25 March 2011

Soffe Cup and A Grade Grand Final Preview


The time has finally come for three A Grade champions to be decided this weekend. After an arduous season for all three Grades, the curtain will close with a stellar cast of the 6 best teams fighting it out for the coveted Soffe, Wilson and Sumpter trophies.


Sanfords Manaia v Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura. Saturday 26 March. Kick off 10:00am, Manaia Tennis Club


The two form teams of the competition this year will fittingly meet each other this Saturday as Sanfords Manaia and Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura will produce an almighty finale, not seen for many seasons.

In the two matches these teams have met previously this summer, it has curiously been Pukekura who claimed overall ascendancy with the first tie ending in an 8-8 draw while in the second tie a fired up visiting Pukekura side defeated an admittedly under strength Manaia side 9-7.  Indications as to how much can be taken out of those matches with regards to predicting this weekend's match is minimal given the different look teams that will run out of the changing sheds, particularly with respect to Manaia who haven't had their king pin Jordan Fleming for either two clashes.  Moreover the last match was played on the 4 December 2010, thus form at that time of the season will count for little given the time that has elapsed.  Having said that, as the only team to have beaten the defending champions Manaia this season, Pukekura may hold the quantifiable belief no other team could boast in the case for upsetting a star-studded Manaia team at home.

The No. 1 mens match will see two of Taranaki's brightest young prospects take the court. Jordan Fleming will be favoured to beat Callum Old despite Old's fine recent form.  Fleming's terrific work ethic on and off the court will likely see him through. Cameron Koch will take on Mike Fleming in the No. 2 match. This match could well be every bit worth the price of admission alone. Koch would be favoured on paper due to his standing in the Taranaki Representative side but to completely discount Fleming would be a cardinal error of judgement.  Dennis Reid will be favoured to beat Jacob Gopperth in the No. 3 match.  Reid should be too steady, while Gopperth has suffered from a lack of time on court this season.  Michael Gates will likely prevail in the no. 4 match against Meto Snegirev- Gates' captaincy continues to shed more influence with every week, and will be a key component to Manaia's charge to the finish line.

The No.1 womens will see another chapter in the rivalry between Nicole Koch and Linda Reid.  Koch will be favoured to chalk another victory, her standing unparalleled in women's Taranaki Tennis as it stands presently. Kirsten Adam meanwhile will be favoured against Sarah Kelly in a close contest. The No.3 match will be a compelling match between Maree Gopperth and Donna Thorne. Gopperth’s rising stock has been a talking point this season however Thorne is ever canny in her experience and court craft.  The outcome of this match could have a significant bearing on the course of this tie depending on which way it goes.  The No. 4 match will be favoured by Grace Kelly over Jeanette Harding.

If Pukekura are to have any chance of challenging Manaia for the title, they will need to at least grab a share of the doubles and make their move in the unpredictability of the combines.  Whatever the outcome, it should be a tantalising spectacle well worth getting out to support. 


Sanfords Manaia men: Jordan Fleming, Cameron Koch, Jacob Gopperth, Michael Gates. women: Nicole Koch, Sarah Kelly, Maree Gopperth, Davina Mills, Grace Kelly (one to be omitted).
Tariki Icon Sports Pukekura men: Callum Old, Mike Fleming, Dennis Reid, Meto Snegirev, Nick Haaka (one to be omitted). women: Linda Reid, Kirsten Adam, Donna Thorne, Jeanette Harding.


Thomson O'Neill Stratford v Okaiawa. Saturday 26 March Kick off 10:00am, Midhirst Tennis Club

The first and second placed teams from the regular season will also meet in the Wilson Trophy final on Saturday.  Stratford was the beaten finalist last season and will be keen to rectify its performance this time round against an Okaiawa side who will be more than their match.  In their only match this season nothing could separate the teams ending in an 8-8 draw.  The teams were largely the same that day as to the teams in line this Saturday.

In the No. 1 mens match Grant Kite will take on Andrew Powell with Powell firmly favoured.  The Taranaki representative, Powell beat Kite in two commanding sets the last time they played and the hard court surface of Midhirst will further play into Powell's hands.  Mark Laurence will be favoured in the No. 2 match against Michael Boland having beaten him in the last match 6-0 6-3. V incent Baylis will be favoured to beat Tim Stanners in the No. 3 match given his greater higher level experience.  Sam Brailsford will be favoured in the No. 4 match against Ryan Stockman.

In the No. 1 women's match Lyn Stanners will be favoured to beat Amelia Weir as Stanners won 6-1 6-2 in the last meeting.  Maree Kydd will also be favoured against Joanne Gyde at No. 2.  Jamie Baylis will be favoured at No. 3 against Regan Boland while the match between Shannon O'Brien and Katie Stanners could go either way.

This tie could go down to the wire yet again- the difference could come down to any lapse in focus from either side which will make for an exciting match and end to the A2 season.


Thomson O'Neill Stratford men: Grant Kite, Michael Boland, Tim Stanners, Sam Brailsford, Bruce Cleland (one to be omitted). women: Lyn Stanners, Maree Kydd, Regan Boland, Katie Stanners.

Okaiawa men: Andrew Powell, Mark Laurence, Vincent Baylis, Ryan Stockman. women: Amelia Weir, Joanne Gyde, Jaimee Baylis, Shannon O'Brien.


Waitara v Okaiawa. Saturday 26 March Kick off 10:00am, Waitara Tennis Club

A Grade tennis will draw to a close with the Sumpter Trophy final to be played between Waitara and Okaiawa on Saturday.  Waitara have been the most impressive team all season long, followed closely behind by Okaiawa. The teams have met twice this season: Waitara having won the first tie 10-6, whilst the second ended in an 8-8 draw.  Waitara have relied on their very strong womens line-up to get them out of many a tight situation this season while Okaiawa's men have done the same for their side.    

The No. 1 mens match between Reece Pilcher and Malcolm Baylis will be favoured by Baylis.  Les Symes will be favoured to win at No.2 against Lionel Ogilvy. Hamish Mead should be too strong for Te Rioki Nicol at No. 3.  The No. 4 match between Mervyn Hawkes and Vini Purcell will be favoured by Hawkes.

The No. 1 womens match between Debbie Wheeler and Aroha Beatie will be favoured by Wheeler.  Carolyn Jackson will be favoured to beat Laurel Stockman at No. 2, having beaten her the last time they played.  In the No.3 match Esther Timu will be favoured to beat Helen Hurley.  Georgia Jackson will be favoured to beat Sharon Bent in the No. 4 match.

With the odds likely that each side will dominate the respective genders in the singles and doubles, it will follow that the match will come down to the combines. Waitara may hold the edge with the stronger women, but as in any situation when it comes down the most crucial of moments anything can happen, which makes this tie an enthralling prospect for those spectators and player’s alike.


Waitara men: Reece Pilcher, Lionel Ogilvy, Te Rioki Nicol, Vini Purcell. women: Debbie Wheeler, Carolyn Jackson, Esther Timu, Georgia Jackson

Okaiawa men: Malcolm Baylis, Les Symes, Hamish Mead, Mervyn Hawkes

Aroha Beattie, Laurel Stockman, Helen Hurley, Sharon Bent