Rugby, cricket both keen to make most of Uni Oval

Mike Coggan.
Mike Coggan.
Cricket and rugby are locked in a friendly contest over the use of the University Oval.

Both codes want to get the most out of the venue but neither is getting everything it needs at present.

The Otago Cricket Association shifted from Carisbrook to the University Oval 13 years ago to avoid a scheduling conflict with rugby but now faces a similar issue.

The OCA and the University Rugby Football Club have happily shared the facilities at the University Oval for more than a decade.

But heavier-than-usual rainfall this year has exposed the leaks in the arrangement and it is mostly rugby which is missing out.

A run of poor weather meant the pitch block turned into a boggy mess.

That meant University had to play some of its home games at other venues.

But the issue really came to light when the Dunedin premier club semifinals had to be transferred to Hancock Park because the surface was deemed unsatisfactory for premier rugby.

Last week Otago Cricket Association chief executive Mike Coggan added to the debate when he suggested a wet spring would make it tough to get the pitch ready in time for Otago's first home Plunket Shield match in mid-November.

Both codes are keen to find a solution which will enable each party to make full use of the facility.

Representatives from the University Rugby Football Club met the Dunedin City Council earlier this week to discuss the issue.

Club president Ken Hodge was not available to comment yesterday but Dunedin City Council acting parks operations manager Gareth Jones said the meeting had been productive.

''The reason the meeting was held with rugby was to take a practical look to make sure the ground could be utilised for both rugby and cricket,'' Jones said.

''That is really our priority.

''It has been a wet year and it has had limited use compared with other years.

''Otago rugby would have had more access to the ground had it been a dry season and, in the past, they have had way more games scheduled than they have had this year.''

That said, Jones acknowledged the council was looking at solutions which would help ease pressure on the venue.

''It is not uncommon that there is a clay [wicket] block in a rugby field. I know Queenstown has exactly the same set-up, so it can be done.

''But we are certainly looking at ways to make it more efficient and there are some potential ideas at the moment that we are exploring.''

Jones confirmed the idea of drop-in pitches was discussed at the meeting ''but we are nowhere near passing any comment on that'', he said.

Drop-in pitches would be an expensive solution.

They have not been seen in the city since the days when international cricket was played at Carisbrook.

Preparing them is a specialist skill which would need to be learned as well.

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