HAMILTON’S Melville Oval is firming to host a historic first Hampden league final.
Less than four weeks out from the start of the finals series, the Melville Oval playing surface is considered the best in the competition as other grounds resemble mud heaps.
Kangaroos coach Jarrod Holt said Melville Oval was “bloody beautiful” last Saturday.
“I reckon it’s the best ground for sure,” he said.
“The ground is going to be in better condition than any other.
“They’ve had nowhere near the rain in Hamilton because it’s inland.
“Portland, Port Fairy, Warrnambool, along the coast, they have had twice as much rain.”
Holt, who lives in Portland and coached the Tigers in the Western Border league and their debut Hampden league season last year, said most venues were struggling to hold up in the wet conditions.
“The Western Border league grounds are way better than what we have in the Hampden league. The grounds in Mount Gambier are generally in way better condition.”
Portland coach Jake Myles, who was critical of Camperdown’s Leura Oval on July 26 when the Tigers were confronted with a “cow paddock”, said Hamilton was leading the way.
He said Portland’s Hanlon Park, despite a muddy centre cricket pitch area, would be second in terms of overall surface quality, with a good grass covering.
He called for major ground upgrades, saying: “As a league you are trying to recruit players and you have all these young kids you want to showcase but they can’t showcase what they have got.” South Warrnambool coach Matthew Monk had a close look at Melville Oval on Saturday when his side played there and he agreed the surface was better than other venues.
While the distance to Hamilton from other clubs was considerable, he said finals were about the best teams at the best venues.
“People wouldn’t like travelling there (from down here) but you want a spectacle in finals,” he said.
“It (Melville Oval) only gets used every second week and it would be in better nick than most.”
Monk suggested the practice of playing junior games on Sundays at Hampden league grounds when no senior football had been played there the previous days might be taking a toll, allowing no free weekend to recover.
Terang Mortlake coach Matthew Irving, whose side played at Hamilton on July 26, said he would be happy for a final to be played there.
“The ground is in perfect condition, it’s as good a ground as there is,” he said.
League chief executive officer Mike Farrow said clubs believed playing juniors at grounds that weren’t used the previous day for seniors had improved the wear and tear on surfaces.
He said the league was yet to consider finals venues.
Asked if Melville Oval was a chance to host a final, he replied: “Every possible chance.”
“If Portland make the finals what’s to say you wouldn’t give a final to Hamilton. It’s not out of the question.
“I’ve had people say to me from four different clubs how good the ground (at Hamilton) is. Undoubtedly it’s good.”