Meet a Grounds Manager

Interviews with real people in real roles across our industry.

Name: Matthew Oliver
Role: Grounds Manager, Suncorp Stadium
Qualifications: Certificate III in Sports Management, Diploma in Sports Turf Management, Diploma in Ornamental Horticulture

Interested in finding out more about a career as a Groundskeeper?

Q&A with Matthew Oliver

I actually got into it playing cricket in the UK. As a pretty keen cricketer, I took a strong interest into how wickets and outfields were maintained. Obviously there’s no cricket pitches here, but they are transferable skills. 

I got into this pathway as an 18-year-old. I started off on a small golf course and then honed my skills at a community-based level. I actually applied and was lucky enough to get a job at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, where I started off at the bottom of the pile before working my way up. I’ve progressed from being just a groundsperson, to a senior groundsperson, and then into managerial roles.

I did an apprenticeship on a golf course in Melbourne while completing a Certificate III in Sports Management. This involved school-based training and an on-the-job component. I also have Diplomas in Sports Turf Management and Ornamental Horticulture.

I have a lot of meetings throughout the day. This involves meeting a lot of stakeholders in various departments around Suncorp Stadium. 

A typical day for us would be preparing for the next event. We generally start off with a ‘Toolbox Chat’ in the morning, where we outline what jobs we’re going to do for the week. Myself and my team then work out who is doing what jobs and how we are going to stick to the timeframes so everything gets done appropriately. 

Tasks that relate to the work on the ground include mowing, fertilising, watering, aerating and top dressing. As you get closer to match days, you back off these tasks and start line marking and inserting goal posts. It’s no fluke that it does look good when you turn on the TV.

My favourite part of the job would be preparing for different events. Every event has its own requirements, with rugby league, rugby union, soccer, and concerts all using Suncorp. They’ve all got their different idiosyncrasies. The surface-to-ball interaction can differ as well, so we have to make sure that we get that right. 

I actually watch every game that we have here. I take great pride in watching the soccer, rugby league/union, and concerts that we cater for. We’re all invested in the role that we have

One of the things I often speak to apprentices about is to make sure you’re asking questions all the time. Our industry is small, but really diverse. I’m still learning every day. I’ll often converse with other groundsmen around the country just to make sure that we are continuously learning. 

For those looking to enter this industry, keep an open mind, ask questions of your peers, and be really passionate about working in this sector. 

Come in with an open mind and be willing to learn. A lot of our job is quite physical, so looking after yourself is one of the keys to success.

You have to be passionate about the job you’re going to do. This is not a mundane 9 to 5 job where you clock on and clock off. You’ve got to be invested in the work you’re doing. For those who stick at it, this is a really rewarding career.

One thing most people will not know is that there is actually a fair bit of science that goes into the maintenance of the field. We get the soil tested three times a year. Based on the grasses needs and the weather conditions, we put on different elements of fertiliser. It can be quite an intense management program that we run here to ensure the playing surface is at its best for all of our events.

A career in the turf industry allows you to work outside and not be bound by office restrictions. You also have a good work-life balance as days normally start and finish earlier than a 9-5. This gives you the freedom to spend more time with friends after work or on weekends. 

The main enjoyment is found in having a focus on preparing sports fields for both community and elite-level venues.

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