Melbourne Cricket Ground - MCG cricket pitches in good early-season form
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MCG cricket pitches in good early-season form

Nov 14, 2010

Arena operations manager Cameron Hodgkins prepares another MCG pitchIt has been an unusual start to the cricket season for MCG arena operations manager Cameron Hodgkins, but his team has risen above the challenges to produce some excellent pitches for domestic cricket and Australia's one-day international against Sri Lanka on November 3.

The drawn AFL Grand Final between Collingwood and St Kilda necessitated a rematch on October 2, leaving less time to install 10 cricket pitches and prepare them for the MCG's first Ryobi One-Day Cup match on October 23.

Having two grand finals was certainly unique, at least in the last 30 years or so," said Hodgkins. "Losing a week may not sound like a lot, but it equates to 25 per cent of the time we had available to perform all of our off-season work."

Once the first grand final result was known, Hodgkins - who has also worked as a curator at Lord's and Bellerive Oval - was quickly rescheduling a number of arena activities, including the MCG Community Day and Spring Racing Carnival launch, both of which use the MCG playing surface.

"We have to do a lot of forward planning for the week after the grand final," Hodgkins says. "This is the period in which we install our portable pitches, which requires road closure permits for Brunton Avenue, engaging a traffic management company, letter drops to residents and road signage, so to do all that again at short notice was a challenge."

An aerial view of the MCG portable pitch installation on October 4, 2010

With a very busy calendar of AFL and cricket, the window in October to perform some important off-season arena work is critically important.

"We don’t have many weeks where the MCG is not on display publicly and for the most part the arena is presented in as good a condition as we are able to deliver," Hodgkins said. "However, there is a window in between seasons where we have to be cruel to be kind - the grass is cut down to nothing, heavily scarified, cored, aerated, seeded, top-dressed and fertilised.

It is not a pretty look, but is an essential activity to remove dead organics from the profile and stimulate new growth, which will set the surface up for the summer."

Once summer hits, there is very little down time for the MCG arenas team.

"We have a presence at the venue every day of the summer so it’s generally irrelevant if its Monday or Saturday for us - it’s either a match day or non-match day," Hodgkins says.  "We need to be in pitch preparation mode every day, so there is always rolling, cutting and covering going on out in the middle.

The outfield is cut, groomed or aerated constantly, with more hand watering as the summer warms up. We have cricket teams training 2-3 times per week, which means when we are not preparing the centre for a match, the practice facility outside the stadium is being attended to."

Coming off the back of a relatively cold and wet winter in Melbourne, the MCG turf has bounced with the break of the spring weather and the arena is in very good condition for our upcoming commitments. Either way, you won't find Cameron Hodgkins complaining.

"Whether it’s cricket season or AFL season, the middle of the MCG is not a bad office to work each day, is it?" 

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