Bendigo Academy of Sport – The Formative Years



The Academy was born out of a concept in early 1994 by Professor Lyn Gow, the then Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University, Bendigo, when she hosted a morning tea for staff interested in sport. Her announcement sought to identify a project that would engage the University with the local community, using the medium of sport. She invited interested staff to meet with her following the morning tea to further discuss the concept.


David Pinniger (Head of Physical Education) and Murray Mansfield (Special Projects Manager) accepted the invitation. It was agreed Murray be given 50% release from his current duties and the funding to visit several regional Academies/Institutes of Sport to investigate the possibility of establishing a similar organisation in Bendigo.


Visits to the Victorian and South Australian Institutes of Sport, and two NSW regional Academies (Newcastle and Wollongong), investigated the operational structure, links to Universities and funding of such bodies.


A report was prepared proposing that the University establish a Bendigo Academy of Sport, to provide holistic development opportunities for young Bendigo sports people – potential students of LaTrobe University. The report was presented to Professor Gow, but before any decision was made, she left Bendigo amid speculation of a major conflict within the LaTrobe hierarchy. The report was ultimately presented to the Bendigo Board of Studies in June 1994, through Dr Ian MacBean, the acting Dean of the Bendigo campus.


The Board of Studies ‘received’ the report and recommended it be referred to the Bendigo community for any further action. It is fair to say it was a political decision, not wishing to adopt anything Professor Gow had initiated.


David & Murray decided to pursue the concept and sought the assistance of the late Maxine Crouch, then a Commissioner of the new City of Greater Bendigo and the Principal of the Bendigo Senior Secondary College, Mr Ron Lake.


This group worked through the recommendations of the report, secured initial funding from the City of Greater Bendigo and the Bendigo Senior Secondary College, and formally launched the Bendigo Academy of Sport at a function in the former Strathfieldsaye Shire offices on 15th December 1994.


The self-appointed committee developed the rules of incorporation, a corporate image, an administrative and program structure, sport admission and athlete selection guidelines, staff and athlete contracts and appointed honorary consultants.


In March 1995, the Academy was formally incorporated and Murray Mansfield was appointed as the Executive Officer on the basis of one day per week – his RDO from the University.


Applications were sought from sports to be admitted for development programs, with Badminton, Soccer and Volleyball accepted. Program sponsors were secured, coaching panels appointed, athlete trials conducted, athlete contracts prepared and the first induction ceremony was held on 23rd July 1995.


The Academy was initially housed in an office in Caradon, the former Borough of Eaglehawk offices, compliments of the City of Greater Bendigo. When that building was sold, LaTrobe University, Bendigo provided an upstairs office above the gymnasium, which is still occupied today.


The first national junior volleyball camp was also hosted under the umbrella of the Academy in July, with serious investigations undertaken by the Australian Volleyball Federation to make Bendigo the base of a full-time national junior development program. It was proposed that athletes be billeted in Bendigo and attend Bendigo Senior Secondary College. The AVF ultimately chose to pursue a camps based program, of which Bendigo was part, and the Academy has continued to host the annual December camp every year since.


By 1996, Professor Les Kilmartin had been appointed as the new Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Bendigo campus. Professor Kilmartin was invited to join the Academy Board and accepted. The Manager of CGB Recreation Department, Keith Oberin, also accepted appointment to the Board.


LaTrobe University formally seconded Murray Mansfield to the Academy on the basis of 1.5 days per week until June, increasing to 2 days per week thereafter, as their share of the Academy sponsorship.


The first athlete graduation ceremony was conducted in July 1996, with a formal dinner and ceremony at the All Seasons Motor Inn. Athletes (many in suits and new dresses), coaches, parents, sponsors and invited dignitaries attended. Numerous parents praised the Academy program for the visible change in their child’s personal development, particularly in their maturity, attitude, academic and sporting achievements.


Badminton and Volleyball rolled into a second program, with Soccer delayed pending a restructure of the program. Cricket and Hockey were admitted as new sports.


In 1997, Murray left the employ of the University and formally joined the Academy as Executive Officer on the basis of 2.5 days per week. LaTrobe University converted their former contribution to a cash sponsorship, joining the CGB and BSSC as major sponsors.


During the next few years, each program continued to flourish, with excellent media coverage and good sponsor support. A feature of each program was an end of season trip to a NSW regional Academy or the AIS in Canberra.


Gippsland was assisted to launch their Academy and advice was given to Sunraysia with a view to them commencing a similar program. An international volleyball match between Japan’s Panasonic Panthers and Australia was hosted in Bendigo in 1998. In 1999, Cricket undertook a very successful tour of New Zealand and a Regional Talent Search was conducted in conjunction with the VIS.


Late in 1999, representatives of both Bendigo and Gippsland Academies lobbied the Victorian Institute of Sport to incorporate regional academies in the development pathways of young Victorian athletes, in an effort to fend off a push for regional academies to be aligned with regional Sports Assemblies.


The VIS agreed and in early 2000, a proposal to the Minister for Sport & Recreation, Hon Justin Madden, succeeded in securing on-going Government funding via the VIS, specifically for regional Academies.


A month later, a proposal was presented to Mr Rob Hunt, General Manager of the Bendigo Bank, to accept naming rights sponsorship of the Bendigo Academy of Sport. The approach was successful and henceforth, the Academy became known as the Bendigo Bank Academy of Sport.


In May 2000, Murray Mansfield resigned as EO of the BBAS to take up a position in Sydney for the 2000 Olympic Games.


Initial Steering Committee:

Chair – David Pinniger, Murray Mansfield, Maxine Crouch, Ron Lake


First Formal Board:

Chair – David Pinniger, Maxine Crouch, Ron Lake, Keith Oberin, Les Kilmartin

Executive Officer – Murray Mansfield


Initial Coaches:

Badminton – Alan Hall

Soccer – John Palmer

Volleyball – Dan Higgins

Cricket – Rod Brown

Hockey – Iain Aitken


Initial Honorary Consultants:

Doctor – Ray Moore, Physiotherapist – Golden City Physiotherapy, Orthopaedic Surgeon – Dugal James,

Podiatrist – Genevieve Green, Career & Education – Mark Zulian, Sponsorship & Public Speaking – Paul Bird, Nutrition – Elaine Davis, Fitness Consultant – Tim Lee.