The Gabba (Woolloongabba Cricket Ground)

History of the Gabba

The Woolloongabba Cricket Ground, aka The Brisbane Cricket Ground, THE GABBA, was established in 1895 , with  a capacity of 37,000, lush grassy banks, and beautiful Moreton Bay fig trees for shade.

Panorama of the Woolloongabba Cricket Ground ca. 1906 (SLQ).

The first match was played on 19 December 1896 between Parliament and The Press, resulting in a tie with 61 runs each.

An Intercolonial match in progress on 21 January 1899 (SLQ).

The first Test Match was on 27 November 1931 against South Africa. Here a huge crowd watches the game. Some of the business premises and surrounding area can be seen in the background over the stands of the sports ground (SLQ).

There have been many memorable moments at the Gabba over the years. One of the most significant was the famous 1960 Tied Test between  Australia  and  the  West Indies played 9-14 Decemberin which Richie Benaud was a stand-out.

West Indian players celebrate as tailender Ian Meckiff is run out by Joe Solomon, preventing Australia from scoring the winning run.

You can read more about the test and get the full score-cards at; https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/17375/scorecard/62888/australia-vs-west-indies-1st-test-west-indies-tour-of-australia-1960-61

In the article below, Ben Horne looks back at the Tied Test 70 years later. (The Daily Telegraph, 10 April 2015).

Richie Benaud w West Indies captain Frank Worrell after the Tied Test.
Brisbane First Test, 20 November 1962. (National Library of Australia, ID: 153020393)

The grass and fig trees of the original Gabba ground have sadly been replaced by modern concrete stands and facilities – capacity has also been increased to 42,000. It is now officially known as the Brisbane Cricket Ground, but nostalgic cricket fans continue to call it The Gabba.


Classic Elegance at the Gabba ca. 1908
Humber touring car at the Brisbane Cricket Ground ca. 1908. (State Library of Queensland)

Mr J. K. Stewart exhibiting his 1908 Humber.
The Humber is a 1908, English-built vehicle, 15 -20 h.p. The headlamps are acetylene powered and the side lamps are kerosene. The horn is bulb-powered. Mr Stewart’s Humber was judged ‘best turned out car’ at the Brisbane Motor Gymkhana. Inset photograph 1 shows women having afternoon tea at the Motor Gymkhana. Mr Stewart is wearing a bowler hat and driving coat. His female passengers are wearing hats with veils. (State Library of Queensland)


Cricket match 1962

The way it was: Relaxed spectators watching a tour game at the Brisbane Cricket Ground in 1962.

1962 tour game at the Gabba. (Cricket Monthly)

Cricket Match ca. 1970
Cricket match at the Gabba ca. 1970. (Melbourne Cricket Club Museum)

The photo is taken from the Member’s Bar during a cricket match, looking out to the Clem Jones Stand, which is flanked by the scoreboard to the right, and the Greyhound Club area to the left.


50 Years of test cricket at the Gabba

On Friday 1 December 1978 a crowd of 14,026 turned out to the Gabba to watch the first day of the 1978 England vs Australia Test match. It was a hot and humid day, just like today with heavy cloud cover. It was also a celebration of fifty years of Test cricket in Brisbane. To mark the occasion, three skydivers landed on the ground carrying a specially struck coin for the toss. The Gabba was very different then, with spectators able to sit on the grass and enjoy cold beers etc while watching the game.

Ashes test at the Gabba 1978. (The Courier Mail)

England won the test by seven wickets and went on to win the series 5-1.  Australia’ s performance was affected by the defection of several players to Packer’s World Series cricket


Australia Post Special Gabba First Day Covers 

On 24 January 1986 Australia Post released a special first day cover pictorial postmark featuring ‘The Gabba’.

Here are photos of two examples of unused envelopes with the special postmark and graphics relating to the Gabba which are part of a collection held at the Melbourne Cricket Museum.

The first has green and light brown printing. It features an outline of Australia and a map of Brisbane Cricket Ground. The unused envelope has green and light brown printing. It features an outline of Australia and a map of the Brisbane Cricket Ground.

The printed green text reads, in part, “Australia’s & World’s FIRST permanent (for daily use) / pictorial CRICKET postmark…”. Centenary Test (1977) postage stamp affixed, valued at 18c. “THE GABBA” postmark stamped twice. On reverse, printed text reads, “Of the 200 covers produced only 68 were in mint / condition. This is one of the 132 rejects because of postmark ‘ghosting'”. (Melbourne Cricket Museum, ID M5524.2)

The second envelope features a black and white cartoon of a young boy in front of fallen wickets.

The printed text in green reads, “THE GABBA / FIRST DAY OF USE / 24 JANUARY 1986”. Postage stamp valued at 18c and circular postmark stamp reads, “THE GABBA / 24 JAN 1986 / WOOLLOONGABBA Q.4102”. Numbered 165 of 300 issued.’ (Melbourne Cricket Museum ID M5525.1)


Two views of The Gabba in the early 1970s

The top photo shows an empty Cricket Ground in 1970  the bottom photo shows a cricket match in progress ca. 1970.