Swans’ training wings clipped by light rail

Construction of Sydney’s new light rail has impacted the Swans’ pre-season for a second straight year, forcing the 2016 grand finalists to narrow their Moore Park training base.

The Swans have been using a field just 101 metres wide at times this summer with the development of the $2.1 billion CBD and South East Light Rail encroaching on the western side of the multi-use Tramway Oval, which usually measures 114 metres across.

Works in the area began in 2014 and initially reduced the width of the oval to 108 metres, but the Swans have shrunk those boundaries further on occasion to allow players to run laps of the field while training is in progress.

SCG and Allianz Stadium patrons will be serviced by a Moore Park stop upon completion of the light rail project, which will transport passengers from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kensington.

Sydney will have access to their in-season training base, the Sydney Cricket Ground, late next week with the Sheffield Shield clash between NSW and South Australia being played this week, the venue’s last cricketing commitment this summer.

The SCG boasts a width of 136 metres, some 35 metres more than the light rail-impeded Moore Park, while the MCG is 141 metres wide.

Across town, the GWS Giants train on Tom Wills Oval, which is about 120 metres wide. That facility is solely used by the Giants, while the Tramway Oval in the Moore Park precinct is also used by Super Rugby’s NSW Waratahs and up to 450 members of the Swans Academy.

“It’s never been wide but they’ve brought it in because of the trams, and we don’t have anywhere else to train,” Swans coach John Longmire told Fairfax Media.

“Would we rather have a wider ground with not as much traffic on it? In an ideal world you would have a bigger, wider ground, an AFL standard ground with facilities.

“There’s nothing we can do about it so we don’t think it hinders us too much, we don’t think we miss out on anything.

“In the end, we’ve got some grass out there, we’re going to train. Chasing and tackling out there is as important as chasing and tackling at the MCG.

“There’s a gym down there that we’ll do our weights in, it’s not going to stop us from being competitive.”

A Transport for NSW spokesman said construction of the light rail was expected to be completed in 2019, while works in the Tramway Oval area were on track to be finished this year.

The Swans have long been searching for a patch of land in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where they could build a secondary training base, and host reserve-grade matches.

Swans home games in the NEAFL are usually played at the SCG, but matches are occasionally moved to Blacktown International Sportspark, about 40 kilometres away, if the weather is bad and there is a risk of churning up the ground before an AFL fixture.

A lack of training facilities also deterred the Swans from submitting an application for a women’s team in the new AFLW competition.

Most other clubs in the AFL boast sole-purpose training facilities, or will do so in the near future.

Essendon opened a state-of-the-art training base in 2013 near Melbourne Airport, Hawthorn is planning to build a world-class training centre, while Fremantle is committed to a $109 million facility in Cockburn, which will be big enough to replicate every AFL venue.

“If you look at Lakeside [Tramway Oval] versus the MCG, you’ve got the tram coming down there, it gets a high level of traffic, the Waratahs train out here,” Longmire said.

“That’s a challenge for us and it’s a challenge for the game.

“In schools they’re really excited about AFL football, but they’re still looking to get more grounds, more facilities. People are wanting their kids to play AFL footy and getting facilities and grounds is a real challenge.

“We’ve been here for 32 years. There’s so much interest in the game, it’s just a matter of capturing that now and putting it together and supporting it with the infrastructure.”

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