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AFLPA concerned about Etihad surface
By Adam Cooper
19:16 AEST Mon Jul 26 2010

The AFL Players Association has forecast that the Etihad Stadium surface could one day prompt legal action if a player suffers a serious injury there.

The much-maligned, shifting surface was the subject of a crisis meeting on Monday after AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis contacted the league and stadium management after watching Hawthorn and St Kilda players constantly slip over during Friday night's draw.

Finnis said the majority of AFL players wanted something done about improving the surface, and if not, for the AFL to consider relocating games.

"The players slipping over on Friday night, in situations where in some respects it looked like an ice skating rink, is unacceptable and that's as bad as I've seen it," he said.

A decade ago former Carlton player Luke O'Sullivan successfully sued his old club and the league by alleging the Waverley Park surface contributed to the serious knee injury he suffered in 1993, and Finnis on Monday said Etihad Stadium could prompt similar legal action if things did not improve.

"The stakes are high in AFL football and any player who is injured, who might miss games, has got a right to look at the basis for that injury," he said.

Finnis said players had mixed opinions over whether the Etihad Stadium surface was unsafe or just unacceptable, but said most were unimpressed at seeing players slipping when the turf gave way.

"Certainly when players see their colleagues from their own team or from other teams suffer the kind of injury we saw early this year with (the Western Bulldogs') Shaun Higgins (who injured an ankle) then that sends a concern through players," he said.

AFL football operations general manager Adrian Anderson said there was no evidence to suggest the roofed stadium was dangerous, but admitted the surface on the weekend was unacceptable.

"We've spoken to our medicos and there's nothing to suggest, no evidence to suggest, that the venue is any more dangerous than any other venue," Anderson said.

"But, by the same token, the slipperiness of the surface on Friday night was unacceptable.

"We acknowledge that and that's what Etihad Stadium (staff) will be acting on this weekend."

Anderson said ground staff would add more regular top dressing and aerate the turf to provide players with more traction.

He said stadium management would also advise clubs on what type of boots were best used.

An AFLPA spokesman said the association was encouraged by the measures ground staff would take, and pleased the league and stadium management had acknowledged there was a problem.

Both parties have previously rejected any concerns.

But Finnis said players had been upset in the past when told the issue had more to do with the boots they wore.

Hawthorn skipper Sam Mitchell said over the weekend he had tried different pairs on Friday night and still found the ground slippery.

Anderson said the AFL would wait until after this weekend's games - Essendon and the Saints on Friday night and the Bulldogs and North Melbourne on Sunday - before considering further action.

The AFLPA is also keen for stadium management not to schedule concerts at the ground over the summer, to give the turf the best chance of improving given how little natural light it gets.

Etihad Stadium will host a Tri-Nations rugby match on Saturday night between Australia and New Zealand, and both camps were on Monday unsure what to expect.

Visiting soccer teams have also been critical of the surface recently.