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Sports-Ground Curator/Keeper - Cricket

Sports-Ground Curator/Keeper - Cricket

SCG head curator Tom Parker, Picture by Bob Barker.

Henry Budd

For Sydney Cricket Ground head curator Tom Parker there is no such thing as planning too far ahead. Parker is responsible for maintaining the playing and training fields at the SCG, which includes preparing the pitch for next month's cricket Test against India starting on January 2.

Preparations for the Test begin as soon the AFL season finishes.

"We go out to the centre square, sit down and determine which is going to be the most suitable pitch. There are nine pitches and we always aim to play in the middle of the ground, which is pitch five," Parker says.

Ensuring the pitch is prepared for day one of the Test is a fine art that requires carefully monitoring the weather. Rain is a curse in that regard.

"There have been times where it has rained all day but not in the evening so you stay back, put some lights on and get on with the job," Parker says.

In professional sport, the show must go on.

"We have even put up a marquee over the centre of the SCG for a one-day final where it rained for a week," Parker says.

On that occasion, Parker says he and staff worked 24-hour shifts.

Parker, who became SCG head curator in 1997, is only the eighth person to have held the position since 1863. He began his career as an apprentice greenkeeper at the Birrong Bowling and Sports Club in the early 1980s.

He then worked for Bankstown council where he began preparing the cricket pitches.

As head curator, Parker manages a team of 11 other staff who help keep the ground looking immaculate. A minimum of six staff are rostered on at any time in case the covers need to be put on or taken off in a hurry. And there's no margin for error.

"I always say it is like a fishbowl with everyone looking in," he says. "People expect when they turn up to see a pristine ground.

"Gone are the days of playing on the SCG in the mud. They were great games, but these days players are paid a lot more money and injuries are scrutinised a lot more."

Qualifications: The first step in becoming a cricket-ground curator is to complete a greenkeeping course. As part of an apprenticeship students complete a Certificate III in Horticulture (Turf) at TAFE.

Course: While designed for apprentices, those wanting to break into the industry can enrol. The course helps students develop a range of practical skills needed to establish and maintain greens, sporting surfaces and turf production.

TAFE says students will "learn to establish turf, construct turf playing surfaces, prepare turf surfaces for sports, renovate sports turf, control weeds, prepare and apply pesticides, install irrigation and drainage systems and operate and maintain machinery".

Students learn about soils, plants, environmental practices, follow OH&S procedures and learn to communicate.

Assumed knowledge: There are no formal requirements for entry.

Cost: $654 a year From the inside: SCG head curator Tom Parker says greenkeepers, whether employed on golf courses, bowling greens or sports grounds, are required to work unusual hours.

"It's not a nine-to-five job," he says. "There is a lot of out-of-hours work."

* More information: tafensw.edu.au