MCG ready for 2023 AFL season opener
The MCG is ready to host the opening game of the 2023 AFL season on Thursday night, with more than 80,000 fans expected to pack the ground for Richmond v Carlton.
The MCG’s turf is in excellent condition according to the league, after 10,000 square metres was replaced following the two recent Ed Sheeran concerts, which were attended by a record-breaking 217,500 spectators.
Ground staff have been working around the clock to resurface about half of the MCG’s playing surface, with the estimated $1 million repair fee covered by Sheeran's concert promotor, Live Nation.
The turf works came as no surprise to the venue, with the replacement always planned following the concerts – as has been the case at every stadium Sheeran has performed at. Works continue at Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium ahead of the new season.
All AFL grounds across the country have been assessed by an independent turf consultant ahead of round one.
An AFL spokesperson said, “The staff working at grounds across the country are used to replacing sections of the turf and have done an incredible job in getting the surfaces ready for the season proper.”
Although some grounds may have some sore points optically, the AFL assured the public that there are no concerns regarding the performance and safety of the grounds.
The turf experts conducted an inspection at the MCG on Wednesday and passed all standard turf tests, ensuring a first-class standard for the season opener.
While footy fans have been hanging out for the start of the new season, it's been a race against time to get the hallowed turf of the @MCG ready for action.@MCC_Members CEO Stuart Fox joins us to explain how the stadium managed to tackle such an immense task. #9News pic.twitter.com/L6OB05EDnV— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) March 16, 2023
MCC chief executive Stuart Fox said Michael Salvatore and his team were entirely comfortable with the new turf.
“It is virtually impossible to shift or move the new turf which has been laid because of the weight of the sod and the size of the pieces of new turf which have been laid,” Fox said.
“The staff have been working around the clock since last Saturday and to their credit the surface is in excellent condition because it is something which has been more than two years in the making.
“It is part of normal MCG turf maintenance between rounds of footy to replace patches of the arena as the turf is worn down due to traffic or weather.”
The stadium was given just 13 days to prepare the turf for the new AFL season, with the addition of the new ‘Gather Round’ in Adelaide in round 5 reduced the MCC’s preparation time by one week from when the 2023 AFL fixture was released late last year.
Record crowds are expected across round one of the season, with the first two matches at the MCG now sold-out. GA tickets for Friday's Geelong-Collingwood game were the first to go, with tickets to the Richmond-Carlton opener snapped up hours before the game.
Between 80,000 and 90,000 fans are expected to attend both Thursday and Friday night at the MCG, while the AFL is expecting more than 350,000 spectators to attend matches across the opening round.
Also at the MCG this weekend is Melbourne v Western Bulldogs on Saturday and Hawthorn v Essendon on Sunday.