Feature, Profiles

Adelaide aces of turf

David and Sharon Rogers, owner-operators of Glenelg Turf Ace in Adelaide, put the success of their 20 year-old business down to passion, maintaining a first-rate reputation and the quality and reliability of their two Hino 500 Series trucks

 

David and Sharon Rogers undertook a major livelihood change 20 years ago, entering into the world of turf and lawn installation, and repair and maintenance with their small company Glenelg Turf Ace. The couple now boast one of the best businesses of its type in Adelaide, with a host of regular clients and a variety of sparkling clean machines, including a couple of tidy 500 Series Hino trucks.

However, it’s the accidental lead-up up to the business’ origins that could only be classified as one of those ‘sliding door’ moments.

Originally David and Sharon were farmers on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula where the crops included barley, wheat and peas. They sold up in 1999 and headed west to Streaky Bay where David became a general manager for Wesfarmers. Next stop was another Wesfarmers branch in the northern Adelaide suburb of Gepps Cross.

To keep fitness levels up in the city, David and Sharon decided to join a running club. “For whatever reason a lot of those runners were greenkeepers, and I got familiar with them and eventually became mates,” David recalls.

“Then one time one of these guys said, ‘do you want to come down to Southern Park Bowling Club and do a bit of rolling on a bowling green?’.”

Sharon and David Rogers entered the world of turf maintenance 20 years ago

David arrived at the club one Saturday and began cutting. “I fell in love with it,” he admits.

Over a few beers at the local with one of his new mates, he was told about a job on offer at the Adelaide Bowling Club, an opportunity he took up. That led to work at the Sacred Heart College. It was the beginning of a serious full-time business venture.

Meanwhile, Sharon had what she described as “very cushy job” at Kooyonga Golf Club doing membership and admin. But with Glenelg Turf Ace quickly becoming a growing enterprise, she quit her job to work full time in their burgeoning business.

From ute to Hino

“We started with one ute, one trailer, one small tractor and a Verti-Drain,” Sharon says. But it soon became apparent that the one ute just wasn’t going to cut it, so they started looking at trucks.

David had experience driving ACCOs Back on the farm. However, his liking for the Toyota brand was enough to turn him into the direction of stablemate Hino, buying a second-hand 500 Series FD. However, after putting in many years of hard work, the old Hino began to develop a few faults.

“The fuel gauge had stopped working, we ran out of fuel once over 60km out of Whyalla,” Sharon says. It also needed a gearbox rebuild, so rather than forking out for repairs, in 2014 the Rogers went to CMI Hino at Regency Park and traded it in on another Hino FD 500, their first brand new truck.

With a flat-tops out back, the Hinos have proved perfect for hauling the Glenelg Turf Ace gear around

A light duty Isuzu was bought specifically for Sharon to drive, but it soon became apparent that another “big one” was needed, so in 2021 they become proud owners of their second new truck, a Hino FC. Planning ahead, Sharon had her licence upgraded to heavy rigid.

“As we got more and more equipment, we needed the two larger size trucks, otherwise we had to make multiple trips to the same location to deliver the gear to do the work for the day,” Sharon explains. “And if you’ve got to drive too far, then it’d be impossible to do the work.”

Despite the age difference between the two Hino 500s, both are presented in showroom condition, exemplifying Glenelg Turf Ace’s high standards.

“We hang on to things and they always look like they’re brand new,” Sharon says. “And people think we’ve been trading up, even with our tractors and everything else, but we haven’t actually been trading up. It’s just that we look after everything. They look new, but they’re not new.”

It’s that philosophy that has helped Glenelg Turf Ace grow to the highly respected business to what it is today, with clients ranging from schools to sports arenas, including jobs such as turf replacement at the Adelaide Oval and Coopers Stadium.

“We treat every job the same, whether it’s Adelaide Oval or another small thing somewhere, and we do a lot of private schools,” Sharon says. “We still treat everyone as important as everyone else; the job still has to be done the same.”

