A small team of Raymond Terrace squash enthusiasts are trying to recreate the glory days of the sport once dominated by legendary Australians such as Greg Hunt and Heather McKay.
Twelve months ago Phil Jenkinson was brought in to manage the Raymond Terrace Squash and Fitness Centre which, like so many other squash courts across Australia, had suffered from loss of membership and interest.
Jenkinson set about renovating the complex located on Port Stephens Street and with the support of experienced players and dedicated members Mike McDonald and John Carroll began the arduous task of reviving the sport in the area.
“Our membership has grown steadily and we now have juniors and seniors social and pennant games played five days a week,” Jenkinson said.
“We are fortunate to have four courts available most days and times, and we have squash racket hire for those wanting to come and try.
“The beauty of squash is that it can be played in all weather, all year round, by both males and females of all ages.”
One of the Terrace’s oldest members is 75-year-old McDonald, a two-time world age champion who began playing the sport in East Africa on an open-air court with a cement floor and no roof.
“Squash was not a dominant sport at the boarding school I attended but I grew up loving the game,” McDonald said.
“I only became serious about squash when the family returned to Australia.
“I love squash because of the physical intensity and keen competition.
“Phil has done an excellent job with these courts and it’s exciting to see the place buzzing with school children enjoying a hit.”
One of his many regular opponents is 65-year-old Carroll, a Newcastle A-grade player for 47 years who fell in love with the game from the moment he stepped foot on a court as a Year 11 student.
“Like all sports one of the best things about squash is the people you meet,” he said.
“Squash is a very competitive sport played by tough people but there is always room for a chat and refreshments after a game.”
Carroll has just returned from the world masters championships in the USA, where he finished a credible third in his age group.
“There were more than 800 players from 58 countries competing and the atmosphere is electric,” Carroll said.
“The sport is still very popular in many overseas nations.”
And while the sport is getting closer to being included in the Olympic Games, squash has for many years now featured in the Commonwealth Games.
Coaching is available at the Raymond Terrace centre. Anyone interested can contact Jenkinson at the centre on (02) 4983 1350.