Regional Victoria looks set to enjoy a bustling calendar of high-level sporting events in 2021 as major sporting competitions return.
- Regional Victoria looks set to enjoy a bustling calendar in tennis, volleyball, water skiing, baseball, and cycling
- It is helping tourism operators bounce back from last year’s lockdowns
- Young people are being given the opportunity to compete alongside the world’s best
Tourism and hospitality operators are reaping the benefits as the events help to drive business back into regional towns and cities.
The UTR Pro Tennis Tour tournament in Bendigo is in its second week with the two men’s and women’s events carry $US100,000 in prize money.
Australian Open wild card entrant Marc Polmans was a drawcard for spectators last week when he made the men’s finals against South Australian Li Tu.
The 23-year-old Melbourne-based player lost the final but he said the tournament was great preparation ahead of playing in Melbourne next month.
Other events include the Australian Beach Volleyball Tour in Cobram, the Australian Master Water Skiing Championships in Bridgewater, and a National League Basketball championship game in Bendigo.
In February, the regions are also preparing for Road Nationals in Ballarat.
Opportunities for young athletes
The pro tennis tournament is the first professional tennis event for Maryborough teen Ruby Rothman.
“Definitely playing back at home is good, especially when I’m playing such [high] level tennis,” she said.
The 16-year-old dreams of making it to the Australian Open, and the competition is giving her the opportunity to see what it takes to boost her ranking.
“It’s definitely a good experience and being able to improve my UTR (Universal Tennis Ranking) will be a highlight,” she said.
Tourism operators rejoicing
After a volatile 2020, the return of sporting events is bringing a much-needed boost to regional businesses, according to Bendigo Tourism chair Finn Vedelsby.
“It’s really exciting to see the fans and the people come and fill up our restaurants and cafes and hotels. It’s bringing happiness to the industry,” he said.
The president of the Bendigo Motels Association, Kristyn Slattery, said she believes it is vital that regional Victoria succeeds in running the current array of high-level sporting events.
But with three other non-sporting events already cancelled for March in Bendigo, Ms Slattery is hoping other events would continue to go ahead this year.
“What happens post-school going back is yet to be seen,” she said.
“Obviously we had a couple of events cancelled through the week for March, which is a bit of a blow, but hopefully we can keep some of the momentum we’ve had since Christmas.”
Athletes and organisers of the national events are now holding out hope the pandemic does not cause any further cancellations as many are pathways to representation at future championships, especially for Australian Open wild card Marc Polmans.
“That is the biggest tournament for me, the Australian Open. So this is just great preparation and a lot of matches which is exactly what I need after a big break,” he said.