Wagga Masters Games athletes chase promised refunds

GAME OVER: Brendon Meynell organised the Wagga Wagga Masters Games before it was cancelled at short notice last year, leaving participants out of pocket. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale
GAME OVER: Brendon Meynell organised the Wagga Wagga Masters Games before it was cancelled at short notice last year, leaving participants out of pocket. Picture: Jeff de Pasquale

ANGRY athletes claim they are still out of pocket following the cancellation of a major sporting event in Wagga last year.

But the discovery of the organiser’s future event plans and a currently operating charity-based website has ignited further their fury.

It follows the sudden cancellation of the Wagga Wagga Masters Games last September.

Marnie Hodsdon said she and her 19 teammates had not heard from the organiser and former Young resident Brendon Meynell, since he promised a full refund to all participants.

The highly anticipated tournament for over-30s was set to kick off on October 6 and had generated interest from athletes from across the state.

Mr Meynell took to Facebook to announce the news, naming Wagga City Council as a lead contributor to the termination.

However, the council said it had tried countless times over several months to contact Mr Meynell prior to cancelling the tentatively booked venues.

Despite a promise to repay participants, sponsors and sporting codes, The Daily Advertiser understands many athletes remain out of pocket.

If more than 1400 contestants were registered for a fee of $150, as was reported, they would collectively be owed more than $200,000.  

“That doesn’t include the money for accommodation deposits,” Ms Hodsdon said.

“I’ve heard nothing else about it and there have been no refunds as far as I’m aware.”

There have been no refunds as far as I’m aware.

Marnie Hodsdon

With losses allegedly unresolved, Mr Meynell last year began advertising his most recent project, Shocka-Con Australia.

He even approached Junee’s Monte Cristo Homestead to host the event.

According to Mr Meynell’s website, the “Premier Horror and Paranormal Convention” was set to be held at the historic homestead.

But the venue’s owner Lawrence Ryan last year denied any involvement.

“It was never going to be held here,” Mr Ryan said.

“I said we’d talk about it and next thing I know he’s set up a GoFundMe using our name, without permission.”

Mr Ryan said after he demanded Mr Meynell remove the homestead’s affiliation, the event organiser publicly claimed Monte Cristo was “unsafe and couldn’t hold the number of people expected to attend”.

“That’s not the reason at all,” Mr Ryan said.

“He’s also claiming he’s got all these sponsors and support but it turns out he doesn’t.”

In addition to Shocka-Con, the organiser’s registered online charity, Don’t Be Horror-ble, calls for donations to help support bullying victims across NSW, with school appearances being its only offered initiative.

In a statement titled, An open letter to my haters, Mr Meynell denied current involvement in Shocka-Con; however, the event is still “proudly supported” by Digitalien – one of Mr Meynell’s trademarks.

He said the fall of the games had been “devastating”, as he had planned to “make absolutely nothing, with everything going towards charity and local sporting clubs”.

The rug was pulled from under me.

Brendon Meynell

But Mr Meynell said “the rug was pulled from under (him) and (his) name (was) forever tarnished beyond repair”.

He attributed the failure of the event to having his phone and laptop stolen in Sydney, resulting in a loss of contacts which slowed communication.

A family loss was also a setback, according to the former Young resident. 

In the letter, Mr Meynell said he believed all sponsors and competitors had received a refund and invited those who had not to contact him. 

“Money had been spent on participant shirts that had already been ordered,” Mr Meynell said.

“Over 300 custom made medals had already been ordered, and entertainment had been paid for.”

When questioned in April, Mr Meynell said he was shocked Masters Games’ participants had not been paid back and made assurances he would contact his accountant that day.

He was also asked to provide receipts and confirmations of athletes who registered, those who had been paid back and any expenses he had accrued in the lead-up to the games.

Despite multiple attempts over several weeks, Mr Meynell failed to respond to The Daily Advertiser before deadline.

Wagga councillor Dan Hayes said after the Masters Games cancellation he had tracked a pattern Mr Meynell seemed to follow, with residents from Young coming forward when a tournament was cancelled.

It’s a pattern of behaviour where the organiser is promising the world and not delivering.

Dan Hayes

“It’s a pattern of behaviour where the organiser is promising the world and not delivering,” Cr Hayes said.

“Concerns were raised that were identical to what happened here.”

He said it was important for people to be made aware of the organiser, who “plans these events that don’t go ahead almost every time”.

Cr Hayes stood behind the council’s decision to cancel the venue bookings in September.

“What has become clearer and clearer is this event was never going to happen,” he said.

“Staff’s decision minimised the damage … there should be more discussion whether police action is warranted.”

Wagga crime manager inspector Darren Cloake last year strongly encouraged those affected by the cancellation of the Wagga Masters Games to make direct contact with the organiser and seek the return of any monies paid before approaching police. 

The Young Witness is urging anyone who has had dealings with Mr Meynell to email rebecca.hewson@fairfaxmedia.com.au. This story originally appeared in The Daily Advertiser on Wednesday May 16, 2018.