Local clubs, groups left reeling

How times have changed: The Express front page announcing the arrival of the Games in April last year.



LOCAL sporting club leaders are picking up the pieces from the decision to cancel the Commonwealth Games.

Clubs and associations from Traralgon, Morwell and Moe were set to welcome Games officials in 2026, but will now have to watch idly by as the Games are played elsewhere.

A general feeling of disappointment greeted those close to the action when the news came to hand.

For those who had already put provisions in place to see Games events held on fields and courts generally saved for everyday players, the announcement was an especially bitter pill to swallow.

The local clubs and associations most affected were Falcons 2000 Soccer Club, Moe Cricket Club, and Traralgon Basketball Amateur Basketball Association (TABA).

Falcons 2000’s home ground at Latrobe City Stadium was to host Rugby 7s, while cricket was to be held at Ted Summerton Reserve, Moe, and badminton at the Gippsland Regional Indoor Sports Stadium (GRISS).

For Falcons and Moe Cricket Club, along with winter tenant Moe Football-Netball Club, all are hopeful major facility upgrades promised by the state government will still be forthcoming to their respective venues, and won’t just be patch-up token gestures.

Moe Cricket Club president Paul Kane said he would like to see improved lighting at TSR, a proposal supported by Moe FNC president Manny Gelagotis.

“Those standalone facilities that are better than average, one of the discussions pre this announcement was about legacy of the investment, not just putting money into something that isn’t going to continue on,” Gelagotis said.

“Ted Summerton ticks a lot of the boxes because it’s a legacy investment, because the facility is used 24/7, cricket, football, Big Bash, AFL … it is a premium sporting precinct in the region, so any investment here is going to be worthwhile.

“Any capital improvement into sporting facilities, you can never invest enough into sporting facilities, because sport is critical for upbringing of kids, participation and all those things.”

Falcons president Tony Salvatore said the decision had been an emotional blow for many at the club.

“We are most disappointed because it would have been great for the regional area and for our club, while we would have been disrupted for a little bit, that didn’t bother us,” he said.

“We were gutted, there were already so many volunteers saying this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, we’ve now missed that.

“Imagine the Commonwealth Games in Morwell, it would have been brilliant.”

Off all major sporting facilities in the Latrobe Valley, Falcons Stadium is perhaps the one in need of the biggest upgrade.

The majority of the club’s infrastructure hasn’t changed much since Falcons’ days in the national league, and while there is a masterplan in place, the cancellation of the Commonwealth Games might delay any such upgrades to the pitch or pavilion.

“We’re a club that understands the stadium is bigger than the club, and if you are going to run a big function or a big thing like the Commonwealth Games, we will be disrupted, we will be kicked off, we were aware of that, I was on the committee, fully understood the consequences, in the end, when we return we have a better facility, but not only that, it is another landmark for the club,” Salvatore said.

“The stadium can be upgraded but obviously you aren’t going to have a Commonwealth Games so what impact will that have on the long term? I don’t know.”

Adding to the confusion has been the bizarre revelation that the roof at the GRISS would not have been high enough to host badminton events.

The roof was reportedly short by a whole one metre off meeting the international clearance standard of 12m, although a Badminton Australia official has since confirmed this was only true in the case of some practice courts set aside in basketball stadiums across the Valley.

Nevertheless, the thought of the GRISS roof needing to be raised by one metre has called into question just how much thought had gone into the Games, and whether or not they were in fact doomed from the start.

As TABA vice president Dale Harriman said, the association wasn’t exactly sure what timeline the Games would give them.

“We were still trying to work out when they wanted us off the court,” he said.

“We know that Churchill has three courts that we might be able to use, but they’re fully used most nights, Morwell’s fully used most nights, most of the schools in the area don’t allow outside groups to use the basketball courts they’ve got, so it may well have been a missed season for us.”

While the decision means TABA will no longer have to vacate their home courts at the GRISS for Commonwealth Games badminton events, Mr Harriman said this was beside the point.

“We’re disappointed the Games aren’t coming here, a lot of people were looking forward to them,” he said.

“We’re disappointed, having had the Commonwealth Games here before (in 2006) and having basketball as part of them, we know how good it is for the whole community. We are members of the community as well and we are really disappointed they are not going ahead.

“It provides an inspiration for a lot of junior athletes coming through, to have those people at that quality, at that level playing in their own backyard – and you never get that back.

“You never get that momentum back, 2006 when we had the last Commonwealth Games here, Jack White would’ve gone and watched the basketball, Jade Melbourne would have gone and watched the basketball, you don’t know how much of an impact that had on them to inspire them to play at the biggest level. (Traralgon locals White and Melbourne are current NBA players).

“We work closely with the guys from badminton, they use the facility with us, we work around each other, and we know they were really excited about having an international-level badminton event in Traralgon, I feel for them, they are absolutely devastated.”

Where to now: Falcons Stadium will remain empty when the 2026 Commonwealth Games roll around. Photograph: Zaida Glibanovic
What could have been: International cricket was set to be played at Ted Summerton Reserve during the Commonwealth Games. The setting would have likely looked similar to this shot of Big Bash cricket in Moe back from 2019. Photograph: Liam Durkin