Bendigo table tennis stalwart Gary Warnest warms up for official Commonwealth Games role

JUST as the Queen’s Baton Relay, which passed through Bendigo on Wednesday morning, is headed for the Gold Coast in April, so too is Gary Warnest.

The long-serving president of the Bendigo Table Tennis Association, who was one of 18 batonbearers during the Bendigo leg, will be an umpire at the 21st Commonwealth Games.

Warnest is still pinching himself at gaining “one of the best seats in the house” for when the action gets underway at Oxenford Studios on April 5.

Before that he will officiate at an Oceania tournament at the Games venue next month.

“The tables will be set up in the Movie World Theatre production area, so I’m looking forward to getting a sneak preview,” Warnest said.

The 65-year-old, who has been umpiring at international level since 2013, has been president of the Bendigo association for the last 19 years.

He ranks raising the profile of the sport and securing major events, like the Australian open veterans’ event and this year’s world juniors, as major achievements for the association.

“This year is an amazing year with the Commonwealth Games happening, but Bendigo has got two state tournaments that we will run at our Eaglehawk stadium,” he said.

“We will be bringing in 100-plus players on each day that we run that.

“We then have the second largest tournament in Australia – the country championships – which run over the three days of the long- weekend in June and that will be in the order of 54 tables and 350 players.

“We then have the largest tournament in Australia, which is the Australian open veterans’ tournament; that will be held at Bendigo basketball stadium and will have 45 tables and about 500 players for eight-days.

“And to top off a fantastic year in Bendigo we have the world juniors in December.”

Warnest, who will also umpire at the ITTF World Tour Australian Open in Geelong in late July, credited Bendigo’s success in attracting major events to a great and hard-working committee.

He said he was humbled by his nomination as a batonbearer for this week’s relay.

“It was really amazing to be nominated and accepted into a group as prestigious as these people; their contribution to community is just fantastic,” he said.

“Russell Jack, Dennis O’Hoy and the like are just amazing people, with amazing contributions.

“I’m very civic-minded, love Bendigo and love my sport of table tennis.”