Pressure grows on SCG playing surface
The Sydney Cricket Ground playing surface has come under fire again, with Saturday’s A-League match drawing plenty of criticism, while Sydney’s next home game has been relocated.
The SCG’s event schedule has beefed up with Allianz Stadium out of action for three years while it’s rebuilt. Rugby League, Union and Football has been shifted to the historic ground, with the Sydney Roosters, NSW Waratahs and Sydney FC joining the Sydney Swans at the Moore Park venue.
The Waratahs’ first Super Rugby match saw turf shift during scrums, causing the match to be paused while ground staff fixed affected areas and 3000 square metres of turf had to be re-laid following the game.
More recently, the defending Premiers Sydney Roosters hosted Brisbane Broncos on Thursday evening in what looked like a blockbuster clash, yet just 9,304 fans turned up (the lowest of the season), with many complaining of high pricing and poor viewing.
The real issue was Saturday evening however, with the marquee A-League match-up between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory. A semi-half-decent crowd of 14,155 was in attendance, but the pitch was barely fit for action.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat was incensed after Terry Antonis collapsed on a raised edge of turf and had to be carried from the field.
“It was a disgrace,” Muscat said.
“As a code we continue to allow other to walk all over us.”
Players regularly lost their footing and clearly struggled with playing on the surface.
Subsequently, Sydney FC’s round 26 match against ladder leaders Perth Glory has been relocated to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, while the SCG has effectively been ruled out of hosting the Grand Final if Sydney earns the right, with ANZ Stadium now preferred by the FFA.
Despite the relocation, it appears there’s no such concerns for the AFL, with the controversial surfaced given the all-clear for Thursday’s Sydney Swans home game against Melbourne. There had been some talk on Monday of the game being moved, most likely to Giants Stadium.
The playing surface issues has renewed calls for the SCG’s turf wicket table to be replaced by drop-in wickets, similar to the MCG, Adelaide Oval and Optus Stadium.
However, Cricket NSW and Cricket Australia are believed to have pushed back on the idea and the SCG Trust has indicated they have no plans to introduce a drop-in pitch.
It's also understood it would be logistically impossible to move one in at present unless further stadium developments are made. It's likely it wouldn't be considered until the ageing Brewongle and Churchill Stands are replaced and a tunnel is built that allows the required machinery to enter.
The Roosters don’t play their next home game at the ground until April 25, giving it some time to recover, however the club and NRL was still keen to meet with SCG officials amid safety fears of the ground’s under-fire surface. The club has raised the prospect of moving some home games cross-town to the new Bankwest Stadium following Thursday’s small crowd.
The new Allianz Stadium isn’t due to open until 2022 so it appears there’s plenty of pain ahead for the famous old ground and only time will tell if the playing surface can be brought under control.