The winter playing surface of Manuka Oval has taken on a whole new lease of life, thanks largely to the installation of gravel and herring bone sub-soil drainage, along with the introduction of new continental ryegrass varieties about three years ago. Head curator, Brad Van Dam, came to Manuka oval about nine years ago. He realised if Canberra’s finest oval was to support big AFL games it would have to be in absolute first-rate condition. Manuka has a bermuda grass base, which does well over summer supporting important cricket matches, but struggles to grow over the very cold Canberra winters. The oval had previously been over-sown with a mix of Mediterranean ryegrass varieties, but Brad has in more recent years turned to continental varieties.
Striker Gold, which contains continental ryegrass varieties, has been performing strongly during the cold winters at Manuka Oval for Head Curator, Brad Van Dam. Brad said Striker Gold is dense, holds darker colour and puts on growth, even in the middle of winter.
Three years ago, after a recommendation from Heritage Seeds Turf Portfolio Manager, Matt Merrick,
Brad trialled Striker Gold. Striker Gold is an elite three-way blend of premium continental ryegrasses.
“The Striker Gold we get from Heritage is a really strong mix and each grass has its own characteristics
and strengths. It does very well in our cold winters,” Brad said. “It’s dense, holds darker colour and we get good growth, even in the middle of winter here. “Striker Gold handles a lot more traffic than other grasses and I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from colleagues and the public on the presentation of the ground for televised AFL matches. “We found the Mediterranean ryegrasses don’t handle the wear as well and the colour wasn’t as great.”
Brad said it is a requirement for all AFL premiership grounds to be over-sown with ryegrass to maintain
colour and playability. He starts with a full autumn renovation to open-up the surface so he can start
planting ryegrass seed.
“We run the couch outfield at about 10mm high and when we start preparing the seedbed for the
ryegrass, I scarify in a minimum of three directions to open it up and get rid of the mat and thatch.
“I go through with a core machine and punch 40mm holes into the surface about 5 cm apart. We
remove all thatch and matting from the surface and the oval is prepared to maximise seed sand
contact. “Then we put the seed down in two directions with a speed seeder, which pushes holes into the
ground and drops the seed into the holes. “I do that straight after coring and then rub it in with a drag mat and then water to make sure the seed stays moist and we have germination with Striker Gold within 5 days. I’ll put fertiliser out after that and then wait two to three weeks and plant again. The results with Striker Gold have been outstanding for us!”
Brad said Manuka oval has 15,000 seat capacity and hosts three AFL Premiership fixtures each year,
plus international cricket and other matches over summer.