Southland youngsters hope to serve up some lessons in a breakthrough appearance at the national table tennis championships in Palmerston North next week.
Michael Zhang, Nathan Geraghty, Kelson Sadlier and James Tan will play in the under-18 teams and individual events in the July 15-20 event.
Matt Shields, Hai Thien Tran, Holly Wu and Laura Geraghty will join them in the under-15 competitions, with Wu also playing in the under-13 individual events.
Finn Holden, 11, will be the youngest attending and will play in the under-13 singles, doubles, mixed doubles, and teams event as a pick-up player for Wellington.
The squad's appearance is something of a turning point for Southland, which has not had the player numbers or quality to warrant sending a significant squad to a national junior table tennis championship for well over a decade.
Table Tennis Southland development officer Carolyn Geraghty thinks being well represented at the national championships is a result of the ongoing support and funding from key backer the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the success of the weekly primary, intermediate and high school competitions.
Those term two and three competitions continue to attract record numbers of teams and introduce new players to the sport every year.
''Table tennis, especially at school level in Southland, is really on a high,'' Geraghty said.
''Hopefully getting players to the national junior championships will create a real buzz and excitement for other players to aspire to next season, and into the future. We're creating a pathway, showing what can be achieved if you put in the hard work. That has to be great for the future of table tennis in Southland.''
Geraghty also hopes the national championships representation may encourage further junior and senior Southland players to compete in the South Island individual championships at Stadium Southland in Invercargill on August 23-24.
That tournament will be one of the biggest in Invercargill for years.
- The Southland Times