August 6, 2021

AGA Sports Turf Apprentice bouncing towards his dream career

As far as great workplaces go, spending your days tending to footy grounds and cricket pitches is right up there. For long-time EDFL umpire Alex Lamanna, it takes the concept of ‘work hard, play hard’ to a new level.

Alex is a third year Sports and Turf Management Apprentice at Moreland City Council, employed through AGA. The 18-year-old knows he is on a good wicket, and not just because he is earning a wage while he completes his qualification.

“I love it because I’m very sporty, I play cricket and umpire footy,” said Alex. “I pretty much got into this on the basis that I’ve always wondered about turf wickets, how they prepared them and how they got them ready. That drew me into the apprenticeship — and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Alex has a long history with the EDFL and has been involved with the club since he played in the Under 10s. It wasn’t long before his entrepreneurial side kicked in and he took the opportunity to earn a bit of pocket money as an umpire.

“Back then, I was getting $50 a game — huge money for an 11-year-old — I was probably the richest kid at school,” he recalls. “Now, eight years down the track I’m umpiring four or five games a week and still loving it. It’s a lot of fun and keeps me fit during the off season of cricket.”

As for his apprenticeship, it is as demanding as it is rewarding. There are 54 sports grounds across Moreland, and Alex is part of a team of 13 who look after them. He also spends around 40 days a year in the classroom learning about the theoretical side of turf management — grass types, irrigation techniques, growth additives, how the seasons affect turf, and more.

Most of his training though is dedicated to the practical side of the trade, including use of a wide range of specialised tools and machinery.

This includes ride-on mowers to keep outfields and fairways looking trim, and ride-on rollers to ensure cricket pitches are Bradman ready. He also operates front-end loaders and tractors, and carries out fertilising and weed spraying.

Alex started his apprenticeship as a 16-year-old. “School didn’t interest me and I didn’t want to go to uni. I just wanted to be on the footy field and was playing a lot of sport and umpiring on the side – so when I heard about this apprenticeship I thought, yeah, I’ve got to jump all over that. And look where I am now!”

AGA has played an important role for Alex over those three years, providing safety gear, boots, and books. Plus his AGA Field Officer Gino catches up with him at least every month. “Whatever I need I just give Gino a call and he looks after it for me. It’s awesome,” said Alex.

On completing his apprenticeship, Alex’s ambition is to work his way up to a turf management job at one of Melbourne’s premier venues such as the MCG, Marvel Stadium, Junction Oval or AAMI Park.

“The likelihood of getting a job at the end of my training is excellent,” said Alex. “There’s a lot of work going round, there are lots of golf courses and sporting ovals in Melbourne, as well as heaps of Councils and contractors looking for people to work for them.”

Does Alex aspire to umpire for the AFL? “If you’d asked me five years ago I’d have said yes, but honestly, I love what I’m doing now with my apprenticeship and umpiring in the EDFL. Plus, I love playing cricket, and hopefully one day I’ll get to do my own wickets and I’ll have the advantage over other players — that’s the beauty of this job, you know what the pitch is going to do just by looking at it,” he quipped.

If you see yourself in Alex’s shoes and want to explore this or other apprenticeship options, contact AGA on 1300 000 242 or check out AGA current vacancies.

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