FLAT DECK: Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis inspects the freshly laid wicket at Ellem Oval with Council open spaces coordinator David Sutton.
FLAT DECK: Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis inspects the freshly laid wicket at Ellem Oval with Council open spaces coordinator David Sutton. Tim Jarrett

What secrets lurk beneath Ellem Oval?

THE secret behind the famous slope on the Ellem Oval wicket has been revealed.

It was another three wickets.

Council open Spaces coordinator David Sutton said the historic wickets were discovered after major redevelopment works began six weeks ago to level the ground and re-align the wicket.

Mr Sutton said they had excavated 400mm deep to remove the old surface which was then refilled with "a sandwich” of materials including layers of road base, drainage material, levelling sand and black sand to build the new wicket.

On a site inspection with Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and other council staff, Mayor Jim Simmons said the historic slope had been in need of fixing for many years and the re-development would bring the ground up to a proper standard.

"It will be a fantastic improvement especially with a flat deck,” he said.

"There have been other turf wickets on the Lower Clarence that have been better standard and Ellem Oval deserves to be a top quality wicket.”

Mr Simmons said there wouldn't be too much of change to the nature of the surface was confident the pitch wouldn't turn out like something akin to the famed WACA wicket.

"Clarence cricket is pretty lucky in that we have really good curators, Scully Blanch has been doing the wickets here in Grafton for a long long time and he is pretty good at it,” he said.

"Generally we would hope for a good batting wicket.”

Now the grass had been re-laid, the long process of rolling it down to create the pitch had begun and council were confident it would be ready for the end of the cricket season in February.

Work now starts on the rebuilding of fencing around the oval and an upgrading the irrigation system, itself an example of a twenty-first century technology.

Mr Sutton said the new sprinkler system would 'future-proof' the oval and ensure that they could use recycled water if it became available.

Ground water sensors would also be utilised to monitor the soil to ensure the ideal amount of water was used to maintain the ground.

"If the wind is too high or if it's raining it doesn't irrigate. It's a fully automated system,” he said.

"That allows us to say we are not over irrigating, we are not under irrigating we are giving it just enough.

"The main thing is you are not wasting water.”

The $295,000 redevelopment was funded through the NSW Government's Stronger Country Communities Fund.

The redevelopment has not been without controversy as a series of delays led to the pitch being out of action for the CHS open boys cricket carnival this week but Mayor Simmons said other Clarence grounds would still benefit.

"While it is not being played on at Ellem Oval it is being played on other cricket grounds throughout the Clarence Valley,” he said.

"It is a bit of a shame but the works have be done and I am sure other associations throughout NSW have the same problem because it is the summer time that the grass grows better.”



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