SCG turf won't be issue for Roosters-Rabbitohs clash

Representatives of the NRL, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Cricket and Sports Grounds inspected the SCG field of play on Sunday.

The inspection focused on two sections of the field dominated by rye grass, which were damaged by a combination of wet weather and heavy scrummaging during Saturday night’s Super Rugby match featuring the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds.

The winter rye grass areas were not as structurally sound as the rest of the field.

The SCG confirmed that it planned to replace 3000m2 of the surface with ready-to-play Matrix turf from its farm supplies. The SCG has a further 22,000m2 available should further turf replacement be required during the Super Rugby, NRL, AFL and A-League seasons.

The areas to be replaced are the 22m zones when the field is set up in an east-west configuration. For the NRL, the new turf will be partially on the outer edges of the field which is in the traditional north-south orientation.

Prior to the NSW Waratahs fixture, SCG grounds staff had installed sections of ready-to-play turf in other areas of the field of play. The new turf performed strongly.

"The compromised areas of the field were dominated by the winter rye grass and didn’t have the root foundation to stand up to heavy scrummaging," said SCG curator Adam Lewis.

"The rain prior to kick-off softened the surface and made it susceptible to damage. Damage to the field of play was anticipated, but not to this level.

"Other areas of the field, where the summer couch grass is dominant, came through the match very well – particularly areas freshly-laid with ready-to-play Matrix turf.

"The decision to replace the affected areas will ensure that there are no issues for Friday night’s NRL match, nor the return of the Waratahs a few weeks later and the start of the Sydney Swans’ AFL season.

"We’ll start work before dawn on Monday and have the new grass down before the sun sets."

Sydney Roosters CEO Joe Kelly thanked the SCG for "taking such decisive action to replace the damaged turf, ensuring that the surface will not be an issue for Friday’s match".

"Round one will be special for Roosters members and supporters. The ground is iconic and a huge part of our history, and there is no substitute for being there following the SCG’s enhancements to the game-day experience which will create an atmosphere that can’t be matched at home."

After inspecting the surface, NRL head of elite football operations Graham Annesley said he was confident the proposed installation of ready-to-play turf would provide a fair and stable surface for the Roosters and Rabbitohs on Friday.

"As well as the damaged areas, we also inspected the newly-laid Matrix turf around the wicket square, which is structurally sound and in very good condition after the Super Rugby match," he said.

"The quick decision to replace the compromised turf is to be commended.

"While the areas of most concern lie outside the rugby league field dimensions, there were a number of areas identified on the NRL field through the inspection which we have been assured will also be replaced ahead of Friday night’s game.

"Player welfare is paramount and the NRL has very clear guidelines in place regarding the state of all of our venues.

"We are looking forward to the next three years of rugby league at the SCG, particularly as our fans get the benefit of the game day technology innovations."

South Sydney general manager of football Shane Richardson was hopeful of his club adding another chapter into the history books at the famous venue.

"The SCG has reassured us that the field will be more than adequate for the first NRL match of the season," he said.

"South Sydney has so much history and success at the SCG and, having seen the field and the turf management plans, we are confident there will be thousands of Rabbitohs fans cheering on their team on Friday night."