A real grassroots rugby success

NICE OFFICE: Blair Christiansen on the manicured turf of Eden Park.
NICE OFFICE: Blair Christiansen on the manicured turf of Eden Park.

When the All Blacks take the field at Eden Park they are running out on to some of the nation's most hallowed turf.

But behind the scenes there is one man responsible for maintaining Auckland's most prized lawn and it's a job he relishes.

Eden Park's turf manager Blair Christiansen says it was his love of golf that got him into the industry.

"When I was at school I played a lot of golf and prior to leaving school I inquired at local golf courses up north about turf work and apprenticeships," he says.

In 1991 Christiansen started as an apprentice at Mangawhai Golf Club just north of Auckland.

It was there he honed his craft on the greens and fairways while finding time to take extra papers on turf management and working his way down to a scratch handicap.

"I was playing a lot of golf and working on courses, I sort of overdosed on golf and wanted a change."

Christiansen made the move to Auckland in 1995 and was hired as Cornwall Cricket Club's groundsman.

There he prepared pitches and outfields for domestic cricket matches.

In 2000 he was hired by Eden Park as a groundsman. He became assistant turf manager in 2006 and last year was given the top job.

The 40-year-old Whenuapai resident manages six staff and they work all hours to make sure Eden Park is looking its best on game day. "The team doesn't have a finish time, we just stay on until what needs to be done gets done."

"On a normal summer's day it's about 10 to 12 hours, six or seven days a week."

"It's difficult but all the guys understand that. It's not suited to everyone, some people like the 9 to 5 but others like the variety."

A lot of work goes into the turf in the lead-up to a match. There are a number of treatments to make the grass look its best and to ensure it is in good health.

"I like the ability to create quality in what is a relatively small area compared to other turf situations."

Christiansen says turf management is a great career choice for someone who likes a job where no day is the same.

"It's really challenging, it can be stressful at times but that's a good thing, it brings out qualities that you may not have thought you had.

"There is never a moment that you're bored because you always have something to deliver."

East And Bays Courier