Neill Cup returns to Otago

The Neill Cup-winning Otago badminton team of (back row, from left) Josh Kellet, Michael Zhang,...
The Neill Cup-winning Otago badminton team of (back row, from left) Josh Kellet, Michael Zhang, Pingkan Polek, Jake Dickson, Lucy Thomsen, Adithi Alexander, Jia Yen Tee, Tyla Adams and (front row, from left) Aaryan Alexander and Josh Forrester, at the Otago Badminton Hall with the trophy this week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Otago has broken a long drought on the badminton court.

It claimed the Neill Cup earlier this month for the first time since 2006, breaking Canterbury’s hold on the trophy.

The Otago team beat Southland 7-4 on the Friday night, before toppling Canterbury 8-3 a day later to claim the win at the Otago Badminton Hall.

Each tie consisted of 11 matches — two men’s singles, two women’s singles, two men’s doubles, two women’s doubles and three mixed doubles.

Within those had been some tight matches.

Both women’s doubles pairings — Lucy Thomsen and Pingkan Polek in the first team and Adithi Alexander and Jia Yen Tee in the second team — both needed an extra point in the third set to claim their wins.

Yen Tee and Michael Zhang also had a similarly tight mixed doubles match.

However, the ability to close out those tight ones ended up being key.

There were also some impressive displays, notably Alexander and Polek winning their singles matches against Canterbury in straight sets.

Thomsen, who is also the Otago senior badminton manager, said the team was "really stoked" to win.

She said Canterbury had been missing some of its top players, due to the effects of Covid-19.

However, being able to claim the wins on the day was pleasing.

The team had been without a coach in recent years, although junior coach Jim Hoffman had been helping.

Thomsen said the players had done well to motivate themselves through that and had created a good culture.

"We’ve still been performing really well, which I guess is a testament to the senior players. We know enough about the sport to coach ourselves.

"But that has been different, it’s something we’ve had to get used to.

"That’s where Jim has stepped in to help with managing things.

"I think our success has been down to team and individual motivation.

"Without having a coach you really need to motivate yourself to go and work on the things you struggle with.

"This year we’ve had a really good team atmosphere."

The team would normally travel to Auckland for the national division two championships, although that had been cancelled this year.

Its players will get another chance to compete with some of the South’s best at the Southland Open next weekend.

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