Martinborough are warm favourites to win their fifth Gawith Shield championship in six years when Wairarapa Tennis’s premier interclub competition gets underway on Saturday.
Disappointingly, only three clubs – Martinborough, Carterton and Ōpaki – will take the courts for the championship, which comprises two full round robins and culminates in a final in mid-March. Each tie consists of four men’s singles, two women’s singles, two men’s doubles and a women’s doubles.
Martinborough are expected to front with much of the same lineup that won last year’s championship and dominated most of the past decade. Brothers Chris and Ed Wilkie, Shane Colton, Matt Nicholson and Marco de Groot provide plenty of options in the men’s draw, while the talented Gabi Nicholson heads a useful women’s group, which also includes Katherine Jacobs and Marta Wojcikowski.
Ōpaki could provide the sternest challenge, with a good balance between the men and women. Boon Huxtable and new recruit Alex Randall from Hutt Valley give the northern side a strong hand at the top of the order. They are backed up by experienced campaigners Duncan Oakley, Chris Davidson and Mike Jackson.
In the women, veteran Katie Alsop [when available], Belinda Day and Tori Bunny would arguably be the strongest in the competition.
The unavailability of veteran Matt Spooner is a big blow to last season’s runners-up, Carterton. That would likely see two youngsters, William Day and William Orsborn, in the number one and two spots, although the latter’s involvement could be limited depending on his Rathkeale First XI cricket commitments. Johnty Tatham, Andi Steinemann, Troy Crout and Dave Heard complete the men’s contingent.
The women include a talented young group in Alice Whitaker, sisters Olivia and Lucy Orsborn, Laura Crawford and Susie Barnes.
Carterton host Ōpaki in Saturday’s first round, with play to get underway at 11am.