Rock-hard Gabba risks lawsuit: Matthews - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rock-hard Gabba risks lawsuit: Matthews

By Jim Morton 16/06/2008 03:35:13 PM Comments (0)

Gabba authorities risk a major lawsuit if they continue to ignore the dangers of the ground's rock-hard surface, according to Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews.

Matthews intimated it was only a matter of time before an AFL player took legal action over the dangerous nature of the Gabba's centre wicket area.

The four-time premiership coach's comments came on top of fears aired by Lions co-captains Jonathan Brown and Luke Power last week.

Brisbane have fought a losing battle over the past decade for Stadiums Queensland, which runs the Gabba and answers to the State Government, to introduce a drop-in pitch in the winter.

Formerly known as the Major Sports Facilities Authority, SQ investigated concerns in 2006 but concluded the wicket - famed in world cricket for its pace and bounce - was a major asset to the ground and a drop-in pitch would be detrimental to its reputation.

Power last week said it should only be a matter of time before the centre square was replaced for the winter while Brown felt it was like playing on "concrete".

"We're on exactly the same page as our players," Matthews said.

"It's a very difficult situation and the AFL ... and Stadiums Queensland know exactly our thoughts on it.

"They know how dangerous it is but they are not doing anything about it.

"It's not in our control, you can only do so much but it's not in our control."

Asked whether the issue was a lawsuit waiting to happen, Matthews replied: "I think most logical people would feel so."

Carlton's Luke O'Sullivan successfully argued loss of income after he suffered a serious knee injury due to the ground surface during a pre-season match at VFL Park in 1993.

Adelaide ruckman Shaun Rehn took the AFL to the Supreme Court on sustaining a serious knee injury by slipping on a rubber disc used by umpires to bounce the ball at AAMI Stadium in 1999.

The Lions have the support of the AFL with chief executive Andrew Demetriou admitting the league had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade SQ to move to a drop-in wicket, like the MCG's.

"In the ideal world it's better what we've got at the MCG, you play football in football season and hopefully you can put in drop-in pitches in cricket season," he has said.

Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket have been vocal about the retention of the pitch area and were relieved when the MSFA investigation indicated a drop-in wicket was an unpalatable option.

Test captain Ricky Ponting has also called for grounds to retain their unique character while Cricket Victoria have been unhappy with the standard of the MCG.

Queensland Cricket boss Graham Dixon said the Gabba's reputation for providing one of the best wickets in world cricket would be endangered by a drop-in.

"We'd hate to see that compromised by putting a second best or third best alternative in place," he said.

Cricket Australia general manager cricket Michael Brown said: "People need to understand the value of that Gabba wicket to cricket. Players and spectators don't want a sameness of wickets around the country."

But Jonathan Brown said it was the hardest ground in the AFL, causing a knee injury to midfielder Scott Harding last week, and added he had attempted to stay off it, blaming it for his osteitis pubis problems in 2005.

"The Gabba pitch is the one black mark on what is otherwise a sensational venue and the administrative indifference towards what should be a health and safety obligation is beyond a joke," Brown said in his News Ltd column on Friday.

"It was like playing on concrete against Fremantle."

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