Whanganui Squash Clubs newest NZ Junior reps arrived back from having been part of the winning NZ Secondary schools team in the latest trans-tasman clash held in Brisbane, Australia last week. Cullinane students Maximus Matthews & Thor Darlington were selected as part of the 20 strong NZ team (5 Senior Girls & Boys, 5 Junior Girls & Boys) at the end of the NZ National competition at the start of August when the Cullinane College entered a team for the first time. They quickly found themselves winging their way to Australia 3 weeks later to take on Queensland & NSW states then an Australia lineup, playing two matches every day for a week, with 3 tropheys up for grabs. With covid affecting the last few years and NZ never losing over the 8 years it has been going, Matthews who was picked as No #1 and Darlington as No #3 in the Junior part of the team were keen to get amongst the international competition and get a taste of it for the first time.
The first three days saw Queensland, NSW and the NZ team play each other in 3 rounds of singles matches (best of 5 sets, up to 11, if 10 all the player has to win by 2 pts) for the Trans – tasman challenge singles trophy. Both boys had tough matches as Matthews played the No 1s, No 2s & then the No 1s again while Darlington played the No 3s, No 4s and then the No 2s. The Queensland side was stronger than the NSW team and Matthews found it tough going against the No 1 twice but beat their No 2 & both NSW players. Darlington had simular results, a couple of big 5 set loses where its was 12-10 in the final set against the Queensland No 3s & 4s b he then beat the NSW boys but found it tough against both states No 2s. Day one saw them win 10-9 against Queensland and 18-2 against NSW, Day 2 was another set of wins, 19-1 (NSW) and 14-6 (QL) while Day 3 saw them wrap up the singles trophy with a 17-3 (NSW) and 15-5 (QL) win over the two state sides & take the first trophy.
The fourth day on tour was the Trans – Tasman doubles competiton which was the best of 3 sets up to 11 with a sudden death if it was 10 all. This was introduced in 2019 and again NZ were the current holders. Across the Seniors & Juniors there were 4 pairings plus 1 mixed pairing all decided on their place in the team lineup (1&2 boy, 3&4 boy, 5 boy & 1 girl, 2&3 girl, 4&5 girl). Matthews paired up with the NZ No#2 Josh Laing from Whangarei Boys High while Darlington teamed up with Auckland Grammars Elvis Flynn, the NZ No#4. Up first was the Queenslanders and Matthews/Laing lost their match to some pretty tough oppentants 11/7, 11/9 while Darlington & Flynn worked well together to win 11/8, 11/4. Straight into the clash against NSW and this time Matthews/Laing won 11/4, 10/11, 11/6 against their counterparts while Darlington/Flynn carved up again to take it out 11/4, 11/7. This all helped the team take out the 2nd trophy up for grabs by winning overall 7-3 against Queensland & 10-0 over NSW.
The last day of the competition was the Trans – Tasman Test match. This was over 30 matches (10 doubles & 20 singles) with the goal off getting to the vital 16th win. It was going to be a tough day at the office with the Australia team able to pick their best 5 players form the two state sides which saw the NZ players playing most of the time players ranked above them in the team lineups. Darlington & Flynn keep their winning record going with a great 2 sets to nill win over the higher ranked Aussie pairing which were the No 2 & 3 from Queensland. Matthews & Laing had a massive battle against the Aussie boys who were each states No 1s but unfortuanately went down in 3 sets. Amazingly the 2/1 lost score line was all decided on sudden death points, reading 10/11, 11/10, 11/10! So after the doubles round NZ had a slender lead of 6 matches to 4. Heading into the singles matches both Whanganui boys had another battle on their hands, Matthews going down in 3 sets to his Aussie counterpart who he played for the third time in singles and Darlington going down in 4 sets after being able to grab the first set of the higher ranked No 2 state player. When it came down to the wire the NZ team retained the Trans – Tasman trophy 16 – 14 and “we are the champions” could be heard all around the Daisy Hills Squash Centre to the delight of Matthews, Darlington & their teamates!
A pumped up Matthews & Darlington are now gearing up to head to Whangarei at the end of September to be a part of their clubs C Grade Superchamps team at the NZ C Grade National competition after their team took out the central districts title. After that its only a two week wait & they will be back down to Wellington to have a crack at the NZ U15s age group catorgey at the NZ Junior Nationals.