Melbourne Victory have yet to reveal the extent of Terry Antonis’ injury. The midfielder appeared to hurt his knee and – with no one else around him during the incident – it is hard not to expect the worse has occurred.
The state of the pitch was spoken about pre-match and during the game itself, but it reached fever pitch when Antonis went down and in the following hours.
It looks as though the pitch may have been a big contributing factor in the 25-year-old’s early exit from the game.
Sub par pitches in Australian football are nothing new. In fact, they are as part of the furniture as furore over refereeing – both human and video-assisted – decisions, never-ending crowd chat and the semantics of marquees.
Australia’s crowded sporting landscape means that plenty of stadiums take being multipurpose to the extreme.
The Sydney Cricket Ground played host to cricket over the summer and in the month of April alone will see NRL, A-League, AFL, and Super Rugby played on it. The redevelopment of the Sydney Football Stadium has increased the number of events held on the ground.
The curators of the pitch would be well aware that the transition from a cricket surface to one that is suitable for the various football codes is difficult and they have done the best they could considering the circumstances.
In saying this, surely, there is an understanding that despite the situation, the pitch that was dished up simply wasn’t good enough.
For all the talk of inspections from the SCG, the A-League cubs, the match commissioner, the FFA and independent assessors, it is hard to believe no concerns were raised.
It is even harder to believe that players were not consulted about the state of the pitch, as per a statement from the PFA.
The pitch looked like a patchwork and Fox Sports’ Adam Peacock showed viewers post-match the difference between the soft, muddy areas of the ground and the firmer, sand-based sections?
The standard we walk past is the standard we accept and Australian football has been accepting less than impressive pitches for years.
In January 2019, the W-League Melbourne derby was played on a substandard Epping Stadium, with players from both sides lodging complaints with the PFA.
In November 2018, Spotless Stadium had screws and shards of plastic found scattered on the pitch in the hours before kick-off in an A-League clash.
In May 2017, an A-League semi-final at Allianz Stadium was dominated by discussion of how poor the state of the pitch was.
In December 2015, the Phoenix and Victory played on a pitch in Auckland that had been spray painted green to cover up the patches of the ground that had no grass.
These are only a handful of examples and this is on top of things like concerts and other non-sporting events being held at stadiums and creating poor playing surfaces.
Yes, there are stadium contracts and leases that need to be honoured. Capacity, location and things of that nature are always going to be factors in match venue decisions. And there are always going to be other sporting leagues and other major events that use these stadiums and affect the quality of the pitch.
But now is the time to raise our standards. For the sake of the players and officials who call these pitches their workplace. For the sake of fans who don’t want to watch players get hurt on uneven surfaces. For the sake of the spectacle which deserves optimal conditions.
It shouldn’t have taken Terry Antonis hurting himself for these discussions to get serious. And there are still no guarantees that games will only be played on surfaces that are up to scratch after this.
But enough is enough.