Two unlikely political allies were unified this week in calling for much-needed investment in a sports academy for the Goulburn Valley, paving the way for improved development pathways.
Valley Sport executive officer David Quinn said no such pathway was available to guide young sports people through to professional sport, arguing a massive void existed in the Hume region.
There are calls for the sports minister to commit to $1.2million over four years to establish two regional academies of sport in the Goulburn Valley and north-east, addressing a ‘‘current lack of development pathways from grassroots to elite sport’’.
‘‘We see an opportunity for a structure to be put in place to sit alongside our organisations... it would make sense to work on a whole-of-sport model,’’ Mr Quinn said.
Suzanna Sheed and Wendy Lovell took to the floor of their respective houses of Victorian Parliament this week to highlight the lack of a local sports academy.
The MPs called on the Victorian Government to establish two regional sporting academies in the Goulburn Valley and north-east regions.
Ms Lovell said they were the only regions in the state that were ‘‘financially and structurally unsupported’’ by a regional sporting academy.
She said residents were disadvantaged in having no ‘‘structure to nurture local sportsmen and women’’, adding proposed academies for Shepparton and Wangaratta would align with the existing regional sports assemblies in place.
‘‘The proposed academies will eliminate the current disadvantage faced by athletes (in the region) and will provide development pathways for local athletes, coaches and sports administrators,’’ Ms Lovell said.
The $1.2million ask is broken down to be $150000 per year per organisation, across four years as a starting point; funding Mr Quinn said would get an academy off the ground.
Mr Quinn cited instances where young people had been forced to relocate or commute to Melbourne, or to a neighboring organisation, to be considered.
‘‘There’s examples of some who need to move or are travelling up and down to pursue sporting pathways,’’ Mr Quinn said.
‘‘We would be able to work with grassroots clubs, right through... with partnerships in place, to develop people at all levels.’’
Ms Lovell said athletes had to travel or relocate to access specialised high-performance programs, resulting in financial burden for regional families.
While welcoming recent funding allocations, Ms Sheed said it was disappointing for each commitment to open new examples of historic underinvestment in the region.
She said the area not being serviced by state-funded regional academies of sport meant a lack of development pathways, a lack of support for female athletes, reduced access for athletes with a disability and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Shepparton MP highlighted that Valley Sport in Shepparton and Sport North East in Wangaratta had pitches to establish a Hume regional academy of sport for which they were seeking government support ‘‘to rectify the lack of appropriate service to almost 300000 Victorians’’.
‘‘I would hope that given this government’s focus on equal opportunity in the sporting domain, this proposal will be considered a priority, and I look forward to working with the government to ensure its timely delivery for my community and the broader Hume region,’’ Ms Sheed said.
Mr Quinn said the funding ask would be able to leverage existing systems and administration already in place.
‘‘There definitely is a need for it,’’ he said.