Sunday, November 11, 2018

COULD GRASS HOCKEY RETURN TO BRIGG RECREATION GROUND?


Brigg Hockey Club's men's, ladies' and junior teams continue to make good use of the excellent new 'Blue Astro' synthetic and floodlit pitch provided at the town's recreation ground by North Lincolnshire Council.
Synthetic pitches began to replace the traditional grass variety in the 1980s and by the turn of the current century there were very few league games still being played on grass, with the Brigg club hiring synthetic pitches in Scunthorpe and Lincoln for home games, although the men's 5ths were still using the grass pitch at the Rec, nearest Wrawby Road, for some fixtures.
So with 'Astro' today the only surface for senior league hockey, Brigg Blog was taken aback to discover there's a suggested move at international level to return some games to grass. Read about it in full here...
This revelation caused us to chuckle, as we always spoke up in favour of retaining some grass matches for Brigg teams while serving on the local club's committee in the 1990s. We were something of a lone voice, though.
In our view, hockey was always more interesting when you had to battle the elements and the surface as well as the opposition.
Skilful young players from other Yorkshire League clubs always found playing on grass at Brigg Rec very difficult - even though our surface was one of the best.
This gave the old hands in Brigg's lower team a distinct advantage.
Those brought up playing on grass can easily switch to synthetic pitches, but youngsters who have only played on 'Astro' find adapting to grass very difficult indeed, if not impossible.
While on 'Astro' you can push the ball and it goes a long way, on grass you need to strike the ball hard for it to travel any distance on grass, and stopping and controlling a bobbling ball fired at you on the turf is a skill that's difficult to master.
Grass is also much more forgiving on knees and other joints, helping to prolong playing careers.
Being 'legged up' on grass is no real problem when you hit the deck, unlike the 'sand burns' (and worse) that can result from many falls on hard synthetic pitches.
Brigg Blog will be keeping a keen eye on this new move to re-introduce grass hockey at international level.
Will it filter down to club level?
To today's hockey players in Brigg we say: Remember the old saying 'What goes around, comes around.'
In the 1980s and 1990s, there were three grass hockey pitches at The Rec, which meant all home games could start and finish at the same time at the same venue.
This meant that players in two or three home teams could each take their opposition to Brigg Town Football Club's Hawthorns clubhouse or the Queen's Arms for a bite to eat and a drink.
That important social side of the sport - dubbed Apres Hockey by Brigg men's club president Len Marshall - was hit hard by the introduction of a solitary 'Astro' pitch at each club, rather than several grass pitches being available.
For this meant staggered starting times and might see one Brigg team playing a Yorkshire League away game at one venue at 11.30am, while other club matches started elsewhere in 'God's Own County' at 1.30pm and 3.30pm.
On occasions, some of the lower Brigg teams travelled into Yorkshire for games on synthetic surfaces at 5.30pm or even later.
This meant different Brigg sides arriving at a chosen watering hole in our town anywhere between mid-afternoon and 8pm, which did not help when it came to socialising or selling raffle tickets and other fundraising initiatives.
However, by then, "3 O'clock on grass" was seen as something of a joke and not the way forward as the 21st century approached. But we shall see.
It would certainly be good to have more sportsmen and women using Brigg Recreation Ground on a Saturday afternoon and the areas of grass once occupied by the three pitches are still there, the 'Blue Astro' being built on the second of the senior men's football pitches.

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