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Hard yards
SELINA STEELE
09jul06
THE big dry is turning sporting ovals into rock-hard dustbowls, putting players at risk of serious injuries.

Desperate sporting organisations are being forced to cancel fixtures, while others are trucking in water to beat the drought.

Clubs have reported an increase in impact injuries and officials fear the hard ovals will cause serious head injuries.

Some clubs, such as Brothers rugby league in Toowoomba, have been forced to make costly switches to rented fields.

"I've never seen it so bad up here - we haven't been able to play a game here all year," said spokesman Tony Price.

"We're playing all our senior games at Clive Berghofer Oval and it's costing us $1320 per game."

A Sunday Mail investigation has revealed:

* AFL Queensland was forced to close five ovals last month that were deemed too dangerous.

* The Australian Rugby Union's Occupational Health and Safety Committee has held a special meeting to discuss the issue.

* Inter-school rugby league matches between St Mary's College, Dalby, and Dalby High School were played on the town's netball grass courts.

An independent report before the State Government has called for a national standard to help sporting clubs assess the risk associated with hard grounds.

The Gould Group, an non-profit organisation specialising in environmental sustainability, says the drought has left clubs with big bills for players' injury insurance.

"Player safety is under threat," chief executive Ann-Maree Colborne said.

"Australia's drought has had a major impact on playing surfaces and players are at a higher risk of injury.

"This then increases injury claims and the cost of insurance. Clubs are also in the position where they may have to re-turf and this can cost $25,000 to $30,000."

AFL Queensland has adopted a United States practice of measuring ovals with a Clegg Hammer, a device that electronically gauges the impact of a falling weight on the ground.

Any oval found to have three or more spots above a designated level in a 20-spot assessment is closed.

"We have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for all players,"
AFLQ facilities manager Nick Jeffery said.

While the recent smattering of rain in southeast Queensland could ease the rock-hard conditions, the worst could be yet to come.

Brisbane North Soccer Association President Greg Batton said: "We've had problems the past couple of years but when the westerlies kick in next month, we're expecting chaos.

"The grounds are already hard but the westerlies really dry them out, and then the grass dies and then we get potholes and ankle injuries.

"Two grounds closed last year. We're expecting more this season.

"Unless we get some more rain, we're going to have problems."

Stafford's Brothers Juniors is one club taking matters into its own hands.

The club is trucking in recycled water from Caboolture to keep its fields in use at Gibson Park on Brisbane's northside.

http://www.thesundaymail.news.com.au...936,19723751%2
55E2765,00.html