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Defending champion Andersons Bay has shortened the odds on retaining its title in this season's division 1 senior interclub competition, which begins today.
Two of the four division 1 teams will play under the Andersons Bay banner.
The competition features a healthy sprinkling of young talent spread across the four contending teams as administrators have sought to provide plenty of opportunity for regular hard matchplay.
Teams of six, comprising three men and three women, will play each Saturday. Each tie involves a mixed doubles rubber, a men's doubles, a women's doubles, three men's singles and three women's singles.
The format gives men and women equal opportunity in top-grade tennis and should improve depth in the local game.
The welcome return of Green Island to the top flight is a feature. The Gray dynasty is once again to the fore for Green Island, with Zane Gray captaining the side, backed up by Mat McCutcheon, Alex Glotov and Kade Wilson in the men.
The Phillips sisters, Mackenzie and Jordyn, will travel from Oamaru to combine with rising force Pippa Sherriff and experienced hand Belinda Hirst, forming a formidable women's roster.
Youngster Phoebe Guile-Hughes will also get game time.
Last year's bridesmaid, Balmacewen, looks strong on paper, naming newcomer Kaitlyn Wilkinson, a nationally well-performed junior now studying in Dunedin, as its highest-ranked female, and giving Jessie Stevenson, Rileigh Fields, Ilana Goossens and top-division debutant Charlotte Byers the chance to make things easy for the men. The wild card is 2018 Otago indoor open champion Libby Scott, whose rotator cuff injury sidelined her recently.
Among the Balmacewen men, Jack Warner is showing the benefits of regular competition. Angus Liddell makes a welcome return, and rapidly improving junior Max Gaffaney will relish the chance to mix it with the big boys. Nick Cutfield can be relied on to marshal his team and pick up points when most needed, and will be able to call on talented student Sebastian On from time to time.
The Andersons Bay teams will miss Ryan Eggers following his transfer to Auckland. Carlos Reid comes in as the top-ranked man for the Rennie team, and will have backup in that spot from the in-form George Alexander.
Ayesha Horley will be looking to extend her unbeaten run from last season, and will be supported by Marie Reid, Mya Haigh and Makayla Ramage.
Southland junior Halle Faherty strengthens the Andersons Bay Guthrie team, which has also named Lachie Kenneally making a welcome return.
Anthony Mirfin will wield his devastating backhand, and Annalise Wilson and Laura Hamilton are better players with a year of division 1 tennis behind them. Hugo Tomlinson has the potential to cause upsets at the top of the order.
- By Fraser Richardson