Davies moving on but leaving venue in good hands

The University of Otago Oval will be under new loving care this summer.

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd head of turf and development Mike Davies is moving on after two years in the role.

The 43-year-old has accepted a business development management position in Christchurch and will finish up at the end of the month.

"I’ve had a good offer from a New Zealand company based in Christchurch and it is a great opportunity to test some skills that I know I’ve got which makes it exciting," he said.

The new role is "still sports turf-related" but he will not be riding a mower around any more.

"Life is all about opportunities. You either trust the branches you stand on or trust your wings.

"I’ve absolutely loved every single second here. The part I enjoy most about the role is dealing with people ... and how much fun and joy it has been."

Davies finishes on August 31 but believes he has left the venue in good hands. Jayden Tohill will assume responsibility for preparing the surface and pitch and Davies was generous in his praise of his successor.

"Luckily, I’m a believer in hiring people who are better than yourself and that is why I’ve got Jayden on board.

"He is the future of New Zealand cricket as far as groundsmen go. He has the brightest future of anyone.

"He has made the last 12 months so easy. We’ve had great results and great fun."

During Davies’ stint, the University  Oval hosted one test and two one-day internationals.

The most recent one-dayer was perhaps the most memorable. Ross Taylor swatted 187 not out to help the Black Caps overhaul England’s monster total of 335 for nine. It was a superb one-day wicket and Davies, based on the feedback he received while in the role, feels he helped enhance the venue’s reputation as a quality international and domestic ground.

"The weather means that we are not going to get it 100% right every time. But I think everybody knows that my crew have done absolutely everything they possibly can."

One of the biggest challenges Davies and his team has faced has been between seasons. The Oval is a dual-purpose ground with both cricket and rugby played there.

But with those seasons often overlapping, its has been a challenge to get the surface ready for both codes.

The pitch block turns into a quagmire in the winter and a wet spring can retard grass growth and jeopardise the preparation of the wicket block.

Davies only sees that risk getting worse but there is no obvious solution. Drop-in pitches could work but Davies said with domestic cricket also played at the venue, cricket would need about eight portable trays to prepare enough wickets and that would probably be too expensive.

Davies, wife Christina (34) and young family — daughter Georgia (10) and sons Wil (2) and Hudson (4 months) — will relocate to Rangiora at the end of the month.

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