Wakefield coach Mark Applegarth has his say on pitch drama

James Gordon
Wakefield Trinity stadium Super League Mark Applegarth

General view of The Be Well Support Stadium before the Betfred Super League Round 1 match Wakefield Trinity vs Catalans Dragons at The Be Well Support Stadium, Wakefield, United Kingdom, 17th February 2023 (Photo by Steve Flynn/News Images)

Wakefield coach Mark Applegarth doesn’t want dramas surrounding the pitch at Belle Vue to detract from the task at hand as they prepare to face Huddersfield on Friday night.

Such has been the attention on the pitch that the game was at risk at not being played at all, before an inspection by RFL officials deemed it suitable to play.

Much fuss has been made since Catalans reported an array of injuries after playing at Wakefield in the opening round of the Super League season.

The newly-laid pitch is hybrid, so consists of both real and fake grass, with the issues attributed to the slowness of the grass growth due to the time of year.

Sources close to Catalans have alleged that the top of the surface was covered in sand, and it caused a number of players to suffer cuts and infections following the round one clash.

The new pitch is part of the ongoing renovations at Belle Vue, which includes the eye-catching new east stand.

Mark Applegarth: “The same for both teams”

Wakefield club officials have insisted that the playing surface will be one of the best in the league once it has bedded in properly.

Mark Applegarth said: “There’s a bit more grass to grow on it. As you’d expect at this time of year, it has had a bit of use. It is probably barer than you’d like but I don’t want to use it as an excuse.

“It’s not ideal but it’s not the reason why you are going to win or lose a game. It’s the same for both teams at the end of the day.

“We’ve been cracking on with it, its going to be a great surface once it is up and running.

“With it being a newly laid field, I think its had a three-month bedding in period.

“Obviously it’s had a few issues but I don’t want it to be about the field. I’d rather it be about the lads who are playing on the field.

“It is what it is, we just deal with it”

“I was on the pitch inspection yesterday. The grounds people that laid the field said give it a month or to and it will probably be one of the best playing surfaces in the league. You’ve got to listen to the experts on it. Its not ideal at the moment but its the same for both teams so we’ll crack on and deal with it.”

The hybrid pitch is designed to be made up of 95% real grass, though as it hasn’t grown as quickly as anticipated, the percentage of plastic and sand is considerably the other way.

After their 38-24 win over Wakefield, Catalans coach Steve McNamara was very critical of the pitch and he was without several players as a result for their next game against Leigh.

McNamara said: “That was a pretty tough game on a pitch where the boys have got no skin left on their legs – they are red raw.

“It’s an issue, a big issue I think, for Wakefield moving forward for their players.

“I hadn’t seen anything like before in terms of the blisters and the blood in the dressing room from that field.

“If that’s the outcome, then I’m definitely not a fan of that pitch. It’s going to create issues, I’m sure.”

Lose-lose no matter what Wakefield do

Mark Applegarth admitted that his own side have had issues to deal with. But says it won’t be used as an excuse because it’s the same for both sides.

Forward Jordan Crowther acknowledged that a few players had picked up scrapes, though they were being managed well.

Crowther said: “It’s not ideal I guess, but for us we are just concentrating on the game. We’ve trained on it all pre-season, since after Christmas. We know what its like and we’re all fine with it. It’s just a few people whinging and moaning and things like that.

“Some fans complain about how run down our stadium was and the pitch was, so the club have rightly so tried to sort things out and then it backfires on them and you get more negative comments about it, so I think its a lose-lose no matter Wakey do at this current climate.

“We’ve been training on it for god knows how long now so we are sort of used to the field. We’ve just moved away now to try and let some grass grow. I think it was a tough time for the club because we needed a re-laying.

“If we re-laid it at the start of the year in the middle of winter, you are hardly going to get any grass growth but then if you do it during the season in spring time, then we’d have to move away from the club and play our games elsewhere so its a lose-lose really no matter which way the club took it.

“We are going to struggle at the minute with hardly any sun and there being cold, freezing temperatures, but it’s not as bad as people are making out.

“When the spring months start to come, I think we’ll see some grass come through; and it’ll probably be one of the best surfaces in the league”

Wakefield are next at home against Hull KR on March 24.

Overuse was flagged as an issue by Huddersfield coach Ian Watson earlier in the week, when he called for the game to be forfeited if Wakefield couldn’t get the pitch ready in time.

Championship side Featherstone offered the use of their facilities. A switch to the John Smith’s Stadium was never likely to be a consideration.

Watson said: “I think all this could have been avoided with a little bit more proper planning. It looks like it’s been a bit overused since it was put down and not allowed the grass to knit.”

The Giants are already a game behind. They sat out the first round due to scheduled opponents St Helens being in Australia.

READ MORE: Wakefield chairman defends teething problems on “first-class” playing surface