12 October 2006

The interclub tennis season gets underway tomorrow when the Soffe Cup kicks off.  With the return of two city teams, the demise of a South Taranaki team and the amalgamation of two Central Taranaki teams, the competition looks to be stronger this season.

Kaponga could not field a team and Stratford and Midhirst, who both struggled with a lack of women last season, have combined.
Only six teams entered originally this season but Rotokare, who did not have any A Grade teams last season applied, and have been granted direct entry by the Taranaki Tennis Association Board. They have got a strong line-up and the Board saw the merits of including them in the competition. Their team includes several A or B rep players, Leith Atkins, Mike Roberts, Chris Popata and Mark Atkins.
Huatoki are in the Soffe Cup for the first time since 2002/03 having won promotion last season. They have a strong line-up having Jonathan Ussher as their top player. Ussher played for Midhirst last season. Former Soffe Cup player Neil Bridgeman will be available for some games and their women's team is strong with a squad of  Saori Han, Janice Taylor, Chris Wilson, Robyn Hinton and Sara Hamilton.   All but Han have a lot of experience in Soffe Cup.
Cup holders Manaia will still be the ones to beat, spearheaded by Jason Mills and Taranaki No 1 Nicole Koch. Missing from last season are stalwarts Irene Cruikshank and Cindy Death who are playing in the lower A Grade Divisions. They have made way for the youngsters and the women's line-up is all teenagers, Alesha Ford, Ginny Death, Ashlee Murdoch and Shinae Bailey.
The rest of the men's team has a familiar look about it,  Thomas Luxton, Alaister Murdoch , Michael Gates and Kelvin Tosland are all experienced players.
Runners up Pukekura will no doubt field the same team led by Taranaki rep Zac Wills.  The rest of the men's team is Tony Radich, Ben Aves, Meto Snegirev and Quin Rosa.
The women's team has not changed for several years and would be the most settled of any team ; Donna Thorne, Linda Reid, Kirsten Adam and Janette Harding.
Waiwaka have lost several top Taranaki players, Aaron Hine who, it is believed, is going to be playing A2 for Oakura, Chris Popata ( Rotokare), Nicki Mills (not playing Soffe Cup) and Clare Fairey (overseas).
They will find the going tough; their No 1 man is Taranaki B player Jordan Stayt, followed by Stuart Wood who is making a comeback, David Geange (when he returns from university) and Rhys Sutton. The top two women's players are Jayden Bruce, Yvonne Chamberlain.
Stratford/Midhirst have a strong team, especially the men with Gavin Phelan, Chris Brown, Elliot Campbell, (when he returns from university) Grant Kite, Michael O'Sullivan and Bruce Cleland making up the squad. Kathryn O'Sullivan  will be the No 1 when she returns from university, followed by Lyn Stanners and Shelly Childs.
Okaiawa are likely to have the same team with Crichton Parker and Andrew Powell as the top men and Joanne and Megan Gyde being the top women.  
In the games tomorrow the four city sides play each other with Rotokare hosting Pukekura and Waiwaka at home to Huatoki.
Stratford/Midhirst host Okaiawa at Midhirst. Early season form is hard to pick but likely winners are Rotokare, Huatoki and Stratford/Mdhirst. Manaia have the bye this week.
Interclub for the other divisions of A Grade gets underway on 4 November.
Full squads (likely)
Huatoki - Jonathan Ussher, Neil Bridgeman, Rakesh Rai, Craig Nairn, Stuart Nairn, Michael Gibbons
              Saori Han, JaniceTaylor, Robyn Hinton, Chris Wilson, Sara Hamilton
Manaia - Jason Mills, Thomas Luxton, Alaister Murdoch,Michael Gates, Kelvin Tosland
              Nicole Koch, Alesha Ford, Ginny Death, Ashlee Murdoch, Shinae Bailey
Okaiawa - Andrew Powell, Crichton Parker, Murray Mead, Andrew Baylis, Vincent Baylis 
                Joanne Gyde, Megan Gyde, Clare Goldsworthy, Michelle Powell, Beth McLeod.
Pukekura - Donna Thorne, Linda Reid, Janette Harding, Kirsten Adam
Rotokare - Mike Roberts, Greg Hareb, Mark Atkins, Kevin McLoughlin, Chris Poapta, Shane Devlin
                Leith Atkins, Michelle Atkins, Beccie Atkins, Val McLoughlin, Kanae Murakame, Jan Ballantine
Stratford/Midhirst - Gavin Phelan, Chris Brown, Elliot Campbell, Grant Kite, Micheal O'Sullivan, Bruce Cleland
                            Kathryn O'Sullivan, Lyn Stanners, Shelly Childs, Kylie Jury, Tracey Zimmerman, Kelsi Bevins
Waiwaka - Jordan Stayt, Stuart Wood, David Geange, Rhys Sutton
                Jayden Bruce, Yvonne Chamberlain, Alison Chamberlain, Ana McSeveny
The midweek 4s competition got under way on Monday with 49 teams competeing, down from 51 last year. It would be good to get a photo of one of these games - in New Plymouth the most likely venues would be Huatoki or Rotokare.