George Orwell’s dire predictions for 1984 may have seemed minor compared to what Australian cricket faced that year.
Sydney AFL coach John Longmire wants more discussion about a drop-in cricket pitch for the SCG, but any change seems unlikely in the short term.
Controversy over the state of the SCG surface flared again on Saturday when Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat labelled it dangerous after his player Terry Antonis was injured when his leg appeared to give way near the centre square.
Regular SCG tenants the Swans avoid the centre wicket area when they train on the ground but Longmire expressed no fresh reservations about the state of the ground going into Thursday’s AFL match there against Melbourne.
With the neighbouring Allianz Stadium being rebuilt, all four major football codes are this year using the SCG, which has it’s most intense schedule in over 30 years.
When the NSW Waratahs played the Queensland Reds there in early March, scrums churned up big divots and 3000 square metres of turf was subsequently re-laid.
Longmire pointed out the Swans played at other major multi-sport venues like the MCG and Adelaide Oval, where drop-in cricket pitches were used.
“With a wicket base on the ground it’s something we’ve always been mindful of, obviously we’d support a drop in wicket if that was part of the discussion,’ Longmire said on Monday.
“It’s certainly very important to discuss it, it’s a 12 months a year venue.’
“We’ve been speaking to the SCG Trust and the AFL for a number of years in regards to that, so hopefully it’s a consideration going forward”.
However, the Trust said on Monday they didn’t have anywhere to grow a drop-in pitch, which takes up to two years to produce.
The Swans are the heaviest users of the SCG, playing all their home games there and have also had all their training sessions there recently because their training area adjacent to the SCG is being redeveloped.
‘Asked what issue he had with the centre square area, Longmire said “just getting traction. When you are running through the middle it gets hard and slippery.
“They breed turf and they put turf on top so they do whatever they can. They try to mitigate those challenges as much as they can, but ultimately the cricket wicket is still there.”
Longmire said there was nothing new about the issue from an AFL perspective.
“It gets highlighted now because there’s more traffic here and every weekend there’s a game where that hasn’t been the case in the past,” he said.
‘Ideally the winter codes would appreciate having just the same turf all over the ground. We understand we’ve got compromises. They play a lot of cricket here.”