Sports Turf Management student Nathan Andrews has taken out the prestigious Graduate of the Year award at the annual national awards given by the Sports Turf Association.
Nathan, who completed the Certificate III in Sports Turf Management apprenticeship and has gone on to study the Diploma of Sports Turf Management, was thrilled to have won the award.
It can benefit his career and bring potential job opportunities, but first Nathan needs to decide how to make the most of his prize – a trip to the United States to tour stadiums such as American college football arenas and baseball fields.
‘I’m very fortunate and incredibly grateful,’ he says.
‘I consider myself a pretty driven person and winning this award allows me to dream big about my future. One day I’d like to be playing a significant role in the turf industry but where exactly that is I’m not sure.’
A natural progression
Nathan says he ‘sort of fell into the trade, which apparently is pretty common in turf’ when he saw an ad for an apprentice at his football club.
‘I’ve spent my whole life playing sport, it’s not a trade I’d really thought of but once you read about it, it’s working on sports fields and I thought “that’s perfect, that’s what I want to do”.
‘Pretty quickly I realised I enjoyed what I was doing and I had a passion for it and a few years later it’s led to this.’
He explains that his Certificate III studies covered everything from irrigation, plant pathology, botany, construction to renovation, and the Diploma is the next level again, going deeper into plant biology, pathogens and diseases, and also subjects such as managing staff and finance.
From state to national
Nathan, who works for Citywide Service Solutions, had to put some serious thought into his future as part of the award process, after being nominated by his Melbourne Polytechnic teachers at the Fairfield campus. He also won the state award, on the way to his national victory.
‘While being a tradesman and still working on the tools it would be good to be head curator at an international stadium, the MCG for example as obviously I love footy and cricket, so preparing the MCG for Grand Final Day or the Boxing Day Test would be pretty special.
‘But also in our industry you separate yourself with your knowledge and I’m fortunate where I don’t mind being in the classroom and I enjoyed learning more. So if I’m ever in a position where I’m not on the tools anymore, it’s more of a role such as a consultant or a coordinator in the turf industry.’
Clarity through knowledge
‘Even when I started I wasn’t aware of the different pathways that can become available to you once you’re qualified,’ he says. ‘If you’re willing to work there’s so many different areas in the industry.
‘Other benefits are you get to work outside, you get to work on sports fields. If that’s what you’re passionate about it’s a great job.
‘I was fortunate to have great teachers at Melbourne Polytechnic that helped me along the way and helped me get to where I am now.’
Teacher Mark Burchell was rapt with Nathan’s success and says it was because his ‘in class behaviour and attitude were excellent, his willingness to do his work, he would always ask questions, a good leader, he had good leadership qualities and he’ll go on to lead’.
Passion for sport with a difference
Mark also says sports turf management is a great career for people with a love for sport and being outdoors.
And when a major sporting event is on, they are the people looking at the turf as closely as at the action.
‘From our point of view we look at how well the grass was looking and how well presented it was, that’s what we do,’ Mark says.
‘We are the grass growers.
‘We are the ones responsible for the quality of the grass, the stripes in the grass, that’s what we do, we don’t manage the facility, we manage the ground.’
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