The Super Champs Squash Nationals has a new image ... and it's a youthful one.
"Gone are the days when you get 30- and 40-year-olds along with the odd 50-year-old dominating teams. They're dominated by juniors these days," Hastings stalwart Tip Heretaunga said in the buildup to today's start to the Tumu ITM E grade nationals at his club which will continue until Saturday.
"A hosting club doesn't make much money over the bar these days ... more is made in the restaurant," tournament director Heretaunga, a multiple national club title winner as a coach and player, said.
One of the "faces" of the new image is the Hawke's Bay club's women's side's No2 for this week's 16-team event, 13-year-old Rosemary Mair.
"I'm the youngest in our team by two years," the Taradale High School Year 9 student said proudly.
The E1 graded Mair is no stranger to being the youngest in teams. Last summer she was the youngest in the Hawke's Bay women's cricket team and she is also among the youngest in the Taradale women's soccer side.
Mair has wonmost of the tournaments she has played in this year and last weekend finished second to a D grader in a junior tournament, her final rehearsal for the nationals. She won both of her matches as her side won the Eastern regional qualifier for the nationals. A striker in soccer, Mair boasts the necessary pace and stamina to achieve her long-term goal in squash - a C or B grading.
"I don't mind chasing the ball," Mair said.
She is full of praise for the coaches at her club, including Don Matthews, who will coach her team this week, Scott Applegate and Murray Sutherland.
"We've placed a big emphasis on junior development at the club and players like Rosemary are the products of that. She has gone from a J5 to an E1 in 18 months," Applegate said.
Mair's team, which is seeded fifth, will be one of four from Hawke's Bay in action at the Hastings-hosted nationals. The Havelock North men are seeded third and the Hawke's Bay Lawn men's and women's teams were called in after teams from outside of the Eastern region withdrew.
Heretaunga said he will be surprised if the respective top seeds, Mitchell Park in the men, and Ngaruawahia in the women, don't capture the respective titles in Saturday's finals. Mitchell Park's top man, Ueroa Ngarewa, has progressed through to the C2 grade ranks since qualifying for the E grade team.
Ngaruawahia's top six players are all D1 grade and the remainder of the squad are D2s. Another fancied women's team is the Devoy Squash and Fitness Centre's women's line-up from Bay of Plenty which is coached by former New Zealand representative Robbie Wyatt.
Other Hawke's Bay teams in action at national Superchamps finals around the country this week are the Hawke's Bay Lawn B grade women in Christchurch, Hawke's Bay Lawn's C grade men at the Eden Epsom club in Auckland, the Hawke's Bay club's D grade women in Hamilton and the Havelock North club's F grade men in Invercargill.
This year is the first year in at least a decade when a side from the Hastings club didn't qualify.
"The positive of that is we won't be short of volunteers this week," Heretaunga added.