Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
The St George Illawarra Dragons have left the fate of WIN Stadium's playing surface in the hands of the weather gods. And a handful of expert groundkeepers. The club's chief executive officer Peter Doust inspected the ground yesterday after hearing a large portion of the field had been badly damaged by the weekend's Australian Supercross Nationals event. Mr Doust said he was not shocked at the sight of a ring of brown and yellow grass despite the first home game, against the Newcastle Knights, being only three weeks away.
"I think I have to rely on the expertise of the management; they know what they are doing and our biggest priority is to make sure that we satisfy the players and ensure they are safe when they get on to the ground," he said.
"We have to remember that the ground was in tip-top condition just before the event so the groundkeepers have proved they know what they are doing."
About 5500sqm of the million-dollar playing surface was used to lay geotech-style fabric, plywood and then dirt to create a world-class track.
Rain meant the track was heavier than intended and the fabric and wood were down for an extra day.
"I am not shocked because there's been a lot of comment about it and as I say I am interested in what it looks like in four weeks' time, but more interested in how playable it will be," he said.
"This surface has been one of the best in the business for a number of years now and we should be confident at this time. If we get the right weather we shouldn't have too much trouble."
On Thursday WIN stadium general manager Stuart Barnes assured the Mercury the ground would be all right to play on in three weeks. He reiterated his comments to Mr Doust yesterday and mentioned other grounds such as Telstra Stadium and Suncorp in Queensland were not faring well either.
He said sunshine and minimal rainfall are the keys to improving the ground.
"This will start to show in about seven days time. We'll get a good coverage within two weeks after that it's a question of nurturing and cutting it," he said.
Stadium management is considering holding the supercross event again but at the end of the football season.