From Colyton to Wimbledon – dream job for groundsman


Manawatu's George Signal has been working on the ground staff at the famous tennis venue Wimbledon in London.

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Manawatu’s George Signal has been working on the ground staff at the famous tennis venue Wimbledon in London.

A Manawatū man has had some of the best front-row seats for the prestigious tennis tournament Wimbledon.

Colyton’s George Signal has been working as one of the ground staff at the famous All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London and the tournament has just finished.

“It’s pretty cool to come all the way from Feilding, a small town, growing up on a farm in Colyton, to be over here is pretty special,” he told Stuff from London.

Signal, 24, has been working at Wimbledon since April and will be there until November. He was looking to return next year because it had been so enjoyable.

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Working in sport and something where he could travel had always appealed to him, so working at Wimbledon had been a dream for three months.

He said Wimbledon was up there with the Lord’s cricket ground in London and Augusta National golf course in the United States as an iconic venue.

The buildup to the tournament had been busy – there were 18 championship courts and 20 practice courts to look after – but it was more relaxed once the tournament started, he said.

“Our busiest time is the four weeks before, making sure everything is perfect, burning the lines, making sure everything is smooth.”

Signal said there was pressure to make sure they had the surfaces right and that it was firm enough for the ball to bounce, but not so hard in case players fell over.

There are centre-court seats the ground staff can use to watch when not working.

Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton speaks to Wimbledon court staff after the men's singles final between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton speaks to Wimbledon court staff after the men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios.

After the men’s final all the ground staff stood at the net while the royals did a presentation and Signal met Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. They were thanked by men’s champion Novak Djokovic.

In the practice week men’s star Rafael Nadal was having a hit and spoke to Signal asking how the courts were playing.

Signal hadn’t been a huge tennis fan, but had been converted now.

“I’m a big sports fan, I keep an eye on the majors and all that, but you become one. It’s pretty cool, it comes with the job.”

Signal’s work experience began when he was at Feilding High School and started doing one a day a week working at the Feilding Golf Club.

He got a scholarship to Ohio State University and spent 18 months in its greenkeeper internship program until Covid-19 hit.

While in the United States he spent time working on some of the country’s top 50 golf courses. He worked at Pine Valley in New Jersey and Cypress Point in California.

“That put me off to a great start … you go over there [to Pine Valley]world No 1, it’s got all the history, pretty much unlimited budget, you’ve got access to everything.”

He worked at a couple of PGA Tour events and volunteered at the pro-am at the famous Pebble Beach.

Before going to Wimbledon he was working at Mt Maunganui and Tara Iti north of Auckland.

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