Sports & Recreation

Artificial Turf: Practice makes perfect

When Howick College in Auckland decided it wanted to develop its cricket programme, the first area it needed to look at was the school’s practice nets.

As Chris Hull, Howick College’s director of sport says, the two existing run ups were old, tired and completely inadequate. “In many places the run ups were worn and consisted solely of dirt. In just one school term of practice the soil on the run ups would scuff,” he explains.

With the addition of any moisture the soil on the run ups would get very wet and slippery, which led to a number of concerns about possible injuries to users, particularly twisted ankles and pulled muscles.

In early 2009 the redevelopment of the cricket practice facilities became a priority for the development of sport at the school and the full scale of the planned upgrade was unveiled. As well as repairing the two existing cricket nets, a further practice net was to be added. The bowler run ups were to be replaced with an all-weather surface and the batting nets would have a new synthetic surface, new netting and roof netting installed.

The school itself was unable to provide any additional funding for the upgrade.

“Howick College is a decile 10 school, so often people think we’re in an affluent area and should be able to afford projects such as this. Unfortunately that is not the case at all. Times are tough and we only got limited help from the school,” explains Hull. However, Auckland Cricket was able to suggest a number of different options for the turf and helped Hull and his team with the grants application process.

Once grants were in place the school was free to choose the most appropriate turf and decided to go with a synthetic surface from Tiger Turf.

This was installed in such a short space of time the school was using its new run ups and cricket nets by the end of the year. “We were very surprised with how quickly the project came together, from applying for grants, selecting Tiger Turf as the surface then dealing with the weather during installation,” he says.

The all-weather, all-purpose, synthetic surface from Tiger Turf has brought a number of benefits for the school. “In terms of maintenance we are 100 per cent better off than we were previously,” says Hull. “There is not the same amount of wear and tear, meaning the run ups are not as dangerous, and they are not as difficult to repair or maintain as the soil.”

The other key benefit has been the year-round availability of the practice areas. “From what was traditionally an area that was unusable in winter, we’ve been able to use it throughout this most recent winter both for PE and cricket,” says Hull.

But it’s not just Howick College that has benefited from the new surface on the run ups and practice nets. Howick and Pakuranga Cricket now use the area to practise and local primary schools, such as Cockle Bay Primary School, are able to use the facilities.

Ultimately though, the redevelopment of the practice facilities has helped to advance cricket at the school. “When you look at summer sport, or any sport really, if the area you’re playing the game in isn’t suitable it will turn a lot of people off. The new practice area shows that Howick College cares about school cricket,” says Hull.

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