Opinion

Our region sporting capital

by
June 13, 2017

Australia's Nikki Laird attempts to spike the ball past her German opponent Anni Schumacher in the Federation Internationale de Volleyball Work Tour at the Victoria Park Lake.

Wayne Roberts (right) and rival Nathan Wilson (left) discuss who has got the shot in the Victorian Open men's singles final.

Lillydale Ejays pitcher Rob Webb at the Victorian Masters Softball Championships held in Mooroopna at the weekend.

The sports fans of Greater Shepparton are some of the luckiest people on the planet.

The sport on offer in this town and its surrounds still astounds me, despite having lived here for almost six months.

Basketball Country Championships, impending Swimming Country Championships, Victorian Masters Softball Championships, previous BMX Australian Championships, lawn bowls Victorian Opens — these are just a few of the premier competitions that have been, or will be, hosted in the region.

This small list only scratches the surface, but if I was to dig out every above-average event that has been on here I would need much more space than just this page.

The coups are not confined to snaring sports events that use our stadiums or facilities either.

When I was first told that Shepparton was going to host an international beach volleyball event, I thought I had completely missed the memo about a secret, secluded beach in the area.

But alas, we just trucked our own sand in and made a playing surface wherever suited — a pointed nod towards how far this town will go to host top-notch events.

The sporting prowess of the region does not stop there, though.

Even in the day-to-day (or weekend to weekend) sports events, Shepparton punches well above its weight.

The Goulburn Valley and Murray football leagues are among the top end of the regional league table, while Cricket Shepparton’s Haisman Shield presents some of the best cricket I have personally seen outside of a metro area.

When you add in the plethora of other sporting codes and facilities — including the ‘‘best lawn tennis courts in the state’’, according to a visiting official — you begin to see a vibrant picture of competition.

This all leads me to a ‘‘chicken or the egg’’ debate.

The junior ranks of rising superstars in Shepparton — across every single sport played in the area — is second to none in my eyes.

Everywhere you look there is another young talent winning a medal, gaining selection or higher honours or simply dominating every time they step onto the field, court, oval or pitch.

So what I want to know is what came first? The mountain of top level sport or the overabundance of talent in every corner of the region?

It could be either one, but is more likely a bit of both.

As young sporting stars begin to blossom, they search for more ways to compete at a level above their current standing.

This in turn increases the need for premier events in the region — if you don’t give the children what they want, they will happily move to the city to chase their dreams.

But conversely, the more big events that are hosted in the town and the more coverage that is given to them, the higher likelihood it is juniors who don’t play the sport will pick up that racquet, hockey stick or baseball bat and discover a hidden prowess for the game.

Whichever way you look at it, there is only one conclusion that comes to mind.

Greater Shepparton is the regional sporting capital of Australia.

Some of you might say, why have you already jumped to a national classification? Shepparton is, after all, in Victoria.

The answer is quite simple though — Victoria is clearly the nation’s sporting capital, making its regional equivalent the best area in the country.

But I would like to take it one step further.

The Chicago Cubs were last year crowned the World Series Champions, despite not competing on a world stage.

If it’s good enough for the Americans, then it’s good enough for me.

So in actual fact, Greater Shepparton is unequivocally, undoubtedly and undisputedly the regional sporting capital of the world.

Maybe we do deserve to host a Commonwealth Games — by 2030 they might have cultivated Mars, and then we would be the regional sporting capital of the universe.

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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