Sport has been played at Sydney Grammar School since one of its most prominent alumni, Australia’s first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, was the school captain in 1864-65.

A keen cricketer, his captaincy coincided with the introduction of overarm bowling when England great WG Grace was making the game his own. Much has changed about the sport, the school and indeed the playing fields in the intervening 150 years.

At Sydney Grammar today, more than 1,100 students play hundreds of games of rugby, cricket and soccer daily over the course of a year, on turf specifically designed and grown to cope with heavy traffic, studded boots and wildly varying weather conditions.

Sir Edmund would be unable to comprehend the three hectares of playing fields now dedicated to sport at a school frequently rated the top private school in Sydney. Similarly, the technology behind the impeccable Village Green Turf that adorns these natural sporting ground turf fields would seem like science fiction.

Changing the grass

In 2014, Sydney Grammar School took the major decision to change the turf used on their playing fields, opting for Village Green Kikuyu over common Kikuyu.
The decision paid immediate dividends and today is generating considerable cost and labour savings.
“Annually, with Village Green we require no weed control and now only replace 100 square metres of turf, mainly in goal mouths, compared to common Kikuyu that used to require 1,000 square metres to be replaced every year and it had to be sprayed for weeds,” the school’s grounds curator said.
Village Green Kikuyu’s strength in terms of sports, lies in its density and vigour. Density helps resist wear on sports fields and presents a tight cover that smothers weeds under low maintenance, while higher vigour ensures better recovery from turf damage and wear, especially during winter. At Sydney Grammar, grounds staff keep the field at 17 mm for cricket and a more forgiving 28 mm for rugby and soccer.

Hitting a turf good length

Like good bowling in cricket, turf maintenance is all about control and hitting a good length. At Sydney Grammar, growth inhibitor Primo Maxx is used to improve turf thickness, uniformity and health, providing a smooth, tightly knit cover that is better able to withstand stress.
“We apply Primo Maxx in early December and again in mid-January, which increases density, prevents potential thatch build-up,reduces mowing and, most importantly, gives us a chance to take a break and go on holidays,” the curator enthused.
Sports Turf Technologys Ken Johnson supported the experience of Sydney Grammar.
“Growth inhibitors such as Primo Maxx reduce the vertical growth of the turf and encourage lateral growth of the turf plant instead,” Mr Johnson said. “By using a combination of tools to manage the turf, like the application of a growth inhibitor, low mowing regime and appropriate fertiliser application, turf managers can ensure an excellent playing surface of Village Green throughout the year,” he said.
Village Green Turf proprietor Gary McKenzie said the opportunity to work with such an elite client as Sydney Grammar was a satisfying endorsement of their product:
“The characteristics of Village Green turf are perfectly suited to Australian conditions and this is now being recognised in southern Europe as well, where clients in Italy, Spain, Cyprus and elsewhere are embracing the turf’s resilience, verdant appearance and low maintenance qualities,” he said.
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