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By Neville Passmore

Secret Harbour Primary School oval restored to good health and ready for a heavy winter season of play. 



Improving the quality of the turf on a school football field can have significant positive effects on the health of the community surrounding the ground. Covering a story at the Secret Harbour Primary School brought this home to me.

The oval is maintained under the Rockingham City Councils grounds umbrella mainly because it jointly used by the school and the local football club for their weekend games.

The standard of the turf dropped to the point where the football club was looking at being unable to play their weekend games as a result of insurance liability issues connected with pot holes and severe unevenness of the turf cover. Prior to every game the field is inspected for potholes and lifted sprinklers covers anything that could cause injury. The club was told that the poor condition of the surface would mean that finals could not be played on the ground. This was a devastating position for the players and all connected to the game.

In response, just after Christmas 2012 the City of Rockingham handed responsibility for the oval to Paul Smith and his team at Lark Hill Sportsplex.

The first task was to fix the unreliable irrigation system by developing the bore so it would produce more water. This done Paul's team cored the field using a hollow tyne which leaves holes about 200mm deep and 2 cms in diameter. Then they top dressed the turf with a 3cm thick layer of C-Life Quicken from C-Wise.

This semi matured composted product, effectively soil carbon, has a good deal of available nitrogen the element that turns grass green.

Soil carbon acts like a supermarket for plant roots as it immediately supplies food, moisture and all other requirements in just the right quantities.

This material was vigorously brushed into the surface and tyne holes to lift the amount of organic matter in the soil. Next a serious piece of equipment called and "Earthquake" was brought in to vibrate the soil sideways to drive the composted product into the topsoil.

In the goal square closest to the school classes was worn out to bare sand, a good deal of replanting of turf was needed to get cover. This end is closest to schoolrooms and carparks so it tends to get hammered by everyone that trains and practices on the ground. A possible solution to this common problem might be "pop up" goals that can be located around the edges of the sports facility even on the verge of the oval to spread the wear.

The recovery program has been a great success and the combination of effective watering through the heat of summer and the beneficial effects of healthy soil have resulted in a bright green playing field which had its first game on the 4th of May this year.

You might have thought that this would solve the problem of overcrowding of the footy fields in the area. Not so. With 630 members the Secret Harbour Football Club only has only two grounds on which to play Saturday games and has to spread its players around 5 nearby grounds for training. They are literally bursting at the seams and have to turn players away due to a lack of facilities.

With home blocks getting ever smaller, the lure of electronic and internet based entertainment and our modern eating patterns the desire on the part of parents to get kids outdoors playing sports is stronger than ever. The role of playing fields in promoting healthy kids and healthy lifestyles is something that communities value.

Government is obviously on the same page. In the State Public Parkland Strategy document you will find:- "A network of sporting, nature and recreational spaces is the mark of a cohesive, desirable community and vital to ensuring healthy living and a balanced lifestyle. Communities with access to spaces offering a variety of functions enjoy a higher degree of sustainability from the associated social, economic and environmental benefits."

A study by the WA Department of Sport and Recreation earlier this year indicates there is already a shortfall of active open space in the Peel region in the order of 22 hectares, roughly the current size of all the playing fields at Lark Hill Sportsplex. With predicted population increases the shortfall is expected to go out to 30 hectares. However add in support facilities such as club rooms, spectator areas and parking then the total land needed jumps to 90 hectares.

Alannah MacTiernan mayor of Cambridge Town Council recently mentioned in a public address that dog owners who like to meet for a chat with other canine owners, were successfully competing with sporting groups for access to green spaces.

This is the background to a community lobby to get the next stage of the Lark Hill Sportsplex brought forward from 2025.

All this helps to explain why the condition of turf at a school oval can have so many eyes watching over it as is certainly the case at Secret Harbour.


Goal squares get hammered during the season.

Paul Smith superintendent of Lark Hill Sportsplex explains to officers of the Department of Water, Sports and Recreation and Education how treatment with C-Wise Quiken has reinvigorated the grass.


A damaged playing surface can present a trip hazzard for players.