Eagerly awaiting to bitterly upset

Upset: John and his daughter Alicia Cook are disappointed at the news that the 2026 Commonwealth Games will no longer occur. Photographs Zaida Glibanovic



BUDDING Latrobe Valley Badminton player Alicia Cook, 16, travelled to Ballarat for the Commonwealth Games media campaign, counting down 1000 games to go to the 2026 event.

In light of the state government’s decision to cancel the event, Alicia and her father John expressed their disappointment.

“I’m really upset about it because I was so excited to see all the people play, especially because it’s only five minutes away,” Alicia, a Traralgon local, said.

“I would have got to come down and watch them, and I was excited just basically to see them.”

An avid player herself, with her father John previously the president of Latrobe Valley Badminton Association, Alicia has a keen interest in growing the game she loves.

“(The Commonwealth Games) would have brought a lot more people to do sport here … because badminton was meant to be held here, a lot more people could understand what badminton is and maybe even join up,” she said.

Mr Cook said, “I’m very disappointed for not only her (Alicia) but the region as well. The Badminton association has put a lot of work into preparing what we need to in the future, and it’s disheartening,”

“We really needed (The Commonwealth Games) out here with what’s going on,” John added.

Since the 2026 Commonwealth Games badminton competition was announced in Traralgon, Mr Cook said it had increased interest in junior sport participation at the Latrobe Valley Badminton Association.

The father and daughter have concerns that Badminton Victoria will no longer hold tournaments at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium, given that they were doing so in the lead-up to preparing Australian teams for the Games.

International Commonwealth teams were set to play Badminton at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium in 2026.

Alicia’s major concern with the cancellation of the Games is that she will no longer be able to see her idol, Gronya Somerville, play.

“Gronya Somerville, she’s played in the Olympics here; she’s doing different competitions and tournaments left, right and centre … I would be excited to see her,” Alicia said.

Somerville is an Australian badminton player specialising in doubles. The 28-year-old has won nine Oceania Championships titles, six in the women’s doubles and three in the mixed.

Alicia and her father feel personally blindsided by the announcement given to the young girl featured in the 2026 Commonwealth Games promotions published a month ago.

“I got the call from the Commonwealths Games person to go do the interview, and they wanted someone to represent Gippsland and like Latrobe Valley, and I said ‘Could my friend Stewart (Ottery) come’ and they said ‘yes’, so we went up together,” she said.

Stewart Ottery was another young badminton player from the Valley who was featured in the 1000 countdown advertisement.

“It was so exciting, and I went and bragged to all my friends and my teachers like ‘Oh my god, I did this’, and it just got cancelled,” she said.

Having played badminton for seven years, Alicia has risen the ranks and now plays against some of the state’s best.

Alicia has big aspirations and dreams to one day represent the country in a Commonwealth Games one day.

“I’ve always seen myself pursuing into (badminton) and keeping on going,” she said.

Like so many other young athletes in the Valley, Alicia will have to wait for another opportunity to see some of the world’s best sportspeople perform.

Blindsided: Alica Cook was featured in a Commonwealth Games promotion just a few weeks ago, which was counting down the days to the event.
Inspiration: Alicia aspires to go professional in Badminton like her Idol Gronya Sommerville. She was excited about the opportunity to watch Somervillle play in 2026.