By ERWIN CHLANDA
Meeting new people and catching up with old friends was what the Masters Games were all about for the Whyalla Steelers.
“It’s a nice, small town. Everything’s close. It’s really good for these sorts of games,” is how Rob Muir put it.
What was the best thing, we asked Michael Rees: “Freedom away from home. Nah … everything! I don’t have any complaints at all.”
Chris Hanarakis: “First time at the games for me. First time in Alice Springs. I’ll definitely pop through with the kids, the family. From the tourism side of things it’s a good response.”
Was it the sports or the entertainment that did it for you?
“It was great to come with my mates, play the game, and have an opportunity of catching up with mates I played with 20 years ago. The whole atmosphere’s been great, and meeting lots of people, too.”
Steve Dunn said: “I think it’s fantastic but I think the PanPacs have taken a few competitive teams away. Maybe the timing needs to be looked at again. We had a lot of reports that many of the serious players from the east coast are going up to the Gold Coast.
“We met a lot of players from South Australia, Western Australia and the Territory, but not so many from NSW and Queensland.”
Mr Dunn was referring to the PanPacMasters on November 3 to 11 which bill themselves as “the world’s biggest and best biennial masters games”.
Games director Jim Lawrie said some masters competitors like go to both games and like these type of events being at this time of the year.
On the other hand, an arrangement could be for an event to be held every year, with Alice and the Gold Coast taking it in turns.
Mr Lawrie says the two games are very different: The PanPacs are much bigger – up to 200 netball teams are taking part, for example – and so is the Gold Coast.
The strength of The Alice is its friendly and familiar atmosphere which draws repeat participants.
A massive handicap Alice suffers is the cost of air fares, especially for teams, says Mr Lawrie.
Competitors from the eastern seaboard can fly to the Gold Coast for around $200 return – the cost to The Centre is a multiple of that.
The proudest statistic for the 2012 “Friendly Games” is the 700 volunteers who made the event possible.
The Alice games ending yesterday attracted 3186 competitors, a drop from about 3600 in 2008. There were 1720 or 54% participants from the NT, including about 1200 from Alice Springs.
The other states (rounded figures) were South Australia 14% (446 competitors); Victoria and WA 8% each (254 each); Queensland and NSW 7% each (223 each).
Just under 2000 (about 62%) of the competitors were from outside Alice Springs.
Mr Lawrie says it’s hard to calculate the money flowing into town through the games. The last economic impact study, in 2006, estimated earnings of $8m. He says this year is likely to have been the same. The hotels were full. Restaurants and day-tour and half-day-tour operators were doing well.
The NT Government kicks in $1.4m.
The Australian Masters, held in Alice Springs’ off-year, is a wholly different kettle of fish.
It’s held in a different centre each time – next year in Geelong – and caters for the serious competitors rather than those enjoying a great social experience as well.
Also, the lack of familiarity of the cities and venues each time is a disincentive for many mature sports practitioners.
In Alice the top ranking sports were golf (386 competitors), basketball (305), athletics (275), hockey (321) and swimming (188).
Pictured at top: The Whyalla Steelers (from left) Steve Dunn, Darren Quinn, Michael Rees, Chris Hanarakis, Scott Leverington and Rob Muir. Below: Locals settling in for the closing ceremony last night.