Manuka Oval is back to its best after some critics labelled it unfit for AFL last month. Photo: Graham Tidy
Manuka Oval "beach" is no more, according to embarrassed ACT officials confident the iconic ground's surface is back to its picturesque best for Saturday's AFL game between the Greater Western Sydney Giants and Port Adelaide Power.
The AFL has been in constant contact with the ACT government to ensure surface issues have been addressed since the last match at Manuka Oval, three weeks ago, when the ground appeared to be more surf than turf.
Blasted by some critics for excessive surface sand, there were complaints of grazes to players, unequal bounce and loose footing.
GWS Giants player Liam Sumner is brought down on the sandy Manuka surface in April's match against the Bulldogs. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
AFL football operations manager Mark Evans deemed the surface "safe" but "ugly", admitting it was "a long way short of the standards that we want for an AFL match".
Former Hawthorn premiership player Campbell Brown was scathing in his assessment, claiming it was a "disgrace" and "no AFL player should have to play on that".
ACT Territory Venues general manager Neale Guthrie said the AFL would inspect the ground before Saturday’s clash between the Giants and Port Adelaide, as they do before every game, but he said it was top notch and he expected it to pass with flying colours.
“We’ve been in constant contact with the AFL following the last event so I’m pretty sure we’re going to be fine,” Guthrie said.
“It should be back to what we normally have – no 'beach' as they like to say.
“The sand’s still there, it’s just where it should be – down below.
“We were a bit embarrassed, it was an honest mistake, everyone’s been understanding about it.”
Manuka Oval reopened after a multimillion-dollar redevelopment to its surface and facilities in January.
The sandy surface for April's AFL match was due to a misjudgement on how long it would take for the annual top-dressing to settle down, with sand remaining on top of the grass.
Giants coach Leon Cameron admitted it wasn't an ideal surface for footy during the last match, against the Western Bulldogs, but was unfazed given both sides had to play on it.
Cameron was more interested in the weather forecast for Canberra on Saturday, given the predicted rain and a top temperature of nine degrees.
Improved irrigation and drainage was a key element of the new surface at Manuka.
“We played there in the NAB Cup against Sydney and it poured with rain the day before and there wasn’t a drop of rain on the ground, so it’s an outstanding ground and we’re very, very confident that the surface there this weekend will be absolutely perfect,” Cameron said.
“There was a lot said about the condition [of the ground] for the Bulldogs game ... but both sides had to play on it. It wasn’t an ideal situation for everyone, but we know that StarTrack Oval is an outstanding ground."