Bankwest Stadium will boast a brand-new surface in time for this week’s triple treat of NRL games, however officials insist the overhaul is not a response to player safety concerns.
The $330 million venue had been scheduled for new turf after this week’s round of NRL matches, beginning with Parramatta facing North Queensland on Friday.
However officials fast-tracked installation by a week to coincide with the return of capped crowds from their coronavirus-enforced lockout.
The decision comes just days after the NRL made an unplanned inspection on the ground after two season-ending ACL injuries to Sydney Roosters players on Friday night.
The independent report described the pitch as “surprisingly good”, paving the way for the league to proceed with their heavy use of the venue.
Part-time tenants the Wests Tigers host Penrith at the ground on Saturday, before Canterbury face South Sydney on Sunday afternoon.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley on Monday was at pains to point out that the re-surfacing was not because of player welfare concerns.
“They have decided, not for any safety reasons but just because they can, to bring that forward by a week,” Annesley said.
“So as of late (Sunday) night, they started that process.”
Stadium officials confirmed the decision was based on presentation, however Annesley said the move would also alleviate any fears about the surface.
“That should certainly allay any fears that anyone has … When you look at the field, it probably wasn’t a pristine-looking field,” he said.
“But, based on all of the assessments that took place, safety was not a concern around continuing to play on that field.”
The NRL on Monday also confirmed the other venues for round eight, which include Canberra, Gold Coast and Manly returning to their traditional homes.
It will be the first time all three clubs have been able to play at their respective home grounds since the coronavirus-enforced lockdown earlier this year.
Only Melbourne and the Warriors remain temporarily displaced due to travel restrictions and COVID-19 protocols.
The Storm will host the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday, and the Warriors face Brisbane on the Central Coast.
All venues are currently allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity, while Victorian residents have been temporarily locked out from buying tickets.