ASK Purnim and Grassmere five years ago if they'd be combined as a new identity and boast a facility with both turf and hard wickets and they'd have probably laughed in disbelief.
Fast-forward to 2022 and that scenario - once a pipe dream - is about to become a reality.
The Purnim Recreation Reserve-based club - now known as Northern Raiders - will embark on the next chapter of its history when it digs out its hard wicket on Rodger Henderson Oval in coming weeks.
It will become the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association's 12th turf ground. Rules stipulate teams wanting to enter division one must have a facility with a turf pitch among other requirements.
Northern Raiders has long plotted promotion to the WDCA's top flight. It entered the league the season before the Grassmere Cricket Association - which featured both Purnim and Grassmere - decided to pull up stumps after a 75-year history.
We go in eyes wide open on what lays ahead and have a dedicated group of passionate volunteers to undertake and complete this massive upgrade.- Peter McDonald
Purnim Recreation Reserve secretary Peter McDonald said the venue committee and Northern Raiders entered the process - which is understood to have costs edging $100,000 - with "eyes wide open".
He lauded several contributors, including Moyne Shire, soil provider Stephen Field, recreation reserve president Mick McKinnon and Trevor Dowd, and said it was excited to take the next step.
"This turf wicket project is a joint venture between the recreation reserve and the Northern Raiders," McDonald said.
"We go in eyes wide open on what lays ahead and have a dedicated group of passionate volunteers to undertake and complete this massive upgrade.
"This project has been over 18 months in planning."
He said all parties hoped the wicket would be ready for play ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
"Our blueprint is simple. Do your research, establish what has worked well for other venues, engage qualified people and provide your own in-house labour," McDonald said.
"You only get one chance to do it properly first time."
That theory has been ever-present through the planning process.
McKinnon - a former fast bowler for Purnim and now just the fifth president in the recreation reserve's history - said the project would use a new grass called TifTuf.
TifTuf, a hybrid couch grass, is a more expensive sod than the traditional Santa Ana but is considered a better product.
"It's been around about three years," McKinnon said.
"They use it a lot around Bendigo, Shepparton, Bairnsdale... The drier, harder areas. We rang Kangaroo Flat and we spoke to bloke who does the pitch. He said he'd been doing for 30-odd years. He said 'I'm a Santa Ana man', but we did three with TifTuf last year and it's so much easier.
"It stays greener longer, recovers quicker and it's deeper rooted and uses 30 per cent less water. He said 'I've already suggested we pull the other two out and go all TifTuf next year'."
The pitch will include soil from Stephen Field's Dunkeld farm, which has been used on the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Junction Oval in recent times.
Field said his soil was 77 per cent clay, which will be on par with Perth venue the WACA and give Rodger Henderson Oval added bounce.
"It's been a really good discussion, working out all the things that go with having a good turf wicket. There's a whole heap of maintenance, curators and other volunteers who are ready to work at the drop of a hat to make sure there's the right amount of moisture and everything thing else that comes with producing a turf wicket," he said.
Northern Raiders president Trevor Dowd said the turf would help the club pitch to recruits as it eyed promotion to division one.
Moyne Shire mayor Ian Smith said the facility was a boost for the entire region.
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