Codes vying for use of University Oval

University of Otago Oval. Photo: Christine O'Connor
University of Otago Oval. Photo: Christine O'Connor
If the University of Otago Oval is available, then the Bookworms would very much like to play on it.

That is the message from Otago University Rugby Football Club (OURFC) chairman Paul Hessian.

The multi-use venue has been the scene of a very gentle tug of war between the codes.

Cricket is keen to protect the wicket block and increasingly seems to get first dibs on its use. Well, at least that is how it appears.

Rugby, meanwhile, feels as if it has gradually been sidelined.

The OURFC agreed to step aside this season and play its home games at another ground so the $130,000 upgrade of the drainage could be done during the autumn months.

The work is crucial to ensure the playing surface is in pristine shape in time for the 2021 Women’s World Cup Cricket fixtures which will be staged in the city next summer.

But the uninvited arrival of Covid-19 meant that work had to be delayed until late August-early September.

Club rugby gets under way on July 4 and that opens a window for the OURFC to host some of its home games at the venue.

Hessian, when approached for comment, said the club would like to take advantage of the opportunity and planned to discuss options with the Dunedin City Council (DCC).

"We would love to play on the Oval. We realise there is an emphasis on getting that ground ready," Hessian said.

"But if the ground was available then we would like to take up that option.

"We will be approaching them. But we’ve only just discussed it this week but we would like to get their comment and just see how much leeway there is to allow a few games.

"It still remains one of the best venues in the city for watching and playing rugby."

However, in a brief email to the Otago Daily Times earlier in the week, DCC parks and recreation group manager Robert West said it had "already reached agreement with the club on their use of an alternative ground at Logan Park".

But that agreement was made before the pandemic forced the country into lockdown and the work at the Oval to be delayed.

Readylawn has secured the contract and work involves removing the top 40mm of the surface material so the drainage capacity can be increased. Then a new surface will need to be established. The upgrade is expected to take six to eight weeks.

Otago Cricket Association chief executive Mike Coggan has previously said starting the work in the spring rather than autumn would mean it would be unlikely the Volts would play any cricket at the venue before the four Women’s World Cup games scheduled to be played there in February.

But there are also wider concerns about whether that World Cup can still go ahead given the world is still battling Covid-19.


 

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