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‘Groundbreaking’ Turf Planned for Auck Rugby Club

‘Groundbreaking’ Turf Planned for Auckland Rugby Club

By Claire Rorke

A $2 million artificial ‘field of dreams’ to be installed at an Auckland ruby club later this year will revolutionise outdoor sporting surfaces in New Zealand, many of which start to resemble mud bathes during winter.

The style and type of turf to be installed at College Rifles Sports Club in Remuera is already used in Great Britain, Hong Kong and America for a variety of sports including rugby and soccer.

All of Auckland’s 20 rugby clubs have supported College Rifles’ initiative and will play on the new turf.

Auckland Rugby Union operations manager Dave Syms says the artificial turf will be an important first for the Auckland sports community and the rest of the country.

“It is exciting because it is the first such thing in New Zealand.

“We see it as, pardon the pun, ‘groundbreaking’, because we will be able to use a turf 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, without cancellations.”
College Rifles Club chairman Derek Rope says ongoing and costly drainage problems with the current sand-based surface have pushed the club into exploring viable alternatives.

“We’ve got to the stage where if we don’t do something about the turf then there will be no rugby played at College Rifles in 2009.

“We can be the guinea pigs, because our land is basically on a peat swamp. If it can work here it can work anywhere.”

The high-tech turf feels like real grass under foot, and still requires players to wear sprigs in their boots.

Unlike hockey turf, it does not need watering to soften the surface and prevent injury.

The maintenance cost of the turf, once installed, is far less than that of natural grass, with no need for watering, re-seeding and fertilizing.

Any damaged or worn pieces of turf are simply pulled up and replaced in a matter of seconds and goal posts and line-markings can be easily adjusted.

Syms says the artificial surface, a sample of which has already been laid at College Rifles, will be another step to modernise club rugby in New Zealand, without taking away from the traditions of the game.

“I don’t think it will take away from it at all. It looks and feels real; there are times when people can’t even tell it isn’t.”

“The days of the old ‘mudded oaf’ are well and truly gone.”

The new turf will also be available for summer soccer, lacrosse and for local school groups to use.

The project will cost $2 million and College Rifles hopes to raise $800 000 of that from community donations, by August.

The club is waiting to hear if it will receive any funding from Auckland City Council.

All of the club’s rugby teams, from juniors upwards, have been asked to fundraise $2000 each, and the Riflemen’s Club, a joint venture between College Rifles and local businesses, has been hard at work.

Rope says the new turf will increase the numbers of people involved with activities at the fast-expanding club and cement College Rifles’ role as a meeting point for the community.

“You can’t stand alone anymore, you’ve got to invite the community in,” Rope says.

“We want to develop the club as a total fitness centre; a community asset that everyone benefits from.”


Claire Rorke is a Journalism Student at AUT

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