Dear Sir/ Madam
My name is Richard Matters.
I am a Committee Member of the Koroit Football Club affilliated with the Hampden Football Netball League.
I am its representative on the Victoria Park Committee of Management the body set up by the Moyne Shire to administer facilities, maintenance and future developments of the Clubs playing oval and other user groups of the facility.
Recently the Koroit Cricket Club made a request to the Shire to place a permanent Cricket Pitch on the Oval.
This has met opposition from the Football Club due to a concern for Occupational Health and Safety with the focus being minimisation of injuries to players.
The committee of management has to make a decision on this request next month.
My questions to you are two fold.
1. Is there any research or anecdotal evidence re the occurrence of injuries and on ovals with covered cricket pitchs?
2.Would it be prudent not to have a cricket pitch on a Football playing field?
If you could assist the Football Club in the consideration of the safety concerns it would be greatly appreciated.
Richard G.L. Matters
There isn't any research that actually shows an increase in risk (that I am aware of). Very little study has been done though, so it would be prudent to avoid a cricket pitch if there is an alternative. Plenty of football and cricket grounds around Australia share the field and the footballers put up with a hard section of the ground. However, Misiti and Alessio of Essendon took action against the MCG a few years ago over the cricket pitch being too hard and received an out of court settlement.
From today's Australian:
Gabba wicket area under scrutiny
By Chip Le Grand
March 15, 2005
THE AFL has assured the Brisbane Lions, St Kilda and the players association that the Gabba centre wicket area will be safe for the opening match of the 2005 season, even if the first bounce comes within 24 hours of the final ball of the Pura Cup final.
But AFLPA chief executive Brendon Gale yesterday declared it no longer acceptable for any AFL venue to have permanent cricket wickets given the risk to injury and potential for lawsuits.
"Putting aside this round one issue, I think it is unsatisfactory to have a cricket pitch in there and we have raised this with the AFL," Gale said.
"Here we are in 2005, Brisbane has won three premierships in a row, the Gabba is one of the showpiece venues of the competition and yet we still have this cricket pitch there. It was a very hard centre wicket area when I played and it hasn't changed."
The suitability of the Gabba wicket area for football has come into focus after the Queensland Bulls earned the right to host the Pura Cup final for the sixth time in seven years.
The five-day match against NSW begins on Friday and is scheduled to finish on Tuesday. If an entire day is lost to rain - a distinct possibility at this time of the year in Brisbane - the "reserve day" rule would allow the match to run into Wednesday.
Brisbane and St Kilda kick off the AFL season on Thursday night.
Gabba curator Kevin Mitchell jnr said the tight turnaround raised the prospect of long hours for his ground staff but no serious concerns.
Mitchell transformed the Gabba from a cricket ground to an AFL venue within three days in June 2002, when Australia hosted Pakistan in a one-day match before a Lions match.
"We have coped with it before," Mitchell said. "We have played cricket in the football season and football in the cricket season in the past without any problems, so we don't expect it to be any different.
"We will aerate the wicket we have used for the final and basically just water it to soften it up. It will be exactly the same as the other times we have overlapped."
The major difference this year is that a crane will be hired to put in the goal-posts, which are three metres taller than last year's posts and no longer able to be positioned by hand.
AFL ground operations manager Jill Lindsay said the clubs and the AFLPA first raised their concerns about a potential clash with the Pura Cup final six weeks ago and that she was 'very comfortable' a safe playing surface would be prepared. The AFL has commissioned its turf specialist John Neylon to monitor the preparations and report on the Gabba surface.
Neylon and representatives from the two clubs and the AFLPA will inspect the ground 24 hours before the match.
"Obviously at AFL venues, the expertise of the turf guys is right up the top of the scale and we are very happy how they have managed it for us," Lindsay said.
"We certainly have put every step in place to make sure that the ground will be in the best possible condition for the kick-off of the 2005 season."
But the broader issue of permanent cricket pitches at the Gabba and other AFL venues will be pursued by the league, the Lions and AFLPA.
There are at least two cases of AFL players receiving out-of-court settlements for injuries incurred on centre wicket areas.
In 1998, Essendon pair Steve Alessio and Joe Misiti received undisclosed payments from the AFL as a result of injuries sustained in a pre-season game played on a fully prepared cricket wicket at the MCG.
Former Geelong forward Barry Stoneham shattered his leg and ruined his career on a 'rockhard' Optus Oval wicket in 1994 but declined to take legal action.
The MCG has since introduced drop-in wickets for the cricket season and cricket is no longer played at Optus Oval. The AFL is strongly urging the Gabba, the SCG and Canberra's Manuka Oval to consider drop-in pitches.
The latest Gabba redevelopment, expected to be completed in June, will provide the necessary ground access for tractors to install and remove pitches. But the Queensland Government and Gabba Trust are yet to commit to a policy of removable wickets.
AFL players, including members of Brisbane's premiership teams, strongly support the removal of cricket wickets from all AFL grounds.
From today's Herald Sun:
Saints hit for six
16 March 2005 Herald Sun
PLAYERS in next week's season-opening Brisbane Lions-St Kilda blockbuster will be confronted by not only a cricket pitch, but a lightning-fast outfield half as short as usual.
Gabba curator Kevin Mitchell is facing the prospect of having as little as 24 hours to turn the stage for the Pura Cup cricket final into a safe venue for AFL.
With no drop-in pitches at the Gabba, the centre wicket area will be heavily watered and aerated ? through the night if needed ? to ensure the centre strip is soft enough for the rigours of football.
But what will not change in time is the length of the grass, cut to just 10mm for the domestic cricket playoff between Queensland and New South Wales.
The outfield at the Gabba is usually set at 17-26mm in football season to provide more cushioning for AFL.
The Pura Cup final starts on Friday and will finish as late as Wednesday week if weather forces the contest into a reserve day. The Lions-Saints blockbuster is set down for Easter Thursday night.
AFL Players' Association chief executive Brendon Gale is concerned, given the risk of injury and resulting law suits.
But he has put his faith in AFL ground operations manager Jill Lindsay, who has the final call on whether the match gets the go-ahead.
"I know she (Lindsay) is rigorous in her checks. She'll do what has to be done," Gale said. "If it's unsafe or unsatisfactory, I'm pretty sure something will be done. It has been line-ball in the past."
After early concerns from the clubs and the AFLPA, the AFL has commissioned its turf specialist John Neylon to keep an eye on proceedings.
Dr John Orchard, the driving force behind the AFL's annual injury reports, last night said there was no proof cricket pitches and short outfields led to more injuries.
He said the Gabba and SCG, which both still have year-round pitches, had thrown up no more serious injuries than other venues.
"From data on cricket pitches over the last few years, there hasn't been a problem trend come out," Orchard said.
"From what what we've observed, cricket pitches haven't presented a safety problem at an AFL level."
Mitchell said the quick turnaround was nothing new. But it is the first time it has happened for a match of this magnitude.
"We've done it for a Wizard Cup game in 24 hours," Mitchell said.
He said players in the past had told him they preferred a shorter outfield.
"They often comment they don't mind having it short and fast," Mitchell said.
"The length of the grass can go up and down in seasons."
The Lions look likely to be at least $100,000 out of pocket because construction on the Gabba grandstand has reduced the ground capacity.
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