A bush bash for the ‘final’ Commonwealth Games?

Deakin Reserve in Shepparton has hosted pre-season AFL matches.

Deakin Reserve in Shepparton has hosted pre-season AFL matches. Photo: Getty

What is worse than one Commonwealth Games? Two.

If there was any question that this relic of the British Empire was on the skids, it has been confirmed with the news that 11 Victorian regional towns are pooling their resources together and bidding for the Games.

Led by Shepparton, they are putting together a case to stage the 2030 event.

As if Gold Coast in 2018 wasn’t enough.

If successful, for just under two weeks Shepparton will be the sporting capital of the Commonwealth, if not the world.

It will be bracketed with Glasgow, Delhi, Manchester and, of course, Melbourne as a Games host city.

What the locals know as ‘Shep’ is Victoria’s canned-fruit capital – not an obvious place to host a major sporting event.

Visitors in 2030, if there are any, will be captivated by Shep’s preoccupation with fake cows – they’re an artform – but after spotting a few around town, a trip up the communications tower and a day on the wine trail, there’s not much else around.

Under the proposed bid, Shepparton would stage the athletics, triathlon, basketball, squash and lawn bowls.

For that, they will require a showpiece stadium.

Deakin Reserve is just the place. Home of the Shepparton United Football Club [Aussie Rules], Deakin is already an established international venue.

Who could forget the 1962 match when a Victorian Country XI hosted Ted Dexter’s visiting English cricket team at the ground?

At a minimum, Deakin Reserve will have to be converted into a 50,000 all-seater stadium, but it will be money well spent.

As the main venue it will be the Games showpiece, staging the opening and closing ceremonies.

No doubt it will feature cavalcades of canned fruit and, if he’s still up to it, Daryl Braithwaite and The Horses.

The fear with staging a major sporting event is that the stadiums are left to rot afterwards.


Swimmers brave Shepparton Lake, a potential destination for events if money is a problem. Photo: Getty

But that won’t be the case at Deakin Reserve. Shepparton United deserve an upgrade to all-seater, state-of-the-art digs.

The local ratepayers can foot the bill, topped up from United’s Sunday morning barrel and meat tray raffles.

Bendigo seems the big winner.

It will host the swimming, track cycling and basketball. It’s goldfields’ sister city, Ballarat, gets the netball and badminton.

What have Ballarat done wrong? They’ve been seriously short-changed.

Water levels permitting, Yarrawonga will hold the sailing, while upstream Wodonga gets the tennis.

Nagambie’s already got the Head of the River – a regatta contested by 11 Victorian private schools – so it’s the logical place for the rowing.

It’ll be a big week for the local caravan parks – or should I say the Games village.

Indeed, ‘Shep 2030’ could set the benchmark for future Games by housing athletes in caravan parks.

It saves on building villages and, despite the inconvenience of queuing for shared amenities, offers the athletes the full Australian bush holiday experience that many locals try to avoid.

Geelong, Warrnambool and Traralgon also get a look in.

Geelong will stage the hockey, rugby sevens and gymnastics, and Warrnambool the road cycling, but Traralgon’s the big winner.

Weightlifting and boxing are just the events to launch the Latrobe Valley into the post-coal era.

A Games Taskforce has been organised and representations will be put to the Commonwealth Games Association and the Victorian state and federal governments.

Forget the Durban fiasco or the inconvenient fact that mega-sports events are on the nose around the world.

That is just fake news.

This plan is foolproof. Of course it will need state and federal funding, but they are minor asides.

Proceeds from the footy club keg will make up the shortfall, and if they are still stuck for cash they can always raffle a chook or another meat-tray.  

‘Shep 2030’ could be the best Games ever – because they may be the last.

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