By LIAM DURKIN
THE grass certainly isn’t greener in Traralgon, Moe or Churchill at the moment.
That’s because the surface of football grounds at Terry Hunter Oval, Ted Summerton Reserve and Gaskin Park are covered in something that barely constitutes grass.
The sight of a yellow tinge has left those abovementioned grounds resembling beaches, making for an ugly look to three venues generally considered to be among the ‘premier’ ovals in the region.
Perhaps most alarmingly, player safety has been put at risk, with reports of grass burn becoming more and more frequent.
The North Gippsland Football-Netball League has moved this weekend’s preliminary final from Gaskin Park to Glengarry, reportedly after a Woodside player’s leg became so infected from grass burn in the first week of finals at Gaskin Park, they were forced to spend a night in hospital.
Not far from Churchill, Ted Summerton Reserve is facing similar issues.
Those looking at the current surface at TSR must surely be double-taking to think it was the same venue that welcomed Big Bash Cricket late last year, as well as AFLW and AFL men’s preseason games in recent years, not to mention the slated venue for the now cancelled Commonwealth Games.
The Moe oval, for so long a shoo-in on the local footy calendar to host local Grand Finals, now finds itself in the position where it isn’t deemed ‘aesthetically pleasing’ enough to be given hosting rights to the major Gippsland League decider.
While the Gippsland League has moved away from centralised finals in the Valley this year, Gippsland League Board chair Andrew Livingstone confirmed Moe and Traralgon were currently not up to standard.
“There has been a bit of talk about the only final in the Valley (this year) is in Morwell, we just feel that the Traralgon and Moe grounds need to present a lot better as far as the only ground that gets over sewn with winter grass now is Morwell,” he said.
“As a major league, we had some negative feedback last year with finals at Traralgon and Moe, particularly through our social platform, on the screens it looks terrible from a spectator and aesthetic side of things, so that’s the reason neither Traralgon or Moe will have a final this year.”
The problems could have even more drastic implications for clubs.
Just this year, Moe has had four players do ACLs either playing or training on TSR.
While injuries are a part of sport, the hard surface of TSR might just be creating the perfect storm or increasing the likelihood of injuries such as ACLs.
Traralgon and Moe are ordinarily lush green, and have both hosted high profile events in the past, however they are now sewn with what is known as Santa ana couch.
Santa ana couch reduces in turf colour when temperatures are below 15 degrees Celsius.
In a statement, Latrobe City Council explained the machinations of the set-up.
“Ted Summerton Reserve and Traralgon Recreation Reserve main oval are primarily Santa ana couch surfaces; a drought tolerant turf species selected for its ability to withstand high levels of wear, its high regrowth and repair rate of growth, and its requirement for lower water and nutrient inputs, compared to other suitable turf sports turf species (i.e., ryegrass, fescue, kikuyu etc.),” a council spokesperson said.
“Santa ana couch enters periods of dormancy when soil temperatures are below 15 degrees Celsius (i.e., winter), which causes the reduction in turf colour.
“Once soil temperatures increase above 15 degrees Celsius, the turf will exit dormancy and become active again, at which point the turf will regain its normal colour.”
It is understood this couch has been laid purely as a cost-cutting measure.
Livingstone said the Gippsland League would look to work with Latrobe City to get its premier ovals in better shape.
“We are keen to have further discussions with Latrobe City because we feel like our brand brings a decent economic benefit to the Latrobe City,” he said.
Moe Football-Netball Club president Manny Gelagotis said he would also like to see the situation addressed.
“I don’t know why the curators are leaving it this way, I’ll leave it people in those departments to work on that,” he said.
“Clearly it looks rough, it doesn’t look nice and green.
“I’m not an expert in that field, but hopefully we can get on top of that in the future.”