For over 30 years Chris Marsh has been the curator of the University’s sports grounds where student sports teams and countless elite athletes have plied their trade.
As a testament to his work, the grounds are also regularly used by some of the country’s top athletes; the West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Dockers, Perth Glory, Hockeyroos and Western Force have all trained at UWA.
Yet the Senior Technician in Campus Management – who has worked at UWA for more than 40 years – found himself working in horticulture by accident, after being made redundant from his student architect job during the 1974 economic downturn.
Following a stint working in pubs in the mid-to-late-seventies, Chris accepted a job working for Lady Jean Brodie-Hall, the inaugural University Landscape Architect at UWA.
Six months later, a chance meeting with the UWA Grounds foreman saw him transfer to the grounds team.
“I was happy being a gardener – it fed my love of sport, art, botany and history. It was a while before I told my parents I had ditched a landscape architecture job for gardening, but I was having a great time doing the mowing and pruning,” Chris said.
Several years later, Chris and his wife Sandy, who he had met while working at the Chelsea Tavern, moved into the caretaker’s cottage at McGillivray Oval.
“We spent 34 years living at McGillivray Oval (now UWA Sports Park) and my son Thomas grew up playing in the grounds there (and later worked with me on the grounds as a turf manager for 15 years),” he says.
“During that time, I also completed qualifications in horticulture and turf management.
“In 2011, Alan Robson joined us for afternoon tea at the cottage to celebrate 30 years of caretaking at McGillivray Oval.”
UWA Sports Park is one of the biggest multisport grounds in Australia – it has over half a million users every year, including 25,000 students during country week alone.
Over the decades, Chris has built strong relationships with the sporting community – from working with coaches to ensure that teams train evenly across different parts of the oval, through to assisting the Western Force when the March 2010 hailstorm hit during a training session.
But while Chris has seen many changes during his time at the University – including ten Vice-Chancellors and three landscape architects - he has always enjoyed his work, believing that a job is what you make of it.
“I think you’ve got to enjoy yourself, include everyone and have a laugh in the workplace,” he says.
“I also take pride in my work and when someone says, ‘Gee, these grounds are looking good,’ you get a real kick.
“I turn 68 this year and I have no regrets. Every day I get out of bed, a new challenge awaits. I now manage the turf contracts for the University and while sitting in front of a computer is a bit strange for me, I’m still loving my job – I plan to be here until I'm at least 70.”