HOWZAT: Perfect pitch hits players for six
WITH the camera crews, national media swarm, signage, players and the 10,000 strong crowd long gone, all which remains at the site of last Sunday's Big Bash game is the unsung heroes of the event.
C.ex Coffs International Stadium ground staff produced a carpet-like field and first class pitch for the Sydney Sixers v Adelaide Strikers match, a fact which wasn't lost on the leading players.
"The wicket was great, nice and quick," Australian test star Josh Hazlewood said after the game.
The widespread praise from players and media alike was a well-deserved pat on the back for ground operations manager Russell Fensom and his team.
Fensom, who's been working at the stadium since it was opened in 1993, said from the moment the last winter sport was played at the venue in November it was all systems go to get the pitch and surface in top shape.
"We had all of our family time over the holiday period taken up. We worked every day but Christmas," Fensom said.
"We put the effort in to make sure it was a good wicket and we were confident it was going to be so it's been nice to be told we did a good job.
"We've all received a lot of messages from people who watched the game at the ground and on TV and they all said it looked great."
Long-time head curator at the Gabba Kevin Mitchell along with his successor David Sandurski were among those who congratulated the team.
Coffs' chief pitch curator Nathan Silvy, who honed his craft down at the prestigious North Sydney Oval, worked tirelessly on the wicket in the ten days leading into the match.
He said he used what he learnt down south to bring the perfect pitch to life.
"Every game is different and every pitch is different, so you have to be adaptable," Silvy said.
"On most pitches you'd put dry hessian covers over it to suck the moisture out of it. Here we left the hessian moist so it didn't suck the moisture out because it's been so dry.
"A lack of moisture in the wicket makes it easier to manage."
As an added challenge for the team, the stadium surface had 13km of sand links buried beneath the turf to help with drainage in the lead up to the Elton John concert in February.
"The only problem is we haven't had any rain," Fensom said with a laugh.
"They're certainly doing their job because it's very dry... we've had to keep watering it."
Fensom paid tribute to the council's recycled water scheme, saying it's not just kept the stadium surface looking lush but also other sporting venues across the region including the Coffs Harbour Racing Club and Rex Hardaker Oval.
With the Men's T20 World Cup scheduled to be held in Australia at the beginning of next summer, new grounds will be needed to host the Sheffield Shield competition.
Fensom said state governing bodies need to look no further than the Coffs Coast.
"We've hosted Shield games in the past and shown we can do it... we're ready."