Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Stadium turf claims Phoenix defender

Vince Lia of the Phoenix beats the defence of Chris Harold of the Glory during the round 22 A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory. Photo / Getty Images.
Vince Lia of the Phoenix beats the defence of Chris Harold of the Glory during the round 22 A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory. Photo / Getty Images.

An ongoing upgrade to Westpac Stadium's turf has led to a beaten-up playing surface.

Players from both sides were surprised at the state of the strip at the Cake Tin following the 1-1 stalemate between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory in the capital yesterday.

The less said about the dour game would be better for everyone but the playing surface did claim one victim as Phoenix left back Josh Brindell-South damaged his ankle in the
first half when he got caught in a pothole and will be out for up to six weeks.

"The surface is pretty bad, yeah, which is surprising because just about as far back as I can remember this has always been one of the best surfaces in the league,'' Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said after the game. "Even after the rugby sevens [last month] it was in better condition. I was just surprised it was just so bad out there and the holes were filled up with sand but that goes pretty quickly so we've lost a player through it but the stadium are doing their best.''

Westpac Stadium chief executive Shane Harmon said the reason for the state of the track came down to a required upgrade with an eye to next year's Cricket World Cup.

"Obviously with the sevens we took a beating that we've never experienced because we had a full weekend of rain, which has never happened before at the sevens,'' Harmon said.

"But the other thing we've been doing over the last three weeks is, it's the last significant gap in good growing conditions between now and the Cricket World Cup so we've been doing quite a bit of renovation and we've essentially culled a lot of the Poa grass, which is the bright green, patchy grass you see and that's essentially been treated. So it's a bit of short-term pain for long-term gain but otherwise I thought the surface pulled up pretty well given we had a [Hurricanes] game on Friday night and of all the A-League I've seen this weekend I still think it was the best-presented surface.''

Harmon also said Perth conducted a full training session on the playing surface on Saturday rather than the standard captain's run, which usually takes place on the surrounding grass beside the playing field.

"That was against instructions so we will be reviewing that and we will not be letting that happen again. So we weren't happy about that,'' Harmon said.

The turf should be back to its usual standard by the time the Phoenix play at the Cake Tin against Adelaide United on March 30, which isn't great news for the Hurricanes considering they host the Cheetahs in Wellington on Saturday.

Perth coach Kenny Lowe said the pitch didn't influence last night's contest.

"I think going out you want to play but I don't think it stopped the flow of the game. I thought it wasn't the best, normally when you come here it's absolutely magnificent.''
The 1-1 draw left the Phoenix in eighth place on the A-League ladder, three points outside a playoff spot, with five rounds to go.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Kenny Cunningham 84) Perth Glory 1 (William Gallas 34) Halftime: 0-1


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