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Red Star celebrating a half-century of squash

Keeping fit for rugby was the motivation for the establishment of the Red Star Squash Club, and after three years of fundraising and hard work, the first balls were hit in anger in 1973.

Fifty years on, more than 100 current and past members will converge on the club’s Herbert Street courts and clubrooms this weekend to celebrate the club’s half-century.

Among them will be the inaugural club champions, Ron Thorne [now based in Hawke’s Bay] and Janice James [nee Gregg], as well as several foundation members.

Squash was in its fledgling stage in the early 1970s and was quickly becoming a popular way to maintain fitness as well as participate in organised competition, and prospective players flocked to the clubs. Red Star was no different, and membership flourished.

At the sport’s peak in the 1980s, clubs were charging joining fees, and tournaments were filled in double quick time and often had waiting lists. Although numbers are down on those halcyon days, the club still boasts a membership of about 120, including juniors, ideal numbers for a three-court facility.

Foundation and life member Ray Southey recalls many highlights over the years. Top of the list were visits by squash great Dame Susan Devoy, who won the 1987 Wellington Championships hosted by Red Star, beating Australian great Vicki Cardwell in the final. Devoy returned on another two occasions to play exhibition matches, attracting big crowds.

Former world number one Leilani Rorani [nee Joyce] also competed at the club in her heyday, while current world number four and five-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Joelle King won the 2013 Wellington Open and also coached and played exhibition matches on other visits.

Red Star has a proud history within the Wellington district and has produced many champions and representatives over the last 50 years, mainly at the junior level.

Southey believes much of the success of Red Star is the continual improvements to the facilities, including the upgrading of the clubroom and the addition of a balcony.

The weekend’s activities will kick off tomorrow at 6 pm with a mix and mingle, followed by exhibition matches at 7.30 pm. A jubilee dinner, with live music by the popular band ‘Noodles’ will wrap up the celebrations on Saturday night.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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