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An even spread of talent across six teams and the return of St Clair and Otago Boys’ High School to top-flight tennis are two of the features of the Otago division one interclub competition.
It begins at the revamped Stevenson Tennis Centre at Logan Park today.
The successful four men-two women team format of the past two seasons has been retained.
This ensures clear-cut results will be reached in all ties without relying on countbacks, and allows for mixed doubles to be played in some rounds.
Defending champion Balmacewen may have diluted its strength by entering two teams in the top division, but both squads look capable of playing at this level.
Balmacewen 1 spearhead Jack Warner will be backed up ably by the experienced Gerard Farrell and Nick Cutfield, youngsters Ben Sinclair and Sam Porter, and newcomer Josh Harris. Kaitlyn Wilkinson will head its women’s roster which includes improving juniors Ella Richardson and Shreenidhi Mahamuni.
The second Balmacewen combination features Pippa Sherriff and captain Mat McCutcheon, who will marshall a squad sprinkled with youthful promise. Thomas Chiang and Trey Russell make a welcome return to competitive play, while Chiang’s younger sister, Crystal Chiang, displays good technique. Juniors Max Gaffaney and Hugo Barsby are maturing into fine young players. Liam Kerr will surprise opponents with his power and athleticism.
North Otago entrant Waimaru has named a familiar cast in its women’s ranks which will seldom be bettered. Belinda Hirst is back on home turf, having played for Andersons Bay last season. Phillips sisters Mackenzie and Jordyn round out a strong trio. Among the Waimaru men are big server Josh Cameron, Josh Cochrane and Marshall Hore. Captain Robin Jamieson and Josh Dalziel lend experience to the line-up and will look forward to home ties on grass.
Otago Boys High School
Otago Boys’ High School may be the team to beat, boasting local coach and former New Zealand Junior Davis Cup representative Jaden Grinter and Ivy McLean, who will be the highest-ranked woman in the competition. Rising stars Max McLauchlan and Mya Haigh add strength. Luka Mandich and Daniel Lund are two young players on the move.
St Clair, the club that last won the shield four seasons ago, has strength at the top of the men’s order in Shaun Paringatai and Otago rep Mitchell Sizemore. Jeff Elliotte, fresh from a stint in Vietnam, brings added nous to the side.
Andersons Bay, the runner-up last season, has a formidable women’s list including Otago Open singles titleholder Ayesha Horley. Rileigh Fields and Annalise Wilson make a welcome return to division 1 tennis. Oliver Scott and Marco Hartono are the two leading players on the men’s side, which includes the dangerous Anthony Mirfin and wily tactician Mathew Rusher. Peter and Thomas Hartono may be called upon when study commitments allow, while veterans Gavin Mockford and Phil Mirfin are waiting in the wings.