Hockey an events hit

Joel Peterson | Bendigo Weekly | 10-Nov-2017

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The Kookaburras and Black Sticks fought it out in Bendigo. Photo: Andrew Perryman.
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HOCKEY has become the latest international level sport to sing Bendigo’s praises as a regional events destination.

The city’s capacity and continued want to host major sporting events has shone through once more in the past month, with international rugby, tennis and hockey all landing in the city.

The busy month of sport kicked off with Australia playing New Zealand in a meeting of the world’s two best rugby sevens sides.

It continued with the Bendigo International Pro Tour tennis tournament that began on Sunday, just hours before the first of three international hockey matches.

The City of Greater Bendigo has made no bones of its want to host sporting events, and some have had less than a broad appeal over the years.

But going more mainstream, despite the city not landing an AFL preseason match, has paid dividends.

The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos have both won Olympic gold medals, and are two of the country’s best-recognised national teams.

And while crowds were a little down on last year, plenty of fans still turned up to watch the Australian sides take care of business at home.

Kookaburras striker Jeremy Hayward has a particular affinity for Bendigo, scoring twice in the Kookaburras’ 4-0 over New Zealand on Sunday.

He also scored multiple times here against India last year, and again spoke glowingly about the wet-surface pitch at the Garden Gully hockey complex.

The Kookaburras and Hockeyroos both spent several days in Bendigo, and men’s coach Anthony Potter said it wasn’t just at matches that the hospitality was welcomed.

“Even walking down the street people are interested and people will do anything for you,” he said.

“It’s a really welcoming place, and the more we can get out to regional areas like this the better it is for the sport in my opinion.

“So many of our players and staff are for country areas, so we recognise the importance of coming out here.”

And though Bendigo is yet to produce a Kookaburras or Hockeyroos representative, events such as this can only make it all the more possible that it may happen in the future.

“It’s great to have such a good crowd and Bendigo itself that have given such good support for these games,” Hockeyroo Emily Hurtz said.

Bendigo will host an International Table Tennis Federation Oceania Youth games qualifying tournament this weekend and will host the world junior championships of the same sport next year at the Bendigo Stadium when development is complete.

The stadium will be the drawcard in the city’s pitch for events.

Over the next two years the Australian Boomers and Opals will be preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Olympics and Bendigo will surely be in contention to host matches.

Without more spectator facilities, places like Epsom Huntly Reserve are limited in their ability to host major events, yet still catered for the rugby sevens series and drew comments on the facilities for players.

It leaves little doubt that the past month in particular has only enhanced Bendigo’s reputation as far as a destination for world-class sporting events.

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