When Manchester United toured Western Australia earlier this year, they based themselves at the iconic WACA Ground.
There are few bigger global sporting brands than the English Premier League club.
And the squad still got a buzz from visiting Perth’s traditional home of cricket, despite the ageing ground not being up to the same standard it once was.
“I have been told all about the Ian Botham six-for-78,” United’s coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said about the former England all-rounder’s performance in the 1979 Ashes Test.
Botham also took 5-98 in the second innings, while Dennis Lillee came to the crease with an aluminium bat.
They are just a couple of famous moments the ground has hosted.
“I am not the big cricket fan, but some of my staff are big cricket fans, and this is great to be able to train on this fantastic stadium,” Solskjaer added.
Terry Waldron takes over at WACA
It is fair to say Perth does not have many internationally recognised landmarks.
But the WACA Ground is a venue that resonates with sports fans both here and overseas, according to new WACA chairman and former WA sport minister Terry “Tuck” Waldron.
“It is like a mystical place in lots of ways,” he said.
“So many people love the history and the heritage of the WACA and I am one of those.
“When I was in England recently I was lucky enough to go to a couple of Test matches and everyone knows the WACA. Everyone knows about the famous Fremantle Doctor and the heat that we get here and some of the great things that happened here.
“That heritage is really important to me and really important to the WACA.”
Mr Waldron was sport and recreation minister for six years in the Barnett government and was instrumental in the planning and execution of the new Perth Stadium, now home to most international cricket matches played in WA.
Although initially controversial due to the $1.6 billion price tag, few would dispute the success of the new stadium at Burswood as a sporting venue and a cultural artefact.
It was recently named the most beautiful sports facility in the world at the UNESCO Prix Versailles architecture and design awards.
Mr Waldron’s experience in navigating that is valuable considering he is now pushing against considerable headwinds again to get another sporting development off the ground, albeit in a different role.
Tucking in to a new challenge
The WACA Ground needs to be redeveloped, but without elite international men’s cricket, it is difficult to mount a case for more public money.
But just as in other states, there remains a requirement for a secondary cricket venue to serve high-performance, the women’s game and state competitions, Mr Waldron explained.
“I actually think the place of the WACA Ground is more important just about than it has ever been,” he said.
“With the advent of the stadium it puts the WACA in a unique position.
“We are located well with the stadium [nearby], we have already supported major events at the stadium with the major soccer teams coming and training here as a lead up to their games.
“But for cricket this will be the headquarters. We will have other events here — I like to think we will have football back here at some stage — but first we need to get that funding.
“There has been a hell of a lot of work done. I do want to make sure we can progress.”
The State Government has already given a $100,000 grant to the WACA to help install all-gender changerooms ahead of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup next year.
There is confidence within cricket circles that a bigger funding commitment will be forthcoming soon.