Optus Stadium Labelled The AFL’s Hardest Surface As West Coast CEO Demands Action
A long-list of lower leg injuries has infuriated West Coast CEO, Trevor Nisbett, as he calls for the ground at Optus Stadium to be softened.
Fremantle recently lost star defender Alex Pearce (ankle) and, more than likely, Rory Lobb (foot) for the rest of 2019, with spearhead Matt Taberner (foot) already ruled out for the season.
West Coast could have full-back Tom Barrass (foot) resume for the first time in two months in the WAFL this Saturday, while Willie Rioli (foot), Elliot Yeo (toe) and Jamie Cripps (toe) have battled problems over the past 12 months.
As a result, Eagles and Fremantle are set to meet at what Dockers coach Ross Lyon labelled a “summit” to discuss the surface, with both clubs worried by significant lower-leg issues suffered by players.
The Eagles have previously met with Optus Stadium operator VenuesLive and arena manager Tony Hemming to air their concerns about player welfare, despite testing indicating the surface falls within the AFL’s acceptable hardness range.
“This wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened with a new surface, but we need it to be softer so we can look after our players’ welfare and that might be something that everyone needs to understand – this is about player welfare,” Nisbett told the Coast to Coast podcast.
“The surface all looks fine, but when the players continually come off and report that it’s the hardest in the competition and also that we’ve had so many ankle and stress fractures over the last 18 months, we need to look at every venue, but certainly this one is reported by the players as the hardest, so we’re attacking that.”
It’s been reported that both clubs have now pulled out from training at the ground indefinitely.
“We’re trying to manage the number of times we’re on the surface, but we would just like some consideration from Tony Hemming, the staff and everyone else at Optus to acknowledge that, yes, we will try to soften this surface up for AFL football,” Nisbett said.
“I know it’s a multi-purpose stadium, but we’ve been talking for long enough and now Fremantle have had some injuries and we’ve got other codes a little concerned about the surface.
“There’s enough feedback that this needs to be fixed.”