Players are now arriving. The first informal practice should be underway this morning provided the rain eases. Formal practice sessions on allocated lawns start tomorrow.
It is overcast and cloudy. Some rain today and yesterday. It is expected to clear with hotter weather by Sunday - to 30C.
All lawns are in excellent condition. Slow with the rain, but will quicken with the hotter weather coming.
Rich River lawns are to their usual high standard. Lawn 6 at the back of the clubhouse has had a significant amount of work on it in the last 6 months and is unrecognisable from the lawn I saw 6 months ago. It has had the last dusting of sand and fertilizer and the complete grass coverage will be exposed when the sand has been worked in. The hoops, set on the gauge, are easy to run.
Lawn 1 - the bowling green - very true and the fastest of the lawns. The grass will be allowed to grow for a few days before cutting again.
Lawns 2 to 6 are croquet lawns, very true some sparseness of grass coverage around one or two of the corners, additionally sprinklers heads set in the turf will have artificial turf glued to the sprinkler heads to fill the holes - excellent lawns but easy?
Lawn 6 is the old driving practice area on the golf course. It has received a considerable amount of attention from the maintenance people at the club. It is now faster than the croquet lawns and not quiet as true as the others. But that is relative as the lawns here are very true. The west boundary is a bit bumpy and appears to roll off (I have only hit a few balls on the lawn) but true and the east boundary with a minor roll off 12yds north - hit hard and it is fine. Some very minor imperfections around the court.
The lawns will be cut daily.
These lawns are better than any lawns recently used in the Australian Open in Sydney.
Shepparton lawns have had a significant amount of work in the last three months and are in excellent condition. The lawns will be firmer than Rich River and the hoops set in harder ground. These will also be packed with sphagnum moss to tighten.
Lawn 1 has some minor repair holes that will fill quickly with grass if the weather is hotter. I expect the surface to be very good by the end of the first test. The odd croquet shot may be in trouble if no care is taken. Roquets should not be effected
Lawns 2 and 3 are excellent. True and the bumps in the lawns are no longer there (again only from a few hits and reports).
All hoops will be set to the lower tolerance mark. The setting for the event is an internal width which is 1/16 inch wider than the largest diameter of any ball to be used on the relevant court with a downwards tolerance of 1/32 inch.
We are using Dawson International balls, from Croquet Australia stocks of balls. Measurements have been consistent and a minimum setting of 3 5/8 plus a 1/32 of an inch will be the goal. Packing the holes with dry sphagnum moss helps to tighten the hoops when the moss absorbs moisture and swells. We will do this often.
I would expect a high percentage of peeling breaks through out the series. The lawns will encourage and probably force players to do this. Strong roquet skills could dominate the event. Peeling breaks, reducing these opportunities, will win games -my predictions at least.
The team order of play will be handed in by Team Captains on Friday at 4.00pm. We will publish as quickly as possible. The order of play can be changed between tests.
I will get some home comparisons from players to relate the lawns, speeds and hoop settings better