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Australia's gift to the stadium
Joseph Romanos talks
to Westpac Stadium
and Basin Reserve
head groundsman Brett
Sipthorpe about moving
from Australia, living on
Russell Crowe Island,
and a famous David
Brett Sipthorpe on drop-in pitches: ''They weight 35 tonnes and we move them at half a kilometre an hour.''
Were you keen on sport at
I was into every sport. Coming
from Melbourne, AFL was my big
winter sport and it was cricket in
summer. But golf, tennis . . . any-
Did that interest lead you
into this job?
Definitely. I did OK at sport,
but was never going to be an
international player. I figured this
would be another way of getting
Most people would go down
the coaching, administration
or media routes.
It was in our family. There had
been a couple of curators on my
mum s side and I always wanted
to do it. I was always especially
interested in cricket pitches.
How did you train?
I did an apprenticeship at Wes-
ley College in Melbourne and
ended up working there about
What prompted your move
to New Zealand?
I missed out on a couple of jobs
and thought it was time I looked
outside the square, so I applied for
a job in Whangarei.
How was that?
It was fantastic. Great friends,
great weather. Trouble was, I was
far too comfortable for a bloke of
six years ago.
What is your job here?
I m the turf manager for the
Westpac Stadium and the Basin
What did you know about
Wellington before you
I had the wrong impression. I d
flown in a couple of times and the
sky was blue and the weather was
beautiful. I ve grown to under-
stand the weather since then!
So what do you think of Wel-
I absolutely love it. We ve
bought a house in Karori and I
can get to work in 10 minutes.
Living that close to the centre of
Melbourne, my house would cost
$2 million. I love how easy it is to
get around Wellington, and the
waterfront, the restaurants and
bars. If the weather was better,
everyone in the world would want
to live here. I didn t expect to live
in New Zealand so long, but we
feel very settled here.
Does the weather make it
difficult for a groundsman?
Definitely. Try putting covers
on in that wind. But actually, the
weather is not dissimilar to Mel-
How do you feel about con-
certs on your fields?
There have been five since I ve
been at the stadium. They are
challenging. My preference is not
to be there for the set-up, but to
just clean up the mess afterwards.
Sometimes the turnaround is
tough. AC/DC played two nights,
and five days later the Sevens
There are some famous
examples of grounds not
recovering in time after a
The one people here talk about
is Bowie, with a one-day cricket
international following. A storm
delayed the clean-up and in the
end apparently they were still
rolling out the turf while the play-
ers were warming up!
Do you watch the shows?
Too right! If they re going to
stuff up my turf, at least I can
enjoy the show.
How do you get the lines so
straight when marking a field?
It is a real skill. Our guys take
their time. You mark the lines
with string and then paint by
hand. It s not even 1 per cent of
our job, but if the line markings
are crooked, it s a terrible look.
I suppose drop-in cricket
pitches have arrived since you
were an apprentice.
Yes. New Zealand and Aust-
ralia are the only countries that
have drop-ins. Other countries
have dedicated cricket parks.
Drop-ins make it difficult, but
once you get them right, they re
How heavy is a drop-in
They weight 35 tonnes and we
move them at half a kilometre an
hour, so it s not a process that can
How many staff have you
We have five fulltime staff and
one casual in summer. Normally
two of the fulltime staff are
Does the Basin Reserve take
up much of your time?
Not so much. We maintain the
practice wickets there -- the new
ones up the back of the Brierley
Pavilion, and about a dozen on the
field. And we prepare the cricket
pitches during summer. Most of
my time is spent at the stadium.
Especially with the Phoenix based
here, there s very little down-time
at the stadium.
What sport have you
especially enjoyed since you
arrived in Wellington?
I loved the Rugby World Cup.
That South Africa-Australia
quarter-final was awesome. The
other big one while I ve been here
was the Bahrain-New Zealand
World Cup football match. That
was unbelievable. The noise and
the crowd involvement was amaz-
ing. I ll never forget the crowd
reaction when New Zealand
Are you still an Aussie? Who
do you support when New Zea-
land plays Australia?
I quietly support Australia, but
I m not very loud about it! My
brother says I m on Russell Crowe
Island, about halfway across the
Tasman, with no country to call
home! Kiwis and Aussies are very
similar. Aussies will always sup-
port the Kiwis if their own team
isn t involved.
Can you do the haka?
No. I have too much respect for
the haka to ruin it with my ver-
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