Curator puts forward ideas to improve Reid Oval

WARRNAMBOOL’S maligned Reid Oval playing surface can be improved for both football and cricket under a cheap and easy solution, according to former Adelaide Oval curator Les Burdett.

Burdett, who was in Warrnambool to help educate cricket ground curators yesterday and on Monday, inspected Warrnambool’s so-called premier sporting ground.

The oval, which had been used to host cricket grand finals for more than 60 consecutive years, will sit idle next month with the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association preferring other venues, based on player and official feedback.

Burdett said both cricket and football would benefit from a simple playing surface upgrade.

While football officials criticise the muddy cricket pitch square in winter, cricket officials bemoan the inability to get a pitch prepared before the middle of November because of the winter damage.

Burdett told representatives from co-tenants Warrnambool football club and Nestles Cricket Club yesterday that the centre square needed to be re-aligned with the football goal posts and the top 50mm of clay removed and replaced with soil.

He said five pitches should be laid out across the centre square but the middle pitch, which would run in a line from the middle of the goal posts, would then be left for general use.

He said the square needed to be re-planted with santa ana couch grass, and drainage and irrigation put in.

The middle pitch area would be used for football centre bounces and because of the drainage and type of soil, it would not become a mud bath nor as hard at the start or end of the footy season.

With the different soil, couch grass, drainage and watering system, it would be easier to get pitches back for cricket.

He estimated the cost of soil and laying turf across the square would be $6200 — cheaper than re-laying the whole ground.

Burdett said the key to the upgrade would be the purchase of inflatable covers that were easy and more efficient than traditional tarps. 

The covers would cost less than $5000. 

“The whole idea is to build a marriage between cricket and football,” he said.

“During the winter they don’t have to shift the circle from side to side and at the end of the season it can simply be returfed and playable within a week.”

He said he would ensure the centre wicket area was 75mm higher than the outfield, which would mean water was taken away from under the middle of the ground, making it more playable in winter and for cricket season.

He said Reid Oval was in good condition but needed some “TLC” to remove some broad leaf and repair a couple of patches in the outfield.

Burdett said he was pleased both clubs he met with yesterday were prepared to work together. 

On Monday night he made a presentation about the types of grasses needed to prepare grade and Test pitches. 

He said couch grass would give a faster and bouncier pitch than a medium bounce and slower wicket associated with rye grass, which is used at Reid Oval.

Burdett, who retired after 41 years of grooming the Adelaide Oval, now runs his own consulting business.

But he said his reason for leaving the Adelaide Oval was because of prostate cancer.

“I’m as fit as I’ve ever been now,” he said.

“Guys, for your family’s sake, go to the doctor, have a physical and a blood test. 

“If you get it early you will save your life, put it off and you won’t.”

grbest@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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