Start to winter sport season delayed as Council battles sodden grounds across the city

THE start of some winter sports have been delayed with Wollongong City Council battling to maintain sodden fields and grounds after the big wet.

Many Council-managed fields remain too wet to be played upon this weekend, which may delay the start to some winter sports, including soccer. The seasons for rugby league and AFL have already been pushed back to later this month.

However, Council says the condition of the fields is much a case-by-case basis and players are encouraged to liaise directly with their clubs for updates on this weekend’s playing conditions.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said there is a mix of conditions across the city’s 42 sportsgrounds with some Council-managed pitches drying out a lot quicker than others.

“We are seeing areas where one field might be good to play on and the neighbouring pitch alongside is being an absolute bog,” he said.

“It’s a really difficult situation and I thank all the sporting clubs and associations for their understanding and patience as we work through how to manage the best use of our fields.”

Unbelievably, this week’s sunnier days have added to the challenge with the sun drawing the moisture on fields to the surface where it sits at the base of the long grass.

“It’s a Catch-22 for us. The sun is bringing the moisture out and has the potential to dry out the grounds, but the long grass is preventing the water from evaporating and we can’t get our heavy machinery on to the grass to cut it because the ground is so soft we risk damaging the surface,’’ Cr Bradbery said.

“We really are throwing all our resources at this situation with Council’s outdoor crews working seven days inspecting the fields and mowing where they can. We are prioritising the sports fields so we can get our community back to their activities as soon as possible.

“If Council proceeds with mowing too soon, without the sports fields being sufficiently dry we risk damaging and further limiting their use for the winter season. In winter, surfaces don’t regenerate as quickly. With heavy use too soon we risk turning fields into bare earth, playing sports on mud not grass.”

Council’s Open Space and Environmental Services Acting Manager Paul Tracey said staff had parked the heavy equipment and have been out using hand mowers and whipper snippers to cut the grass across some of our high-use open spaces.

Mr Tracey said the sports fields would need a number of cuts to ensure the playing surface is safe and comfortable to play on.

“Once the fields are dry enough, we will need to cut them a number of times to see them return to the state that people would expect for game play. The first cut usually results in a fairly unsightly service with large clumps of grass clippings left behind, and as this dries out the second cut usually results in a better cut and the clippings spread out more evenly across our fields,” he said.

Mr Tracey said the field conditions also needed to improve so that the goals for winter sports can be moved into place.

“As our fields are used for a range of sports, we take away the winter sports goals and store them over the summer months. These now need to be put into place and we need heavy machinery to get them to where they need to be,’’ he said.

“We can’t move them into place on many of our fields at the moment for the same reason we can’t mow them – we risk damaging the playing surface with the machinery tyres digging into the ground and mashing it up.’’

Council said it will continue to work with sporting groups and associations to support their return-to-play as soon as possible and will keep sportsgrounds pages on its website updated.

“It has been so good to see the sun over Easter and across this week,’’ Cr Bradbery

“Hopefully this will support us to open up some of the Council-managed grounds for the weekend, but I encourage players to stay in touch with their clubs for the latest updates.’’

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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