In his latest article for the Australian Turfgrass Management Journal, the SPORTENG's agronomic expert John Neylan discussed the challenges the new Allianz Stadium turf had to overcome before its grand reopening in September. The new 42,500-seat venue had to be ready for three matches across three codes in just five days, making the opening games very nerve-wracking for those involved in the redevelopment. Neylan was pleased to see that the first union scrum went smoothly, and the surface held up well overall during the first three matches.
How did Allianz Stadium's turf profile survive three major floods?
The new playing surface at Allianz Stadium was constructed by Evergreen Turf and consists of a network of subsoil drains, a gravel drainage layer, sand profile with StaLok reinforcing fibers, and the Matrix ‘ready to play’ turf on top. The Matrix turf was established by Evergreen Turf on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Freemans Reach and consisted of a Santa Ana couch grass base with a ryegrass oversow.
However, the Hawkesbury region has suffered three major floods over the past two years, and the pad on which the Allianz Stadium turf was being grown was inundated on each occasion. The last flood, which occurred on 5 July 2022, was only two weeks away from the planned harvest and was the worst day of flooding in Hawkesbury in 44 years. Despite these setbacks, the turf was in excellent condition at the June 2022 inspection, and a successful test harvest was undertaken.
The turf was again inundated in early July 2022 and was under water for about five days. Once the waters receded, the process of cleaning the silt off the turf began. This process did place some stress on the ryegrass component, but there was still an excellent root mass that provided a very strong turf. The turf was prepared for harvesting and transported to Allianz Stadium in late July 2022, and once laid, it was aerated with solid tines. Over the next five weeks, the turf was top-dressed with a special blend of organic fertilizers to encourage root growth and stabilize the surface.
In his report, Neylan also discussed the debate over laboratory testing methods and cast his eye over the recently unveiled GC2030 document.
Overall, the new Allianz Stadium turf overcame the challenges and difficulties presented by the Hawkesbury floods and provided a safe and stable surface for the opening games. The skills of the turf managers, the special blend of organic fertilizers, and the Matrix ‘ready to play’ turf all played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the new playing surface.