Aussie swim coach, hockey boss shock at Games call

Steve Larkin and Murray Wenzel |

The head coach of Australia’s most successful Commonwealth Games sport is among the senior industry figures shocked at Victoria’s withdrawal from hosting the 2026 event.

And while other states have declined to come to the rescue, Swimming Australia’s head coach Rohan Taylor hopes the 2026 edition will be relocated, describing the Games as crucial in the build-up to Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics.

“It’s disappointing for the Australian public to miss out on having that event, which we know is a great opportunity for our athletes to represent their country … in front of home crowds,” Taylor told AAP.

“Hopefully we will see what option the Commonwealth Games Federation come up with, where it could be hosted.

“That’s a really important competition for not only swimming but our nation.

“Particularly with the build-up to Brisbane (Olympics), it’s always good to have international competition.”

Swimmers have dominated Australia’s medal hauls at Commonwealth Games, claiming 734, including 307 gold, of the nation’s 2596 medals overall.

Paralympic swimming champion Rowan Crothers said scrapping the world’s biggest event featuring athletes with a disability alongside able-bodied athletes would “suck”.

“For some athletes, a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games means more than a gold medal at the Paralympics (because) it’s not just a similar level, it’s the exact same thing the able-bods get,” he tweeted.

Hockey is another sure source of Commonwealth Games silverware for Australia, the Kookaburras winning a seventh-straight gold in Birmingham last year while the Hockeyroos have topped the podium on four occasions.

Hockey Australia chief executive David Pryles said the decision would impact the sport at all levels.

“The Commonwealth Games is one of the major tournaments … was going to give these athletes a time in the spotlight, an opportunity to represent their country at home in a competition that all of Australia gets behind,” he said.

“It is a missed opportunity … to build their profile and grow their popularity.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Shooting wasn’t part of Birmingham’s Games but was set to return in Victoria.

“An enormous contribution of time and effort went into shootings’ bid to have our sport reinstated,” Shooting Australia chief executive Adam Sachs said.

“It is extremely unfortunate that this opportunity will now no longer be available to our athletes and our sport.”

About to fly to South Africa for the Netball World Cup, Diamonds skipper Liz Watson rated the Games as on par for her sport.

“Most other sports have the Olympics as their pinnacle but the Commonwealth Games is right up there with our World Cup,” Watson told AAP.

“Fingers crossed it’s still held and hopefully somewhere in Australia as well.”

Australian Sports Commission chief executive officer Kieren Perkins was, like everyone outside the Victorian government, blindsided by the decision.

And the swimming great who competed at three Commonwealth Games said hosting a 2026 version would now be difficult.

“There’s no doubt that the Commonwealth Games federations internationally have got a very big challenge on their hands … finding a new venue or a new country that is willing to take it on,” Perkins told reporters.

“To be able to put it together is going to be quite a significant task.

“This will be a very big test for the Commonwealth Games sporting associations to see what the commitment is to the event going forward, how it can actually be delivered, and how can we continue to hold on to what really has been world leading in being a multi-sport event where both para and able bodied athletes were co-existing.”