Matthews reignites Gabba pitch debate - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Matthews reignites Gabba pitch debate

By Laine Clark 21/07/2008 07:13:43 PM Comments (0)

Conspiracy theories crept into the Gabba centre square debate on Monday after Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews hinted the AFL were turning a blind eye to the venue's rock hard surface so they did not have to abandon games.

But renewed calls for a drop-in wicket were hit for six by Sport Minister Judy Spence and Test opener Matthew Hayden.

A frustrated Matthews maintained the rage after it emerged Lions midfielder Scott Harding was considering suing for damages over the Gabba surface.

Harding suffered a knee injury and missed four matches after being slammed into the centre square in an AFL clash last month.

Asked if he thought the surface met AFL guidelines, Matthews said: "Therein lies the problem - what if it didn't?

"If the AFL said `this doesn't meet our guidelines', what would happen? Where do you play the game?

"Now we've got a problem, haven't we.

"You'd want it to meet the guidelines.

"You've got a firm surface or a ground that you can't play on. That's a bigger problem, isn't it?

"You've got problems, or you've got real problems."

The Lions and the AFL have had a long running battle with the Gabba's management Stadiums Queensland - which answers to the state government - over the surface.

The AFL wants the permanent cricket pitch replaced by a drop-in wicket, a move again ruled out by Spence.

"I think the AFL are consistent in wanting us to do the drop-in wicket but I'm just giving them the message that I'm going to be very consistent in opposing that so there's no need to continue to prosecute that case," she told reporters in Brisbane.

"I've just been talking to one of the best cricketers of all time in Matt Hayden about how good that wicket is.

"We certainly wouldn't want to do anything to disadvantage cricket."

Hayden could understand the AFL's stance but went into bat for retaining the unique Gabba pitch.

"I can only speak from a cricket sense and I think the Gabba is one of the unique destinations in the planet and it is probably one of the last remaining venues which supports the incredibly intense competitive nature of bat versus ball," he said.

Matthews has been an outspoken critic since his first season in Brisbane in 1999.

While he claims to have "nothing to do" with Harding's mooted legal action, Matthews said he wasn't surprised.

But he said AFL Players Association chief executive Brendon Gale's sighting at Lions headquarters was not due to Harding's plight.

Besides, Matthews said the AFLPA was well aware of the surface.

"You don't need to look at it. We already know what it's like," he said.

"It's either hard or rock hard. That's a fact. How many times can you say it?

"But the powers that be ... don't care. We keep chipping away but all we can do is state the obvious."

An AFL spokesman dismissed any suggestion that the Gabba surface was too hard.

"The surface is inspected before every game and the Gabba falls within our safety guidelines," spokesman Patrick Keane said.

"It would have been inspected again before Saturday's game (against the West Coast)."

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