Waiwaka back in top local tennis competition

The Soffe Cup, Taranaki's premier tennis competition, kicks off this weekend.  (file photo)

The Soffe Cup, Taranaki’s premier tennis competition, kicks off this weekend. (file photo)

For the first time in over a decade, the Waiwaka Tennis Club will enter a team for the Soffe Cup, which begins on Saturday.

It was in the summer of 2010/2011 when the club last had a team competing in Taranaki’s top competition before falling to the Wilson Trophy.

Team captain Nick Creery said there was a lot of excitement around the club.

“It’s been a while and as a club it’s something we’ve been looking for for a few years to be in the top flight,” he said.

Without having a team for 12 years, Creery admits it has been difficult to attract players capable of playing in the competition. But with a strong base of junior players at the club, he felt it was important to give them a voice.

The lane was reintroduced before the season when Taranaki Tennis tapped the club on the shoulder to register a team for the competition. They were initially going to re-enter the Second Division after dominating it in the first half of last season.

“They thought we were good enough. I was excited, so I rang around some team members. There were mixed feelings, but I think I managed to convince everyone that it was the right choice.

This year’s competition will feature defending champions Rotokere, Pukekura, Huatoki, Stratford and Okaiawa. Waiwaka’s entry meant the competition was kept competitive, with neither Oakura nor Inglewood this season.

It will be a big ask for the new club in the first round when they host the defending champions.

“Rotokere is a big favorite against us and also for the competition,” Creery said.

“It’s a tough challenge for us first, but we expect to have a crack and get some good tennis.”

Creery, Conrad Heron, Matt Verry, Rhys Sutton and Will Gordon will headline the men’s side, while Trudy Vince, Shauna Giles, Karen Uhlenberg, Lea and Ellie Edgcombe and Viv Benton will star in the women’s draw.

This weekend, Renee Webster and Nicky Butler were called up to the squad due to injuries.

Creery expects the Soffe Cup to be dominated by top teenage players like Will Roberts, Tommy Avery and Jordan Whittlestone.

Likewise, he said it was important for younger players to see how more experienced players perform on the pitch for their own development.

Creery is realistic in pursuit of a championship following the return of the last Waiwaka title in the summer of 1971/72.

“I’m not sure this year will be our year, but going forward, it’s our goal to get there.”

The Sumpter Trophy and four-man competition will also begin on Saturday.

Round 1 of the Soffe Cup: Waiwaka vs. Rotokere, Huatoki vs. Okaiawa, Stratford vs. Pukekura

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