MILDURA will take a back seat to Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland when Victoria hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2026.
The state was this week declared host of the event, with those four regional centres to be the main hubs − hosting the 16 sports announced so far, as well as athletes villages.
Plans allowed for further sports to be added later in the year, along with some “satellite hubs”, potentially paving the way for Sunraysia to play some active role.
But Premier Daniel Andrews stopped short of saying the region would host any sporting events during the Games.
“Whether it’s in Shepparton or whether it’s Mildura, there will be further announcements that will be made about satellite activity, about other ways we can make sure the entirety of regional Victoria is part of this,” Mr Andrews said.
“So it (could be) pre-competition, training, the community and cultural part of this − which is in many respects just as important … as the actual sporting part of it − so we will have more announcements to be made.”
Mildura Mayor Liam Wood was “bitterly disappointed” by the news, particularly given council had been involved in − and contributed financially to − the pre-feasibility process as far back as 2017.
Cr Wood said the region needed the kind of funding that the Games could have provided.
“The Commonwealth Games, although it would have been a fantastic spectacle, it would have provided long-lasting infrastructure that is much needed, such as housing, in our region,” he said.
“Social indicators very much show that’s where money needs to be spent in our region.
“Hopefully there’s some good news in the coming announcements, but I won’t hold my breath unfortunately.”
Member for Mildura Ali Cupper was quick to make contact with Sports Minister Martin Pakula to express her disappointment.
“This morning when I received the news that Mildura would miss out on hosting sporting events at the 2026 Commonwealth Games, I was extremely disheartened,” Ms Cupper said in a statement after the announcement.
“We’re regional Victorians too, but it feels like once again we’ve been sidelined, missing out on important legacy projects like housing and improved sporting facilities.
“I have spoken to Minister Martin Pakula and have made my feelings clear.
“He assured me that Mildura would be included in other ways, and that further detail would be available soon.”
Shooting, part of the 2018 Gold Coast Games, was not on the list of 16 sports announced this week and is one event that could potentially be hosted in Mildura with minor upgrades to existing facilities.
The new Mildura Sporting Precinct − set for further upgrades during the State Government funded second stage − could also have multiple uses.
But one thing the precinct won’t be used for is T20 cricket, which according to this week’s announcement will instead be spread across the four main hubs.
Lawn bowls, netball and squash were slated to be in Bendigo, while beach volleyball and table tennis were set for Geelong.
The MCG will host the opening ceremony but the rest of the Games was to be held regionally.
Mr Andrews spruiked the event as a way to boost housing in regional centres, though that activity appeared centred on the four hubs.
He did not rule out train services between Ballarat and Geelong as an adjacent project to the Games when asked.
Mr Andrews said the event would provide a $3 billion boost to the state’s economy and create 7500 jobs.
“There will be sports in each of those four hubs, there will be athletes villages in each of those four hubs, there will be some satellite hubs as well (at) other regional communities, and of course the cultural program, the Queen’s Baton Relay, the whole non-competition part of it − which will be very, very significant − that will also move throughout all of regional Victoria,” he said.
“This is a great vote of confidence in regional Victoria, it’s a showcase of all that we do so well, it’s about jobs, it’s about setting our state up for the future.”