Wednesday, June 22, 2011

World Cup

With 79 days until the Rugby World Cup kicks off, Rotorua groundsman Phil Wilkie has everything ready for the ground dubbed the best in the country.

There wouldn't be too many in the country who would know more about how to grow grass than Wilkie. In fact it's been a passion of his from an early age.

"It goes right back to when I was a little kid. I loved mowing lawns because I loved the smell of cut grass. Even when I was young when the mower was broken down mum would say, 'take a pair of scissors out there,' which I did."

The father of one has come a long way since those days - now he is in charge of maintaining the Rotorua International Stadium. The ground will host pool matches in this year's Rugby World Cup between Fiji and Namibia September 10, Samoa and Namibia September 14 and Ireland versus Russia September 25.

It's been a two-year journey for Wilkie who has had to oversee the ground being dug up and resown especially for the event.

"I'm absolutely rapt, I never envisaged a surface like this after we dug it up two years ago. I was nervous because trying to grow grass on sand, it is really hard. But we did it at the right time of the year and managed to get it to grow and it worked pretty well."

Wilkie said it has taken on average between 20 and 30 hours per week to develop the ground which has been dubbed the best ground in the country by some of the most respected players both in rugby and league.

Former All Black and Steamers first-five Mike Delany is one such player who gave the field his seal of approval the last time he played on the ground in last year's ITM Cup.

"It's one of the best grounds I've played on.
Even when it's wet the ground is still in great condition. I always enjoy playing here."

Kiwi League captain Benji Marshall is another fan of the stadium.

"I've played in a number of different stadiums around the world and this one ranks right up there with the best. Not only because of the ground but because it's like being home. My family don't get to watch me play that often but when I play here it's like playing at home for me."

Wilkie said it made him feel proud to know international players liked playing at the stadium. "It shows me I'm doing my job to the highest standard that I can achieve. I've had people over from Australia who have said Suncorp is about the same as this ... I'd say this would have to be ... one of the best in Australasia."

The 54-year-old, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years and used to be the groundsman at Mount Smart, said he would love to one day see the All Blacks and the All Whites run out on to the field he has helped create.

Castlecorp business manager Mijo Katavic said the company was proud of the work the staff had put into to get the ground ready for the World Cup.

"Other World Cup venues have looked to us to see how we have done it. That shows how well they have worked to get the stadium ready."

No comments:

Post a Comment