community Centre seems a nice hang-out, with the crowd congregating under it to generate a bit of noise when the Saints are up and about.
8. Kyabram Recreation Reserve
Kyabram is a nice town in general and its ground is no different — plenty of different viewing options and cover to get out of the sun or the rain.
Has a real sort of early-2000s vibe, but the florescent lighting makes it a versatile venue capable of hosting night games.
Clearly loses points for the huge lightpole blocking the view from the forward pocket grandstand, but the Wilf Cox Complex is a nice touch, and there are some elevated standing options for a slightly better view.
9. Moon Oval (Rochester)
Moon Oval is somewhat of a conundrum for me; when I head to the iconic venue I am genuinely excited, yet I know I won’t be in for the best viewing experience I’ve ever had.
There isn’t an awful lot of seating, but standing under the roof outside the clubrooms when the locals start to generate a bit of noise is a nice thing to be a part of.
Going to Moon Oval is a bit like going back in time, but that is why we love it — it is a nod to football’s past.
An important note here is that Moon Oval allegedly produces the best chicken steak in Victoria — a subject that will be explored in great depth in impending News feature series My Canteen Rules.
10. Kings Park (Seymour)
Sitting in the shed at Kings Park — the Ken Daniel Stand — is a half-decent experience, but this is the classic venue where it always feels like the ball is somehow on the other side of the ground.
The clubrooms are located nicely and the trees in the vicinity are quite nice, but a lack of elevated seating certainly loses the club some points.
11. Princess Park (Shepparton)
Princess Park does have some sort of charm to it, next to the Goulburn River and among the trees giving off a bit of a forest vibe.
But viewing options aren’t ideal; sinking a tin in the shed would be okay, but a lack of seating and any grandstand leaves a bit to be desired.
Lighting upgrades on the cards for the main oval will bring the ground out of the dark ages, but the large amount of car parking available is certainly one positive.