Newly developed candidate cultivars of cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.), phalaris (Phalaris aquatica L.) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb. = syn. L. arundinaceum (Schreb) Darbysh.) were evaluated over four years for persistence and productivity against current commercial cultivars in small plots at five locations selected for lower and less reliable rainfall and difficult soils (low pH and high Al) in south‐eastern Australia known to be marginally too dry for these grass species. The five locations were ‐ representing summer dominant rainfall, Inverell, in northern New South Wales (NSW ); ‐ representing uniform rainfall; Trungley Hall, (medium rainfall), and Beckom (lower rainfall) both in southern NSW ; and; representing a winter dominant pattern ‐ Eversley, (higher rainfall), and Bealiba, (lower rainfall), in central Victoria. The objective was to determine if the new candidate cultivars were more likely to persist and to be productive than current commercial cultivars. The study showed that most phalaris and cocksfoot treatments were highly productive in high rainfall years at one or both sites in southern NSW . However, all treatments had become much less productive by the end of the experimental period due to plant loss under hot, dry conditions in the final summer. At Bealiba in central Victoria, cocksfoot was the most productive species with several cocksfoot treatments of both subsp. hispanica and subsp. glomerata still present at the final harvest despite a hot and dry final summer‐autumn. Tall fescue was the most productive species in the two higher rainfall environments (Inverell, Eversley) although most treatments of all species performed well at those sites. Continental tall fescues were more productive on average than Mediterranean tall fescues at the strongly acidic Eversley site. As a result of this work, two of the new cocksfoot candidates (Moroccan Fine and AVH 48 Selection) and one of the tall fescue candidates (Summer Active 1) have been licensed for commercial development and release.