By Sam Darroch
THE heavens once again opened to herald the dawn of a new Gippsland cricket season, leaving curators scrambling after an interrupted pitch preparation period.
With just a few weeks since the end of football season to get pitches in to shape, wet weather has plagued the region’s groundskeepers.
Latrobe Cricket Club president Andrew Bloomfield said weather disruptions had been an omnipotent problem in the past few seasons.
“It’s always tough when you try to get yourself ready to start in the first week of October and it ends up being a couple of weeks later before you can get out there and put some work into what you’ve been doing,” he said.
“Our pitch is not too bad, I know there are other clubs that have had issues trying to get on to their pitches.
“We’re pretty lucky because we’ve had the pitch that we’re playing on at the moment up for three weeks ready for practice matches which have all been cancelled.”
Bloomfield said the rain also affected the way the pitches played in the early throes of the season, leaving a lot of dampness beneath the hard surface.
“Because of the moisture underneath they’re firm on top and a little bit softer underneath so they tend to play a bit slower and move around more,” he said.
“Usually the first two weeks are pretty tough so you’ve always got the covers on standby this time of year.”
Another issue faced by ground staff was getting the rollers onto the pitch when the outfield was wet and muddy, but with a hot summer forecast, clubs were hopeful of hard, fast pitches within the month.
Traralgon Recreation Reserve curator Peter Mclean is no stranger to competing with the weather, having looked after his ground’s pitches for 15 years.
Mclean has had just two weeks to bring the pitch up to scratch, and said a wet lead up had its pros and cons.
“The rain has a large amount (of influence) on how much work we have to do,” he said.
“We need rain this time of year to get the grass growing but the only real problem we have is if it rains on game day.
“You get a large fluctuation in the weather so there are some interesting challenges; one of the issues we have here is that it’s not warm enough to get the couch grass to keep growing until late November.”
Mclean said while only one day of dry weather was required throughout the week to get the pitch ready, it was beneficial to be able to control the amount of moisture in the wicket.
Mclean and his fellow ground staff have been putting in 20 hours a week ahead of the season to get the pitch prepared.
“There are some challenges but it’s all good fun,” Mclean said.