Wheelchair Tennis began in the winter of 1979 when we all got together at the tennis courts in Hagley Park, Christchurch.
Ross Burgess, who had played it in Australia, and Graham Dorner, a coach who had trialed it in the UK, rounded up the Parafed members to get on court – and suddenly we were all hooked.
The first meeting was held at Ross’ place to form the first committee: Graham, Wayne Fleming, Sue Quirk, Phil Humphries and Shirley Smith.
Ross was voted president and Shirley became our secretary, co-ordinator of tournaments and players, manager, motivator, fundraiser and organiser. She was irreplaceable over the next five years.
Over the next few years, we employed other workers: Arron Joy, Joy McManaway, Linda Wood and Amanda Hill. Sue Quirk was invaluable also as an organiser and player.
Some of the highlights from those first 20 years when wheelchair tennis was hosted by Christchurch were Saturdays and Sundays at Ouruhia Domain playing in the sun and cold having lots of laughs and fun. There was barbecues and birds chirping. We had great comradeship and competitiveness.
Shirley organised a huge trip for 11 of us to the 10th Japan Open.
The first New Zealand Open was held in January 1990 and we never looked back. It just got bigger and bigger. Christchurch was on the South Pacific Tour starting in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and then Christchurch. Then it got serious – with ranking points driving us forward. The International Tennis Federation persuaded us to upgrade the tournament ranking and prize money.
This was the committee’s most pressing pastime. – putting in funding applications and waiting anxiously for replies, but we always made it with the dedication of our workers.
The next project was sending players to the Paralympics.
New Zealand was a regular participant in World Team Cups (WTC) under coach Chris Anderson. This travel gave players exposure and experience, and valuable ranking points playing in two tournaments before the WTC. In 2004 the WTC was held in Christchurch. This was organised with the expertise of Canterbury Tennis, bidding, financing, administering and running the event. It was definitely up there with the best team events ever.
New Zealand was a very regular participant in World Team Cups as playing in the two tournaments prior to these events gave our players exposure and experience against the overseas cousins and valuable ranking points for us poor cousins.
Tournaments with international ranking points were run from Christchurch twice a year, Auckland (ITF Futures ranking) and Hamilton (ITF 3).
After 20 years of NZWT being run from Christchurch under Ross Burgess (president for five years) and Marilyn Stratford (15 years), it was time for a new committee to hand over the reins to Tiffiney Perry from Hamilton where it has had its office since 2009.