The Memorial Park artificial turf. PHOTO/FILE

Rugby tops battle over turf
Wairarapa United women forced to play key match at Hullena Park

FOOTBALL

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Wairarapa United have had to move the potential championship decider for their women’s team on Memorial Park on Saturday to make way for a Heartland Championship rugby warm-up game.

Wairarapa-Bush’s final warm-up game against Wellington Samoans will kick-off at 1pm at Memorial Park.

The Tumu ITM Wairarapa United women were originally scheduled to play their last game of the W-League on the park against Waterside-Karori at 12.30pm.

The game will now be played at noon on Hullena Park.

That would still meet Capital Football’s requirements that all games were played about the same time so that no teams were aware of other results before they started playing.

United share the lead with Wellington United Diamonds but have an inferior goal difference.

Should United and Diamonds both win, United would need to go on a goal-scoring spree to have any chance of claiming the title.

The Jaycar Wairarapa United men’s game against Lower Hutt City, will go ahead on the artificial turf at 3.45pm, 45 minutes later than its original start time.

United are fighting relegation. If they lose and Wellington United, bottom of the table, win or draw their match, United would be relegated from the Central League.

Capital Football handle all bookings of the turf on behalf of Wairarapa United.

CF operations manager Lisa Jones said the booking of Memorial Park for Saturday’s games was originally done before the season started.

She confirmed the dates and times of the matches to Memorial Park artificial turf administration in an email dated July 22.

“We put in all the dates we needed and moved dates around to fit in with rugby,” Jones said.

“That involved giving Wairarapa United more home games in the first half of the season.

“Often we finish later mainly due to weather, etc, forcing us to move the last round out.

“But after a good winter, this weekend is the perfect storm and we’ve had to move the game.

“To complicate matters, we have a board directive that says any games where teams are in with a chance of winning the league or being relegated, must kick off at the same time to ensure no one has an advantage.”

Jones was disappointed that she wasn’t given the full story.

“What is an issue for me is that I got the impression that it [the rugby game] was a proper Heartland game and not a friendly.

“Of the 13 turfs we deal with, this one is considerably the more complicated and it really needs to be fixed before next year,” she said.

Wairarapa United president Gill Flower said they worked with Wairarapa-Bush team manager Shay O’Gorman to change the times.

O’Gorman proposed in an email dated August 7 that Wairarapa-Bush game against Wellington Samoans start at noon, followed by the men’s Central League game at 2.30pm and the women’s W-League match at 5pm.

That was rejected because of logistics.

For Flower, the need to move the game was a culmination of the many frustrations she had experienced throughout the year with the administration of the Memorial Park artificial turf.

“Since July, we have had about four games moved from Masterton to Maidstone [Upper Hutt] due to turf time being cancelled and this was again an option for this weekend.

“However, every time we move outside Wairarapa it increases our travel and running costs.”

Asked why a potentially championship-winning women’s football game was moved because of a rugby warm-up game, Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chief executive and trust administrator Tony Hargood replied that Capital Football “are quite happy with the arrangements and [it was] a good compromise all-round”.

“The rugby booking had been in for some time. From what I can read, CF are happy, so not quite sure why this has come up.

“There is a really good relationship between the trust and CF. The follow-up emails between the trust bookings and CF from July 22 sees rugby making a compromise with CF.”

Flower, who is also a trust board member, has called for an internal governance review into the trust management to be made public, which she said highlights ongoing issues around the operational side of the Memorial Park artificial turf.