Port Melbourne has again been punted from North Port Oval over problems with the ground’s surface
April 4, 2018 10:30am
REIGNING VFL premier Port Melbourne will lose a home game and thousands of dollars in revenue after North Port Oval was ruled unfit to host Saturday’s Round 1 grand final rematch against Richmond.
AFL Victoria officials and an independent turf consultant inspected the ground on Tuesday afternoon and ruled the surface unsafe for players.
The fixture will now be played at Punt Rd.
The Gary Ayres-coached Borough’s Round 2 match against Collingwood will also be moved elsewhere.
The switches will strike at Port Melbourne’s bottom line, denying it income from memberships sold early in the season, gate takings and merchandise sales.
A pre-match lunch planned for Saturday had attracted 130 people and will be scrapped, as will the unfurling of the premiership flag.
Port will now have to wait until Round 6 to show off the flag.
Trouble with the surface has dogged the ground in the past few years and the latest problems emerged in January when grass died off.
The North Port Oval surface in February.
Borough officials were adamant it had been cut too short ahead of forecast hot weather.
Port Phillip Council has been doing “remedial work’’ on the ground and told Leader a few weeks ago that it expected North Port to be ready for Round 1.
“Yes. The significant work we have done and continue to do will help prepare the ground for the football season,’’ mayor Bernadene Voss said in a statement to Leader.
But concerns about the centre wicket area prompted AFL Victoria to take Port’s first two home games elsewhere.
“Overall, this is a very disappointing outcome for our club and beyond our control,’’ Borough president Michael Shulman said on Tuesday night.
“We thank the AFL for the time they have provided to us to make the centre wicket a safe playing surface, however despite recent efforts of the council, the oval-centre wicket has been deemed unsafe.
“Player safety and welfare is of course of utmost importance at all times, hence we respect the decision that has been made.’’
Shulman said the issue raised questions about the ground’s ability to host football and cricket.
Port Melbourne Cricket Club is a cotenant of North Port Oval.
“(It) reconfirms questions previously asked to the council about North Port in terms of the need to redevelop the surface totally, and whether it can truly sustain mixed usage given the cost and time required to maintain turf wickets,’’ Shulman said.
The flag unfurling will be delayed until Port’s match against Footscray Bulldogs on Saturday, May 12.
Port Melbourne lost two home games in 2013 and another two in 2016 owing to problems with the ground.
Shulman will meet Port Phillip Council officers on Friday to discuss plans about the redevelopment of the playing surface.
The council said in January that it was planned for next year.
Leader is seeking comment from the City of Port Phillip.