AFL facing $1 million MCG headache as Ed Sheeran sparks mad scramble

Two massive shows from Ed Sheeran at the MCG has sparked a race against time with the AFL season looming.

Ed Sheeran and Patrick Cripps.
Two massive Ed Sheeran shows at the MCG have left staff scrambling lay down new turf before Patrick Cripps and Carlton take on Richmond in round one of the AFL season. Pictures: Getty Images

Ground staff at the MCG are scrambling, but the official word is that round one of the AFL will be good to go despite the home of Aussie rules resembling a construction site just a week before the ball is bounced. A major effort to lay new turn on significant sections of the ground is underway after a series of packed-out Ed Sheeran shows at the MCG.

More than 215,000 people attended two shows from the British musician in the lead-up to the season, with the resulting refurbishment of the surface costing more than one million dollars - a bill footed by tour promotors. Constructing the stage and set for Sheeran's two shows was a massive undertaking, necessitating some 137 trucks to transport everything in and out.

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Combined with the massive foot traffic on the MCG surface and the turf was in dire need of a change - but the sight of swathes of the ground covered in sand a week before Richmond take on Carlton in the AFL season opener left fans wondering if things had been cut a little too close.

It'll be a week long job to haul in and lay down the turf in the biggest job MCG staff have had since the entire playing surface was replaced in 2014. Despite the ground looking decidedly second-hand on Thursday, MCC general facilities manager Peter Wearne told Channel 9 he was confident it would be picture perfect when the AFL gets underway.

“It’s a big job. It’s our biggest turf replacement job since 2014 where we replaced the whole field,” Wearne said. “Every venue worldwide that’s had this concert would have exactly the same. They would be replacing around 10,000 square metres.

“Not only can we host sporting events, but also major concerts. As Ed Sheeran said himself, it’s the largest crowd he’s ever played in anywhere in the world. It’s pretty special.

“I’m not nervous at all. We do turf replacement all the time.”

MCG in race against time to be ready for round one of AFL

In addition to the usual Thursday night showdown between Richmond and Carlton, two additional matches will be played at the MCG in round one. In welcome news for Tigers fans, former club captain Trent Cotchin will be available to play after escaping a match review officer citation with a fine.

Cotchin was found guilty of misconduct after driving his forearm into Melbourne's James Harmes as the pair tangled on the ground. His $1500 penalty can be reduced to $1000 with an early guilty plea.

Trent Cotchin.
Trent Cotchin is available for round one after escaping with a fine for a pre-season incident with Melbourne's James Harmes. (Photo by Jonathan DiMaggio/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images) (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Similarly, Collingwood's Jordan De Goey was in danger of missing the Magpies' blockbuster clash with premiers Geelong on March 17 after he dumped Hawthorn recruit Lloyd Meek in a heavy tackle. The Magpies star was charged with rough conduct - assessed as careless conduct, low impact and high contact - and was handed a $3000 fine which can be reduced to $2000 with an early guilty plea.

GWS ruckman Braydon Preuss escaped sanction over an awkward tackle on Gold Coast's Tom Berry and can play against Adelaide on March 19. Preuss was suspended three times last season.

with AAP

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