1 Dec 2017

It has been noted, by more than one club, that the Soffe cup tennis balls for this Saturday are shrinking in size whilst still inside their air tight cans; the pressure is building. The pressure is building and every single player stepping out on court to play Soffe Cup will be able to feel it palpably in the air. A point could mean the loss of a set which could mean the loss of a match which could be the difference between winning and losing an entire tie. Fascinating for spectators—a huge responsibility for every single player.

The feature tie will be last year’s finalists Oakura hosting the champions Pukekura. It is likely that this clash will decide who gets to carry first round bragging rights. With Caleb Fleming unavailable this Saturday, Brady Simpson will once again fill the top spot for Pukekura. He will certainly have his hands full coping with Graeme Mitchell. David Barnard will walk out on court opposite Andrew Hood. Team captain Michael Erb will take on Sammy Lewis and the evergreen Meto Snegirev will have to attempt to tame Simon Spurdle. Whilst the men’s match ups look interesting, the women’s tussles will also be tightly contested. Ella Rogers will step out at number one for Pukekura and take on Paula Evans. Caitlin Haylock is at two and will do battle with Sue Oldfield. Alison Gadsby will look to deal with Ana Spurdle and Maree Malcolm will play Beckie Bruckner. It is always exciting when some quality performances by particular individuals could see the tie go either way. Good luck to both teams.

Okaiawa/Manaia will take on Rotokare at Okaiawa/Manaia. The Okaiawa/Manaia men are Hamish Mead, Mark Laurence, Vince Baylis, and Ryan Stockman. With their two top men back in, this line up will be hard to handle. Especially with the extra punch that Hamish Mead offers on the doubles court. It is unfortunate he has made himself unavailable for the Taranaki representative side where this same skill set could have offered so much for the province. They will take on the Rotokare men of Blair Crowley, Mike Roberts, Scott Campbell and Baxter Rogers. The Okaiawa/Manaia women are Megan Small, Lauren Mekalick, Sheri Hughes and Jaimee Baylis. They will take on Rotokare’s line up of Karen Cranston, Chantelle Peters, Tania Atkinson and Helena Goodin. This is a tie that looks like it could hinge on how the combinations are sorted for the doubles and mixed doubles. Both captains must think carefully about how to maximise their team’s chances of tipping the balance in their favour.

Pihama will host Huatoki. The Pihama men of Rob Haveswood, Beauden Fleming, James Padilla and Kerry Desmond will match up with the Huatoki’s Alistair Nairn, Murray Keast, Jeremy Wichman and a mystery player still to be confirmed. The Pihama women are Catherine Blom, Ngakuira Osbourne, Grace Kelly, Brianna Matthews and Laura Edmonds. They will be kept very busy attempting to cope with the Huatoki women of Tracey Old, Ellen O’Byrne, Jae Wilson and Erin Annabell. It seems likely that Pihama hold the edge but Huatoki will no doubt do everything they can to cut against the best Pihama can offer.

With this much uncertainty floating around this weekend, Stratford will probably be happy to sit back with the bye and watch the intrigue that is Soffe Cup for 2 December 2017 unfold.