“The turf isn’t fit to play on at under-12 level, let alone under-18 level

Players, coaches and recruiters won't be driving through the Shepley Oval gates this week, with the ground deemed unsafe for players. 224496. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Tyler Lewis

“Maybe we need to look at other options or another facility, where we are going to get full use of the ground all year round.”

Council works have detoured NAB League club Dandenong Stingrays from playing at its home facility, Shepley Oval.

And the Rays are far from impressed.

Irrigation works took place on the ground almost a month ago and as a result the Rays are feeling their players are not safe to play or even train on the venue.

Originally meant to host the Greater Western Victoria Rebels on Saturday, the Stingrays will now play its ‘home’ game in Craigieburn, approximately 73 kilometres from its home facility.

The issues with Shepley have been regular in recent times, with the Stingrays’ under-18 girl’s team only being able to play one game on the oval due to not only the length of cricket season, but also the ground being too hard when the cricket season finally concluded.

Head coach for both the under-18 girls and under-19 boys side, Nick Cox, was extremely upset when he saw the state of the ground earlier this week.

“We were meant to play a home game on the third of July, we had to relocate,” Cox said.

“It was deemed unfit, we had to move it again this week because it was still no good.

“We were told that the work would take – be prepared and be up and ready again – no more than one to two weeks.

“It has been nearly four (weeks) now and it’s still not at a level to play any high-level football on.

“The Dandenong region is diverse with a lot of sports, not being able to showcase AFL in the region is just another kick in the guts,” Cox said.

The Rays feel it is unsafe for their own players and are looking on with caution as to what the long-term ramifications might be if one of its potential draftees is to do a serious injury as a result to the ground’s condition.

“Where the works have been done – irrigation – the turf has been put back in those spots and it still hasn’t set in properly,” Cox said.

“It’s (the patches) shifting and there are mud puddles everywhere.

“The turf isn’t fit to play on at under-12 level, let alone under-18 level, because the turf will just shift if you move sideways on it,” he said.

Dandenong City Council Acting Director of Business Engineering & Major Projects, Kevin Van Boxtel released a statement on the issues with the ground. Revealing the relationship with both clubs that use the facility is of vital importance.

“It is important that Council ensures all grounds are well maintained, this includes essential

works that will provide benefits for both football and cricket,” he said.

“The window for these works can be small due to finals fixturing towards the end of seasons. In the past these works have been managed successfully with little impact to clubs.

“This is done through strong working relationships with all tenants. The works were necessary and were delayed by lockdowns.

“Much effort was made to complete the works within a window of the fixture.

“The relationship between Council and all tenant clubs is important.

“This strong relationship has and will continue to provide, important elite pathways for athletes in the region, and physical activity opportunities for the Greater Dandenong community.”

It is believed the AFL will be looking into the facility at Shepley Oval.

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