Stadiums of the past: Carisbrook

By Dylan Cleaver

A floodlit Carisbrook the night prior to the All Blacks vs Springboks Tri-Nations test match played there in 2003. Photo / Getty Images
A floodlit Carisbrook the night prior to the All Blacks vs Springboks Tri-Nations test match played there in 2003. Photo / Getty Images


Home of Otago rugby and cricket


1st test: NZ 32 British & Irish Lions 5, 1908

Last test: NZ 60 Fiji 14, 2011


1st test: NZ v England, 1955. England won by 8 wickets.

Last test: NZ v Sri Lanka, 1997. NZ won by an innings and 36 runs.

Capacity when closed: 30,000

If you wanted to make a case for night rugby being a unnecessary evil, look no further than a grim, rubble-strewn corner of Dunedin that once was known as Carisbrook.

They can tell you tales of old Carisbrook if you've got a spare hour: how the students used to pack the terraces to watch Otago, then lurch there way back through the city to the Cook, the Gardies and the Bowler.

In many respects that was the unholy trinity of Otago sport - the footy, the 'Brook and the students that gave it a unique and enviable flavour.

That's mostly gone now.

The students stopped going. Most people blame the nights. Exposing yourself to the winter elements in a city that sits closer to the South Pole than the equator was so not a Gen Y kind of thing to do, especially when Sky made it possible to pick up a slab of Speight's and watch it at a mate's flat.

Even the pubs went. The Gardies is gone, the Bowler likewise, and even the Cook, possibly Dunedin's most famous institution outside the University itself, has had periods of closure and various incarnations. How we watch of sport changed; how students drank was changing too.

And Carisbrook, well that's just a forgotten wasteland as Dunedinites instead point proudly north to the Forsyth Barr, a relatively simple, yet simply fantastic, covered stadium near where the Leith River meets the harbour.


Monday: Carlaw Park

Tuesday: Lancaster Park

Wednesday: Newmarket Park

Thursday: Athletic Park

Carisbrook's death was troubling and costly to the city. It was for many a House of Pain.
The council bought it off the Otago Rugby Football Union, who were owners of the ground and heavily in debt.

There was consultation around the possibility of it becoming an old folks home (if you've visited the area, it would be the sort of place you'd only send grandparents and parents you really didn't like), or a green space of some description. In the end, the council sold it to Calder Stewart for a loss of more than $3 million.

With the area prone to flooding and liquefaction, the only plausible use for the land would appear to be industrial.

But the park, despite its aversion to the Ranfurly Shield, was home to some memorable if ramshackle moments of glory and controversy.

Despite primarily being a rugby fortress, it will possibly be best known for one of the most dramatic finishes to a test cricket match. Needing 104 to beat the almighty Windies, New Zealand found themselves seven down for just 54. Richard Hadlee (17) and Lance Cairns (19) inched New Zealand close and Gary Troup and Stephen Boock saw them home with one wicket remaining after a fortuitous leg bye and subsequent overthrow.

The defining image of this test was Michael Holding kicking the stumps down after a convincing caught behind appeal against John Parker, who chose the wrong time to suddenly inspect his gloves, was turned down.

It was the start of something horrible. In the next test at the also defunct Lancaster Park, the West Indies, led by a truculent Clive Lloyd, refused to come back on the field for 20 minutes after one tea break and were threatening to return home. Colin Croft barged into umpire Fred Goodall deliberately and the whole tour became a shambles.

For New Zealand, it was the start of a decade of dominance at home and, yes, if we're being totally honest, the umpires played their part alongside the magnificence of Richard Hadlee, the emergence of Martin Crowe and the leadership of Geoff Howarth.

Officialdom was in the spotlight in the most famous rugby test played at the ground. The 1959 Lions scored four tries to nil against the All Blacks but lost 18-17. They conceded 21 penalties, Don Clarke kicking six of them, and as tries were worth just three points and they converted just one, they found themselves on the wrong end of the board.

The Lions could hardly console themselves with the fact most people considered them moral victors, though in today's scoring they would have won 25-18.

A happier rugby memory is this, cut from the 36-24 victory over the Wallabies in 1997.

That was Cullen at his best and Carisbrook at its finest... bathed in sunlight.

MONDAY Carlaw Park
TUESDAY: Lancaster Park
WEDNESDAY: Newmarket Park
THURSDAY Athletic Park

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 26 Oct 2016 08:12:52 Processing Time: 646ms