Grass is looking good at Marley Brown
WHO would have thought watching grass grow could be so interesting?
As the countdown to Gladstone's NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and Manly Sea Eagles on April 8 continues to gather pace, one of the many people responsible for ensuring the Marley Brown Oval surface is up to NRL standard has been hard at work.
Bay Turf Gladstone has been entrusted with the job to make sure the venue's grass is in tip-top shape and owner/manager Michael Newton has provided a unique insight into what needs to be done leading up to game day.
Mr Newton's work is being completed under the guidance of renowned turf guru Ken McAuliffe.
"At the moment we're scarifying - a lot of people call them dirty mowers, field-top makers or combinators," Mr Newton said.
"Over a period of time people can get a lot of thatch in their grass - if you ever look at someone's lawn and the grass grows up to your ankles that is what's called thatch.
"Thatch creates an uneven surface so we're basically taking away that layer of thatch and as we're doing that it helps re-level the surface and takes out a lot of undulations.
"It's not a one-day job; we go through and take a lot of high spots off and then we go through and sand-top a lot of it and then roll it out so we've got an even playing surface.
"Ideally you rip the surface up which is what we've done at the junior fields and completely redo the fields but that's a massive process."
However there's still plenty of work left to be done despite the Round 5 NRL match 45 days away.
"The scarification is ongoing, we've taken a lot of the leaf away, put some sand down to even up the surface and they'll be some rolling involved as well to make sure it is level as we go on," Mr Newton said.
"They'll be some spraying involved as well just to make sure when there's professional athletes on it we don't want pests or bugs in the grass.
"There is a few small areas we will replace with turf just to even it all out and some fertilising as well."
While there's the challenge of making sure the Marley Brown Oval surface is looking lush prior to April 8, presenting the surface in the eyes of spectators and television cameras is another mission in itself.
"About three to four weeks before we'll start striping the field - if you ever sit back and look at the cricket you see strips on a field that's done leading up to a game," Mr Newton said.
"So as the game gets closer we'll start changing mower heights.
"We'll see how (the grass) is coming up closer to it but you can run diamond patterns and all sorts of stuff through if the weather permits.
"You don't know what the weather is going to do at this time of year, so if it's not good to us we'll put some horizontal stripes running through it."