Sports fields are Luke's turf

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A love of sport and the courage to look beyond economics has led to Challenger Institute of Technology student Luke Cooney, of Mount Lawley, winning Australia’s premier award for turf graduates.
A graduate of Challenger’s Certificate III in Sports Turf Management, Luke’s National Australian Sports Turf Graduate Award was recently presented at a lavish ceremony on the Gold Coast.
As part of the prize, Luke, now a cricket curator for Hale School in Wembley Downs, will attend a sports field conference in the United States and industry events around Australia.
During the judging process Luke was required to deliver a presentation and field questions from a panel of judges that included legendary former Adelaide Oval curator Les Burdett.
It’s the second time in three years a Challenger graduate has claimed this coveted award, following Rory Bairnsfather-Scott’s win in 2012. Rory went on to work as a groundsman at the WACA cricket ground.
The defining moment in Luke’s new career came when he was in the third year of an economics degree.
“I was dreading the idea of spending 80 hours a week stuck in an office making other people rich. At the same time the English curator at my local cricket club got homesick with six weeks to go in the season, leaving the club without anyone to roll the pitches,” Luke said.
“I put my hand up and, with nothing more than the knowledge gained from watching (late television commentator) Tony Greig sticking a key in the wicket and some welcome advice from a WACA groundsman, got through the season.
“The next season the club offered me the role of curator, which I accepted with open arms, and a career in the turf industry was born.”
Cricket pitch preparation is a craft that takes years to master and one in which Luke is quickly forging a name for himself. He completed his apprenticeship during a five-year stint at UWA and now prepares pitches alongside Hale’s director of cricket, former Australian Test cricket captain Kim Hughes.
Luke singled out his Challenger lecturers as driving forces behind his career transition and subsequent success.
“Without a doubt, the best thing about my studies was the knowledge, experience and guidance of my lecturers Wayne Miller, John Forrest, Jeff Austen and Rob Williams,” he said.
“The Challenger course at its Murdoch campus really does equip you to succeed in this competitive industry.”
The Certificate III in Sports Turf Management provides students with the skills to prepare cricket pitches and grounds, tennis courts, bowling greens, golf courses and ovals. The course can be completed as part of an apprenticeship or through full-time or part-time study.
CAPTION: National Australian Sports Turf Graduate Award winner Luke Cooney, who studied with Challenger's Science and Environment school.
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