The reigning Mount Gambier and District Tennis Association Division 1 premiers Centrals/Uniting Church will aim to defend its title on new turf.
After having played for many years at Bishop Road, the Centrals Tennis Club has decided to base itself from the sport’s home in the Limestone Coast, Olympic Park.
Club Division 1 captain Mark Heemskerk said the decision was made to switch home venues to play on the best courts possible.
“Being now based at Olympic Park we are trying to make that be the obvious home of tennis,” he said.
“The courts at Bishop Road were in need of repair and getting a little bit unsafe.
“So we saw this as an opportunity to play on a better facility with more courts and lights and released the lease with the soccer club.”
Playing on a better court should bring out the best of a settled squad in good shape of being in premiership contention again. Continuity is the word around Centrals/Uniting Church with Heemskerk confirming an unchanged line up.
“Everyone is on board again and we have the same winning team from last year, which is a great start” he said.
“Andrew van den Hurk strengthens us and the men and ladies have combined really well.
“We have got another player Nick Thomas coming into the side as well who has done well in Division 2 and has improved every year.”
After Centrals/Uniting Church prevailed in last summer’s final over Glencoe by just five games, Heemskurk is backing his team for more success in 2021-22.
“Winning does give us some confidence and we will try to keep our momentum going with the same line up,” he said.
“We will try to be competitive in all matches, but there are some really good Division 1 teams out there, so you just have to improve every week heading into the big one.”
Centrals/Uniting Church opens its title defence against West Gambier.
MAROONS HAVE A STATEMENT TO MAKE
After wrapping up the minor premiership, but not going all the way last summer, Glencoe has a point to prove in the 2021-22 MGDTA Division 1 season.
The players in maroon set the pace throughout the season recording three more wins than any other during the home and away season.
However, Glencoe fell at the final hurdle in a hot Grand Final going down to Centrals/Uniting Church by the slender margin of five games.
Young gun Dylan Childs carries the Division 1 captaincy tag again and has not put too much pressure on his players after coming so close last season.
“We are just looking to be consistent which is the key to success in any sport,” he said.
“Centrals/Uniting Church was just too good for us on the day in the grand final which is how tennis goes.
“The final could have gone either way.”
Glencoe will not carry an unchanged team into the new season with a big name on the way out.
Childs said the absence of Patrick Mitchell will be noticeable, but he has placed faith in the next generation to step up to the top level.
“We have the same women’s line up with an extra player, but Patrick Mitchell will not be playing this year which is a big loss for us,” he said.
“But everything else is looking good and we will bring some young ones in like Alice Tentye.
“It is good to see some new faces come through because we have had a pretty strong junior setup.”
The side will be looking to make up for lost ground and the first step to redemption will be overcoming a young, but potentially dangerous Reidy Park unit. Childs is anticipating a tough clash.
“They are a very young team, but I expect them to improve on last year and round 1 should be a challenge.”
LITTLE REIDY PARK SIDE LOOKS TO TAKE GIANT LEAP
Having emerged unscathed from a character-developing 2020-21 season, a young Reidy Park team enters the new year ready to take the next step.
A host of young and emerging players would have learnt a lot from finishing on the bottom of the ladder last season, but showed a dramatic rate of improvement as each week progressed.
Stunning two-set wins over grand finalists Centrals/Uniting Church and Glencoe would have fueled the squad with plenty of optimism bigger things are around the corner.
Reidy Park Division 1 captain Zayne Young said he hoped to continue the progress to help the club rise from the bottom.
“Obviously we will try to get a bit higher and score a few more wins,” he said.
“Last year we were very young and inexperienced.
“Playing against adults it was so much quicker than what we were used to because the ball is hit a lot harder and faster, but we should do a bit better now.”
Boosting Reidy Park’s chances is a stable squad and Young likes what he sees after a strong preparation.
“It is pretty much the same squad again,” he said.
“We are actually adding a girl Jamie Young and she will be a good addition.”
Even though Zayne Young himself has been hitting the ball well in recent weeks after leading the Lower South East charge at the Foundation Cup, he anticipates a daunting first round back against Glencoe.
“Glencoe are always a pretty strong side so it will be a bit if a challenge to open the season against them for us,” he said.
“But hopefully we can get some good results from the game and play well.”
WEST HOPES TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES
West Gambier has not enjoyed the smoothest winter, but hopes to put the unfortunate preparation behind by gaining some momentum and rhythm on the court when play returns tomorrow night.
The club’s top side would like to repeat its semi-final appearance from last summer, but injury concerns could be an unavoidable obstacle.
West Division 1 captain Jo Sealey said her players were not entering round 1 on the front foot after receiving the shock news a young star would not be in a position to play all summer.
“We are a bit short on women this year, so it could be an interesting season,” she said.
“One of our good juniors Emily Jolley had a netball injury and will not be able to play at all sadly.
“The same boys from the last few years will return this year and although they are young guys, they hold themselves up quite well and will learn more.”
A recent boost for the team is the form of Jess Stutley, who represented the South East with pride at the Foundation Cup. Stutley finished third against the best 15 and Under players in the state to gain Regional SA selection and she aims to continue that momentum.
West faces the tall order of facing reigning premier Centrals/Uniting Church, but Jo Stutley believes her team can give the game a shake.
“We stood up to them and held our own a few times last year,” she said.
“Hopefully we can do the same again this year, but is hard knowing much until we see who is playing.
“It should be an interesting and hopefully a COVID-19 free year.”