Mark Carboon at Assumption College in Victoria is certainly a workhorse.
The Broadford local has spent 21 years looking after the 14-acre property in Kilmore, and since 2007 has worked closely with Brother Xavier Collins.
When Mark first arrived at the school, the bottom grounds were just dirt and the main oval was the only sports field that was actually in use.
Now, all the grounds have been fully drained and irrigated by contractors under his watchful eye.
Mark says after so many years juggling all his duties he has the balance fairly well worked out.
“The footy season isn’t too bad because over time you know where you have got to be and what you’ve got to get done.
“Cricket is probably a bit different, there are some big hours involved in cricket.
“We run three turf wicket tables, the main oval and there is a new ground right up the top.
“Brother Xavier spends hours rolling our wickets.
All the machinery that Mark uses is from John Deere because he says it is a lot easier to get machinery serviced by the one company.
Assumption College has always been known as a premier sporting school and has a rich history of successful AFL players, as well as cricketers.
Mark says there has been about 120 or 140 AFL players to come out of the college.
“In modern times we have had Michael Barlow come out of here, who probably would have won a Brownlow Medal if he didn’t break his leg two years ago,” says Mark proudly.
“Also the two Talias, one at Adelaide and one at the Western Bulldogs at the moment,
“And Richard Douglas was a champion player here.
“Then all the way back to Shane Crawford who went to school here and then won the Brownlow.
“The first thing Shane did was bring it [the medal] up here and put it around Ray Carroll’s neck.”
Ray Carroll is an absolute legend in junior sport in Australia and coached the footy and cricket at Assumption from the 1960s and 70s until he retired in 2011.
The renowned Carroll Oval at Assumption is named after him and the Victorian Government built a bronze statue of him in his honour adjacent to the oval.
In addition to the Carroll Oval there are other grounds that are used on the property.
The bottom grounds are used for junior sports such as soccer, which Mark says has become increasingly popular with the male and female students.
“The girls sport is now aligned with the AGSV and the APS, so because of this there is a lot more sport involved than there used to be.
“Nowadays, all the grounds will be full of sport on a Saturday and sometimes there will even be a senior game on a Friday.”
There is also a new synthetic hockey field, which is fantastic news for Mark as it is one less turf field he has to prepare. All the netball courts are currently being refurbished too.
According to Mark, Assumption basically used to be a boarding school.
When he first started at the school there were approximately 240 boarders but in recent years this number had decreased to around 70.
With the completion of new boarding houses in February, numbers of boarders are already looking like they are on the rise.
Mark’s next plan is to look at reconstructing the wickets on the Carroll Oval because they are about 60 years old and very domed.
Because of this it is difficult to get any pace into the wickets.
“Since Ray left, the new cricket coach probably expects a lot harder, faster wickets and I can’t produce them simply because of the quality of the turf.
“A reconstruction is certainly going to happen within this next year.
“Our footy will probably finish by the end of July so it will certainly be on the to do list.
“I have done the last two wicket tables by myself but I think this one I might take it to outside contractors, just purely due to a time factor.”
All the grounds at Assumption are couch grass base, which Mark says is a “god- send” in the hotter parts of summer.
He also says he was amazed how well the couch grass stood up when the area was wracked with bushfires a couple of years ago in the horrific Black Saturday fires.
“The fires went right up along the back of the school.
“I lost the power to my pumps and everything. We weren’t allowed on site for three days because the school was closed.
“I basically lost all my winter type grasses but the couch grass was underneath and actually kept going.
“So we purposefully did that with the couch grass for water requirements because even though it can go a bit motley coming into winter, it gives me great grass coverage in the summer,” he says earnestly.
“I will oversow with rye grass for the AFL season simply for the colour factor.
“The players used to think the grounds were hard when the couch when dormant and off colour. So now we oversow so they look more lush and green, even though the hardness hasn’t actually changed it has stopped any complaints,” Mark laughs.
Mark says they also developed the top oval around six years ago, as before that it wasn’t really used and the grass was about two metres high!
“We purely needed more space and that ground has a six wicket table and we needed more cricket facilities.
“Now we have got the practise nets and turf nets.
“It is a pure couch ground and in the fires it was used as an airport, the main staging for the helicopters going out to the King Lake fires.”
There is also a gardener, Christine Hede, who is employed in a one-person operation.
In addition, general maintenance contractors help out when needed too.
Mark says he and the gardener work pretty separately and have both been there so long they know what they have to do.
The biggest change that Mark has observed in his 21 years at the college is the sheer growth of the school.
“This growth will probably lead to some constructions of new grounds.
“Whether one groundsman can do it remains to be seen, there will probably have to be some big changes there.
“The Brothers who run and own the school, actually also own all the way up to the road which is about another 60 or 80 acres up the back, so it could grow to be a mile bigger if they wanted it to.”
Mark says that due to the location of Assumption College compared to the other AGSV schools, they can be a bit isolated.
For this reason he doesn’t get the opportunity to connect with other people in the industry as much as some others, so tries to make the most of trade days and events.
“Compared to other schools, our grounds rate very well for what we have got, but I think Trinity is someone to look to, their grounds always look pretty good, they have a good setup down there although I think they probably have a fairly good budget too!”
Article courtesy of turfmate – www.turfmate.com.au