Behind the scenes while Melbourne Storm and Melbourne Rebels were on Christmas break, the clubs’ core training field was significantly upgraded; replacing 12,000 square metres of turf and rejuvenating the soil beneath.
Director of Venues Shane Mates says that Melbourne & Olympic Parks (M&OP) is constantly looking for the next opportunity to grow the state’s sporting and recreation opportunities.
‘We recognise the vital role our precinct plays in achieving Victoria’s sport and recreation goals from the ground up.'
‘Our team strives to constantly raise the bar to best meet the needs of both elite athletes and all members of the public we’re proud to welcome every day of the year,’ said Mates.
Melbourne Storm director of performance Lachlan Penfold said the upgrade is important to how the squad prepares for NRL matches.
‘It provides what we are looking for with our training activities - the correct level of hardness, a good cover of grass, and a surface which is even and well kept,’ said Penfold.
Melbourne Rebels and Wallaby Flanker Richard Hardwick said the new scrummaging surface has particularly impressed the players and returning to pre-season was like training on freshly-laid carpet.
‘The ground doesn’t tear up as much which is makes for more competitive scrummaging sessions which the forwards really appreciate,’ said Hardwick.
Rebels Hooker Hugh Roach said it’s the best rugby training pitch he’s seen in Melbourne and he’s been noticeably free from injury.
‘I’ve had foot issues for a while now and there haven’t been any issues since the turf has been re-laid,’ said Roach.
Not only improving practice and playing conditions, it will significantly reduce water consumption. The turf is tailored to Melbourne’s unique climate and is exceptionally drought tolerant, this will build on the 19 million litres the precinct saved in 2018.
M&OP’s horticulture specialists scientifically boosted the soil characteristics. This brings greater control for reducing potential injuries to those using the field, while also enabling nutrients to be locked in and harnessed by the root-system, rather than contaminating natural waterways.
The world class pitch planted nearly 18-months prior, offsite in Pakenham, was developed to match the game-day conditions inside AAMI Park. The aim was to create a premium surface prepared to cope with wear and tear of both professional practice and recreation – repairing and recovering in record time.
Miraculously, the entire ready-play turf was then transferred onto the meticulously re-levelled and enhanced layers of earth at Gosch’s Paddock, which is uniform and robust as well as environmentally sustainable.
This follows the recent pitch renovation of AAMI Park last year after the stadium hosted Monster Jam, removing 20 per cent of the turf surface to create space for new turf grass seed to be replanted and successfully rejuvenate the playing surface.