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Masters Trans-Tasman Test Final Test

Tony Johnston reports on the final day of the Masters Trans-Tasman Test Series and the fightback made by the kiwis.

In front of another 100 plus spectators at Ballarat's eleven court complex, New Zealand have lost the third and final Test by eight matches to six, but they didn't go down without a massive fight where the result wasn't decided until the second to last match.

Match summaries in order of play:

  • Scott Gardiner (45+) lost to Jeff Bond 1/11, 11/8, 3/11, 5/11. Scott had lost both the opening two Test matches and while he took the second set, a lack of hard match play made the hurdle just a little too high. Scott has had a very successful masters career and there's not doubt he will come back stronger.
  • Karen Walton (55+) lost to former World Masters Champion Sue Williams 11/9, 2/11, 11/4, 11/0. Karen fought hard and just taking a set off someone so good was an achievement in itself! She looks in good form for our Nationals.
  • Sam Atkins (35+) beat Jeff Osbourne 4/11, 5/11, 11/9, 11/4, 12/10 in one of the classics of our time away. In the first two tests, Sam had lost three straight and in the Individuals he had pushed Jeff to five, but still lost so after losing first two sets this time, one couldn't help but think the worst. What was to come became one of the highlights of the week as Sam pushed himself to the point where he was utterly exhausted, but he got there! So we were on the board one match to two.
  • Lisa Cowlard (45+) also played a former World Masters Champion in Sarah Nelson and went down fighting 4/11, 11/7, 8/11, 4/11. While Lisa beat Sarah in the First Test and didn't drop her level in the second or third Tests, Sarah raised her game enough to edge her out in the last two matches.
  • Marty McKelvie (55+) lost to Peter Gilbee 4/11, 4/11, 3/11. Marty chased absolutely everything, but just couldn't match the current Aust 55+ champion and the experience will benefit him for this weekend at our Nationals.
  • Next up, Kathryn McKay (50+) played 2014 World Masters Champion Sue Hillier. Having lost in three in the first two tests, this time all the games were tight before Kathryn went down 8/11, 11/8, 9/11, 5/11. However, this was her best game of the series by far.
  • So we were down five matches to one! Did we have a fight back in us?
  • New Australian title holder and former double World Champion Gary Duberly (50+) beat Warren Miller 11/8, 11/6, 12/14, 12/14, 11/6. Gary had lost the first two Test matches in five to Warren, but this time he was too good and would have been disappointed not to win in three and then four. He did, though, still find the energy and skill to win the fifth.
  • Jo Shanks (35+), also the new Australian title holder, defeated Sue Davis 11/4, 8/11, 8/11, 12/10, 11/4. This was the third time that Jo had beaten this opponent, but the result could have gone either way in the fourth.
  • Our third Australian title holder Wayne Seebeck (65+) then took on four times World Champion and Australian Masters legend Brian Cook and won 11/4, 11/6, 11/4. Nobody beats Brian without an intense battle and it was another good win for Wayne.
  • So all of a sudden we were only down five matches to four with five matches to play!
  • After winning the first set and pushing her hard in the second, Nadine Cull (40+) eventually lost to Melisa Martin 13/11, 9/11, 5/11, 5/11. Nadine had lost both previous Test matches to her opponent so it was always going to be a big ask, but this time the match was much closer, particularly in the first two sets.
  • Then Freda Walker (60+) had a win over former World Masters Champion Anne Richards, with Richards retiring in the third game through injury while being within four points of winning.
  • So we were then five matches to six with three to play.
  • Allan Crome (40+) was next on playing his nemesis 2008 World Champion Jason Mudge who was the strongest player at the tournament over all age groups and for the fourth time in a week he lost to him, this time 8/11, 3/11, 11/8, 6/11. While Allan's results on paper might indicate disappointment that was definitely not the case with each of his games being very long and extremely closely fought. He improved each game and he is in really good form for our nationals.
  • Mark Walden (60+) then played Jim Mobbs and lost 4/11, 6/11, 11/8, 7/11. Unfortunately, Mark had injured his back the day before and it was painful for the spectators (and Mark) as he risked further injury trying as hard as he possibly could.
  • So Australia had 8 of the 13 matches as NZ's Judy Smith (65+) went out on the court and she promptly beat three times World Masters Champion Sue Volzke 11/7, 11/13, 11/7, 12/10. Judy had shared the first two tests with Sue and she (Judy) played some amazing squash, as she had done all week. My view is that she would still have won the match even more emphatically if everything had been on the line.

For me, I was proud of the way the team improved in each Test and particularly the determination and skill that they showed in the third and final Test. We didn't win, but this was a very strong Australian side that between them had won ten World Masters Titles to our two.

At the end of the Test, both teams and supporters attended the official Trans-Tasman Test Team dinner enjoying a final night together before heading home. There was certainly a great camaraderie between the two sides. A few words were said by the managers and this was followed by the traditional exchange of gifts. Almost all the NZ team members will be playing in the NZ Masters in New Plymouth this weekend and the teams the following week.


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