Queensland Sports Minister Mick de Brennii (right) and Gabba venue manager Blair Conaghan inspecting the pitch following the Adele concerts at the Gabba
Queensland Sports Minister Mick de Brennii (right) and Gabba venue manager Blair Conaghan inspecting the pitch following the Adele concerts at the Gabba STUART LAYT

Drawing a Lion in the sand over Gabba turf war

BRISBANE Lions triple premiership ruckman Clark Keating says .

Keating's comments follow The Courier-Mail's story that QC wants the inaugural AFL Women's grand final and the Lions' first two home games moved because the cricket pitch area needs time to adequately recover after the Adele concert.

QC is concerned a pitch that has been earmarked for the Ashes Test at the Gabba on November 23 will be affected if the AFL stages games at the ground during the next six weeks.

Keating said AFL players already had safety concerns about the pitch block, which is of a different texture and firmness to the remainder of the ground.

"It's quite bizarre (they want to move the games)," said Keating.

"It seemed time for a drop-in pitch when I was playing for safety reasons and to stop disruption to the AFL season.

"If there is the flexibility or the option for a drop-in pitch I think it would be better for all players and it's something that should be explored."

During his decade-long career, which included being a member of the 2001-03 premiership teams, Keating sustained a serious knee injury which he said Lions' medical staff partly attributed to the Gabba cricket pitches.

"I got acute patella tendinitis during the 1999 season and missed all of 2000 because of it and at that time, talking to physios and doctors, the pitch played a part of that because I was playing in the ruck," Keating said.


Melbourne, September 17, 2004. Injured Brisbane Lion's Clark Keating and Brad Scott stretch during the teams training session before the semi-finals match against Geelong at the MCG tomorrow. (AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING
Brisbane Lion Clark Keating in his playing days with Nigel Lappin JOE CASTRO

Former Brisbane Lions coach and AFL player of the century Leigh Matthews said it appeared Gabba curator Kevin Mitchell was more concerned about cricket than the AFL and his focus was already on a Test match in November.

"I find it amazing, it's March, November is eight months off, and they are worried about what's happening now is going to affect the pitch in November," Matthews said.

"Even without drop-in pitches you start to think 'what, you can't get the pitch ready in eight months?'"

Matthews said a drop-in pitch would be ideal but was highly unlikely purely from an economic viewpoint.

He said with 11 AFL matches scheduled at the Gabba this year, it would be hard to justify the cost of drop-in pitches for so few games.

"Any ground that has a cricket pitch and tries to share the ground with football has its issues," Matthews said.

"You've got drop in pitches at the MCG and Adelaide, but it's not going to happen here, partly because of economics.

"It would be a better football ground if it didn't have a centre pitch, that goes without saying ... is the cost justified for 11 games of footy? That's a fair point. If there were two teams at the Gabba it would be a stronger argument."

QC referred The Courier-Mail to its previous position that drop-in pitches were not an option.