In 1972, the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club was down to some 60 members, of which only around 30 were regular players. Inter-Club matches were virtually non-existent, with only the Percy Finch Trophy being contested annually between RMTC and the Hobart Tennis Club during those seemingly dark years of tennis in the 1960s in the Antipodes. Forty-five years later, the burgeoning membership of the five real tennis clubs that now operate in Australia has become quite incestuous, and it is not uncommon now to find real tennis players boasting membership of two or more clubs, or even, as your correspondent can claim (with many others), membership of the clubs at Melbourne, Ballarat, Hobart, Sydney and MCC (Real Tennis Section). Now, four of the five clubs have very busy combat calendars, and all matches, wherever played, are keenly contested. The recent weekend match between MCC and Ballarat was no exception, with eighteen matches played on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th March on the fast, mid-tan (‘Dairy Milk’) coloured Ballarat court.
Rob Jolly, as chairman of the Ballarat Board, assumed responsibility for ‘arranging’ the draw, the odd billet, and match-play both days. His talented consorts, including BTC president Stuart Strange as head-chef, prepared dinner for the players and guests on Saturday night with great aplomb. Ballarat is famous for its distinctive hospitality, as Hobart is equally famous for its late night post-match liquid repasts. Dinner in the comfortable Ballarat clubhouse was fashioned around a typically Strange slow-cooked basted lamb shoulder, served with fabulous crisp roast potatoes, a delicious salad, and matching accoutrements. Dessert was again another luxurious and indulgent BTC presentation. Annie Strange, as presidential mentor, with her close company of mentorettes, swamped their opposition with a Tiramisu Fantastico. Huge second helpings were de rigueur.
At first day’s end, after ten matches, the score was 5 rubbers-all, with MCC winning two of the three singles, and three of the seven doubles, all played off handicaps which ranged from ‘bandit’ status, to just adequate. Whilst there is no reliable evidence to hand, it seems that the exceedingly well-fed Ballarat contingent all went up-town after dinner to experience the first ever White Night in Lydiard and Sturt Streets, and clearly stayed out late. Whatever the situation, the Ballarat team, sans Rob Jolly who had fled to Washington DC overnight, came out on Sunday morning to meet an MCC Combine all fired-up, and headed by the indomitable Wendy Whitehead. Six doubles in a row fell to MCC, with only the last two matches going the other way. By mid-afternoon, MCC had ‘triumphed’, winning 11 rubbers to 7.
What a great weekend. Fantastic food, all encompassing hospitality, fiercely contested tennis, and above all, an event played with great spirit, many deuces cum advantage-all, and seven sets which ended up 8-6 or 8-7 either way. And finally, it must be mentioned that, in attempting to even up the contest between available players Rob Jolly played a match with each team on Saturday, as did Nathan Baker. And to cover for his absence on Sunday, Rob Jolly had your correspondent play one match with BTC, a strategy which just back-fired, with Unmack/Willingham losing to Whitehead/Henderson 7-8. Divided loyalities? Such is life.
The MCC team on Saturday comprised Robin McAllen, Robyn Woods, Allan Willingham, Robert Falconer, Ruby Crysell, Rob Jolly and Nathan Baker. On Sunday, Allan Willingham, Robert Falconer and Ruby Crysell were joined by Yvonne Rout, Tim Raw, Wendy Whitehead, Cora Trevarthen and Greg Henderson.
The Ballarat team variously comprised Alex Strange, Anne Strange, Stuart Strange, Nathan Baker, Mitch Baker, Chris Alizzi, Rob Jolly, Allan Willingham, Patrick Sunter, Bruce Christie and Rod Unmack.
Early March saw a significant contingent of MCC players travel up to Ballarat to compete over 3 days.
Overall Ballarat inched ahead of us, narrowly taking out the contest 15 match to 12.
The was some excellent tennis throughout and most matches were competitive and keenly contested.
Friday night saw a small contingent play and subsequent BBQ at the club. This was held in conjunction with some players, partners, etc departing for the opening night performance of "Rock of Ages" at Her Majesty's (Ballarat).
Saturday was a busy event, tennis throughout the day, a lunch provided of rolls and meat/salad with dinner at a local Italian restaurant.
Sunday was a more relaxed event with fewer players.
Thanks as always to Brett for organising the tennis and to BTC for their fantastic hospitality.
Fri 4th March
|Rob Jolly||Malcolm Rogers||6/8|
|Stuart Strange/Greg Reid||David Hay/||5/8|
|Stuart Strange||David Hay||8/2|
|Greg Reid||David Hay||8/4|
Sat 5th March
|Paul Scally/Matt Downey||6/4|
|Calum Munro/Sam Bowman||6/3|
|Annie Strange/Jasper Follows||6/1|
|Paul Scally/Mike Carroll||4/6|
|Dave Cutler/Calum Munro||5/6|
|Dave Cutler||Tanya Baker||1/6|
|Matt Downey/P Scally||6/3|
|Mike Carroll||Will Hoskin||1/6|
|Greg Reid||Jo Edwards||6/5|
|Calum Munro/Paul Scally||6/4|
|Sam Bowman||Laura LeMarshall||2/6|
|Yvonne Rout||Annie Strange||4/6|
Sun 6th March
|Paul Scally/||David Hay/||5/8|
|Paul Scally/||David Hay/||8/4|
|Stuart Strange||Nathan Baker||8/4|
|Yvonne Rout||Andrew Rowan||1/8|
|Greg Reid||Nathan Baker||8/2|