Stumps gone, posts go up: Eden Park moves into Nines mode

Eden Park hosts the Nines this weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell
Eden Park hosts the Nines this weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell

Groundsmen began work immediately after Wednesday night's one-dayer to ensure the Eden Park playing surface will be safe enough for the NRL's biggest stars at the Nines this weekend.

Australia's sorry batsmen had barely made their way back into the dressing rooms when New Zealand's busiest curator set to work on the mammoth job of transforming Eden Park from a cricket field to a pitch perfect rugby league ground with just over 48 hours up his sleeve.

Goal posts were erected and lines marked within half an hour of the cricket ending.

But by far the biggest worry is that the fast, slick surface preferred for cricket must be softened up to prevent league players from injuring themselves on a ground that's too hard for non-stop running and impact.

The last thing NRL clubs need on the eve of another season is a mass casualty ward.

Head groundsman Blair Christiansen admits the 35-matches played at the Nines inside two days is the toughest workout his ground gets every year but he has a hi-tech method he will use to change the consistency of the grass, promising his men will deliver a master surface for the NRL showpiece.

"It's an aeration technique to de-compact the surface, but a bit of air in and take some of the hardness out so it's not jarring," Christiansen told News Corp.

"We'll do a bit of impact testing and aim for certain targets. If you have the right tools and techniques you can bring it around pretty quick.

"The Nines is like nothing else, seriously. Eight hours of continuous rugby league for two days straight.

"We've been prepping for this event for months now to make sure the field is suitable for both events and there's no compromise with either of them.

"They don't come here very often the NRL so we want to make it memorable for them in all the right ways.

Eden Park was the scene of an Australia horror show on Wednesday.Source:Getty Images
"There's a fair bit of pressure, you want to get it right ... (transforming the ground from cricket to football) is a bit tricky."

Christiansen's team will work through until 1am before setting their alarms to return again the before sunrise today.

At 7am the wicket will be removed and replaced by a grass tray that should blend in with the rest of the field by kick-off to the Rabbitohs and Roosters Nines opener on Saturday.

Twelve hundred temporary seats must be installed as well as temporary flooring near the interchange benches and 16 logos painted onto the field.

Even before Wednesday's cricket clash, the measurements for the rugby league field were already marked out with green paint almost invisible to the naked eye.


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