HAMPDEN league officials are vowing to have a softer Reid Oval centre square for Saturday’s grand final after several players emerged from the preliminary final with cuts and grazes.
If cricket commentator Tony Greig had attempted to stick a key into the cricket pitch on Saturday, he would have been in danger of it being bent or wedged in a crack, such was the square’s hardness.
The area, which had been a muddy swamp less than three weeks ago, had been transformed into a firm surface after being covered on wet days.
League chief executive officer Mike Farrow said the surface was fine when inspected last Friday afternoon but when the covers were lifted on Saturday morning they discovered a baked area.
He said it was too late to do anything, saying watering would have left it slippery and the spreading of sand would have had an adverse reaction with the turf.
“We are looking at addressing it,” Farrow said yesterday.
There is a 50 per cent chance of 1-5mm of rain each day this week, including Saturday.
Cobden coach Wayne Robertson said several of his players had lost skin from their shoulders and knees during the match but they would be fine to play on Saturday.
Maskell Medal winner Joe Dare was sent from the field in the second quarter under the blood rule with grazed knees before a centre bounce. While he was off the ground, opponent North Warrnambool Eagles got a clean take away from the bounce and kicked a goal.
“I was disappointed with it,” Robertson said of the centre square area when asked by The Standard.
But he said the Bombers weren’t complaining. “We want the grand final at Reid Oval,” he said.
North Warrnambool Eagles officials had raised issues with the surface before the senior game. Warrnambool coach Scott Carter leapt to the defence of Blues volunteers who had transformed the ground from a bog.
“It was a swamp two or three weeks ago,” he said.
“A lot of people like to stick knives into the Warrnambool Football Club but there are a number of people who have put a lot of time and effort into getting the ground up to standard for the finals, not just the Hampden league but the two Warrnambool and District league finals.”
Meanwhile, in other developments, the Hampden league said gate takings at Saturday’s preliminary final were 20 per cent up on last year’s game at the Friendly Societies’ Park. The increase, which comes after bigger gates at all other finals this year compared with last year, equated to about $2500.
North Warrnambool Eagles coach David Haynes will have a delayed start to next season after yesterday accepting a one-week set penalty for striking Cobden’s Damon Delaney in the third quarter of Saturday’s 52-point preliminary final loss to Cobden. Haynes had been booked by boundary umpire Lachlan Rooke and emergency field umpire Casey O’Keefe.
The Hampden league yesterday announced an earlier start than usual to Saturday’s grand finals. Gates will open at 7.30am with the first action at 8.30am — the 13 and under netball grand final between South Warrnambool and North Warrnambool Eagles. The league opted for the earlier start to the youngest grade to ensure the senior netball was completed earlier. The other netball games are scheduled to start at hourly intervals with the A grade decider at 1.30pm. The under 18 football between North Warrnambool Eagles and Terang Mortlake will start at 10am, the reserves at noon and the seniors at 2.10pm.