And they don’t bother advertising, relying totally on reputation and word of mouth.

“We have bookings 12 months in advance, so when we drive out of one place they book us again for the next year,” Sharon says. “We’ve been in it for so long now that people refer us and they ring up and say, ‘such and such has told us about you’.

“We’re also very low key on social media because, number one, I don’t have time to sit on social media and we don’t really like to. We’re not the era of really putting ourselves out there a whole lot.”

The Hino FC 500 is the newest member of the small Glenelg Turf Ace fleet

It’s not just the Rogers show though. They’ve employed a couple of workers, plus an apprentice, to haul the gear around, although David and Sharon both still put in the long hours, which can be seven days a week.

“We’re up early and we work late. We’re reloading trucks, unloading trucks, decontaminating trucks … we’ve got pressure washers, we’re always decontaminating because we’re going into different turf species,” David says.

The big jobs, such as the aftermath of live outdoor events with foot traffic and trucks pounding the grassy surface, can bring their own particular problems. Damage to the turf can be further impacted after rain, David says.

“When things get moist, and you put weight on it, then you get big ruts,” he explains.

“The other thing is generally with concerts, we generally put down a big floor, so when the floor goes over it, there’s no sunlight and so it immediately just about kills it.

“So when it deteriorates you’ve got two options – you can either be patient and allow it to come back with water and nutrients and other renovation practices. Or with Adelaide Oval and Cooper Stadium concerts, they might have a cricket game next week or at the end of the week. You cut it out and replace it.

“We use a big profiler, we put that on the track there and that mills it out, and we can mill it out for 50mm deep and bring in turf from interstate.”

David says the new turf arrives in refrigerated pantechs, generally through Linfox. “When you roll it up it will combust because it’s hot, it will sweat, so they put it in a fridge and it just keeps it at a bit more of a constant temperature.

“Generally, it’ll travel overnight and so we’ll cut at night at the turf farm, it will travel during the day or late at night and it starts to settle virtually immediately,” David says.

“For example, we’ll cut it out, we’ll laser grade it, level it, so we’ll put the turf in on Wednesday, Thursday they’ll have a captain’s AFL run on it on Friday and they’ll play on AFL on Saturday. So it’s immediate.”

The work, however, is not confined to Adelaide. They occasionally travel throughout rural South Australia, and they’ve done one trip to Murrayville just over the Victorian border. However, It was during one lengthy drive, over 100km carrying more than 12 tonne GCM, that they received a warning from a South Australian police officer.

“We weren’t actually aware when we got pulled over,” David explains. “He said we could drive on and get fined or we can turn around and get a logbook. So we went back and got a logbook.”

For those long runs of anywhere between 1000 and 3000km, it’s not uncommon for David and Sharon to take one of the Hinos plus the LandCruiser hauling a caravan. It removes the problem of trying to find suitable overnight accommodation.

Pride and passion

As Sharon says, it’s a full-on business, but they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t enjoy it.

“We are extremely passionate, so I guess that’s why we do go over and above. And that’s why we have a reputation we have.”

Sharon Rogers loves getting behind the wheel, especially when it’s the wheel of the new FC Hino

Sharon believes whether they grow the business further, or stick with what they have, they see themselves as putting in quite a few more years yet. That’s despite David occasionally taking a longing look at the caravan parked in their shed.

If the time does come for another truck purchase, they’re both adamant that it will be a Hino, not only due to its quality, but because of the good rapport they enjoy with CMI Hino, in particular sales consultant Mario Menechella and sales manager Dani Brown.

“I’m old fashioned, I’m a brand person,” David says. “And I’m massive on relationships and service. We’ve got a good relationship with the CMV group, whether it be Toyota at West Terrace or whether it be CMI Hino at Regency Park.

“Mario Menechella has sold both of these to us. I love the way they do their business, they don’t cut a corner and deliver on quality. And it’s similar principles of what we do with our business.”

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