Robertson Oval’s elite transformation

Posted on April 12th, 2013

Robertson Ovals elite transformation


By Emma Collins

Wagga Wagga is known as the City of Good Sports because a large number of elite Australian sporting heroes hail from the regional city of Wagga Wagga.

Cricketer Mark Taylor grew up in Wagga Wagga and made his first century at the age of thirteen at Bolton Park.  Mark made his debut for Australia in 1989 and became Australian Captain in 1994 a position he held until he retired in 1999 ending a career that included 104 test matches, 7525 runs and a batting average of 43.

Rugby League genius Peter Sterling was also raised in Wagga Wagga and developed his early skills in the game in the district.  Sterling made his test debut for Australia in 1982 and continued his test career until 1988 playing a total of 18 tests.  Sterling also played State of Origin for NSW on 13 occasions between 1981 and 1988.

AFL Legend, Paul Kelly who played 234 games for the Swans was born and bred in Wagga Wagga.  Kelly played most of his career in the number fourteen guernsey and was captain of the club from 1993 to 2002.

Understanding the importance of fostering sporting excellence it was an obvious step for Wagga Wagga Council to undertake a Masterplanning process for the Robertson Oval/Bolton Park precinct to establish a vision for the future development of the site to meet the demands of the anticipated development of the city.

Wagga Wagga has a population of 61,500 people and is the largest Regional city in Australia.  Current growth projections forecast that the city’s population may grow to 80,000 people within a decade.

The Robertson Oval archives describe the oval as it was in 1946 as an open paddock with four posts at each end.  There are no lights for training, no club rooms, no grandstands and no showers.  At that time there was no soft green grassy playing surface as it was a hot summer and there is no watering system.

In 2011 Wagga Wagga City Council contracted the Collins Group to transform Robertson Oval’s playing surface by designing and constructing a first class multi-purpose field of elite play performance standards for AFL, Cricket, Rugby League and Union, Soccer and other social events.

The reconstruction mandate improves physical size of the oval, playability, infiltration, surface uniformity and implements an irrigation water management system. A result sure to deliver significant long term benefits to both the local and regional community.

Robertson Oval’s contemporary natural sportsturf standard incorporates the universally proven perched water table design. The construction program included preparation and stabilisation of sub-base, installation of drainage and an automatic irrigation system and selection and importation of high-quality growing media and drainage gravel. Finally, supply and installation of washed legend couchgrass, a variety grown under license at The Collin’s turf farms based at Camden, NSW.

A key deliverable for this elite surface was the inclusion of first class drainage and irrigation structures including water management system, imperative to achieving council objectives given that Wagga Wagga climate has prolonged dry seasons. A computerised turfgrass irrigation control system to manage water efficiencies involved coupling the system up to recycled water that the Council made available for use on the oval.

Robertson Oval’s renowned Cricket Wicket was reconstructed to accommodate a six wicket table, including installation of a compacted sub base, Collins Cricket Wicket soil and finally, the Collins licensed natural legend couch grass surface. The Cricket wicket was constructed slightly above the level of the outfield with perimeter drainage to assist during times of heavy rainfall.

The Robertson Oval Collins design is a model finessed over years of experience. In 1984, Collins Group undertook to reconstruct North Sydney Oval, one of the first “perched water table” designs utilised in Sydney.  Similar successes have been replicated on works such as the 2000 Sydney Olympics works including an International Baseball Stadium at Homebush Bay, and in 2009 two new AFL/NSW Cricket sportsgrounds for Blacktown City Council.

Despite years of proven success utilising Collins methodology and timely planning consideration to accommodate seasonality and peak sporting seasons, Robertson Oval presented an extraordinary challenge. In March 2012, two months into the works, Wagga Wagga experienced unprecedented flooding. The proposed schedule interrupted by the works for another month.  Unfortunately, the autumn season had finished and the season temperatures were too cool to plant warm season grasses.

There were major improvements carried out to the infrastructure around the oval as part of the works constructed by the Collins Group.  These works included the replacement of trunk drainage lines that ran from Fitzhardinge Street through the oval and out through Bolton Park.  This involved constructing drainage works to ensure the stormwater pipes were located around the perimeter of the oval and did not impact upon the Field of Play.

The Collins Group designed a spectator viewing platform on the western side of the ground to utilise the former surface materials that were excavated from the site.  This grassed viewing bank complements the spectator bank constructed on the eastern side of the ground to enhance the spectator capacity of the facilities.

In addition, five turf practice wickets were constructed adjacent to Fitzhardinge Street that is located within a close proximity to the main oval.  These will be used for training and match day practice by the local cricket clubs.

Further works were undertaken in December, 2012 as a result of the foot print of the adjoining tennis club courts being relocated.  Further to the east due to the enlargement of the oval a three cricket wicket table was repositioned within Bolton Park.

Anticipation now builds with play expected to kick off at Robertson Oval in March 2013 when the new era of potential sporting greats from the Wagga Wagga area are set to compete on the new playing surface. The line-up for Robertson Oval will include a pre-season NAB Cup clash for the Greater Western Giants coached by Kevin Sheedy on 2March 2013 followed by a Nitro Circus event on 30 March 2013. Further first class AFL football events are expected to occur at the venue in the near future.

Wagga Wagga City Council’s commitment to this project has successfully resulted in the construction of a sporting oval that can be compared with the best available in New South Wales.

Latest News

Latest Blogs