The upgraded David Wilson Field is back in action on Saturday for the rare return of Australia A flanker Brad Wilkin to the Easts jersey.
The improvements in drainage under a full grass cover will make the main field at Bottomley Park the best July club surface in Brisbane.
Playing on the main field again has been much anticipated and a headline match against premiers Wests guarantees an excellent turnout for the Paul Mooney Cup clash.
The diehard support from the can bar corner will also be corralled a little differently. The intimidating rumble that envelops rival teams in that tryline corner of the field will now come from a small, new stand built by former Easts captain-builder Tim Stoddart.
The “Stoddy Stand” will be a new gathering point for past players, tall stories and rabid one-eyed support.
The laying of artificial grass along the shaded verge of the field in that area will also improve one of the ground’s most popular viewing spots.
It will be Wilkin’s first game in nearly a decade on the field named after Easts’ 1999 World Cup-winning flanker David Wilson. Wilkin’s most recent outing for the Tigers was a one-off appearance away to Souths in 2021.
The red-haired Wilkin’s superb form for the Melbourne Rebels earned him a recent spot at No.7 for the Australia A-Tonga match after training in the Wallabies squad.
“I played Colts and Prem grade in my first year out of school (Iona College) back in 2014 but I haven’t played on David Wilson Field since,” Wilkin said.
“It’s always special getting a chance to go back to where you played juniors.
“I just want to keep playing good footy and be match fit for any opportunity that might come my way.
“The boys are giving me stick that I’m only back because we’re playing on David Wilson Field.”
Easts 2020 premiership prop Rhys Van Nek is also back in Tigers’ colours to face Wests after being in the extended Australia A squad that visited Tonga.
Easts Premier Grade coach Ben Mowen said returning to David Wilson Field held a real significance and was a nice lift three rounds before the semi-finals.
“It’s been a long wait to make sure the main deck is spot on. It’s special and the buzz goes all the way down to the Under-7s and Under-9s talking about games back there,” Mowen said.
“There are very few clubs around where the fans sit so close to the sideline, are so connected to what happens on the field, and the clubhouse from day dot is right there.”
Mowen might have a passing interest in the architecture but what he’s really interested in getting is the blast of energy from a home crowd at David Wilson Field.
“There have been plenty of big moments in that corner. I don’t know any opposition team which likes a lineout throw under crowd pressure in that part of the field or defending one when it’s a Tigers’ throw,” Mowen said.
“I remember way back in maybe 2004. We beat Brothers in that corner when they had the likes of David Croft, Sean Hardman and Sam Cordingley back from Reds duty. There was no way we weren’t driving the ball over the tryline.”
Easts General Manager Nigel Roy added: “Funding from the State Government has made the long-overdue ground improvements possible.
“Premier Grade and seconds have had ballwork sessions on the field. It’s ready to roll.
“I think everyone has been impressed with how the new Field Two has stood up with all the traffic. The club now has two top fields.”
For 1997 premiership captain Peter Murdoch, the special vibe to David Wilson Field is wrapped up in both memories and knowing fresh deeds of success will play out on the same patch of turf.
“The camaraderie of Tigerland has a home at David Wilson Field and surrounds. Juniors can’t wait to play on the main field and it’s still home for those who graduate all the way to the top grade,” Murdoch said.
“We all have our memories of playing there and we come back as supporters to see fresh history being made.”