Southland's second place at the national squash masters tournament following a 19-year absence from the competition has lifted confidence in the sport's future in the province.
Squash Southland had not sent a team to the New Zealand Masters competition since 1994, so when the side of 10 travelled to Auckland and finished second this year there was excitement throughout the squash community.
Hosted by the Henderson Squash Club in Auckland, the competition ran from September 20 to 25.
Squash Southland administrator Marj Baker said the result was amazing considering the province's long break away from the event.
"It's been a huge boost for the Southland masters team," she said.
Out of the 10 Southland players, three placed in the top two.
Shaun Madden won the 35 to 39-year-old age group category and Marty McKelvie was runner-up in the 50-54 division.
Madden, whose victory was a result of two years of hard training, said "it was pretty cool [to win], but more of a relief than anything else".
The result was a team effort, he said.
"It was more of a collective thing ... we had a really good team environment".
His next goals are defending his title at next year's competition and, in his spare time, working towards a top-10 ranking in New Zealand.
"But now it's time to relax," he said.
McKelvie said: "I had to work pretty hard to get to the final. I was a little disappointed I didn't win but my opponent was 400 points above me and well into the A grade".
He aims to go one better next year and win his age group.
Baker said the Southland team had to borrow four players from Canterbury as they did not have enough depth in the 60-64 age-group.
One of them was Judy Smith, who years category won the division.
Earlier this year Madden was selected in the New Zealand masters team with McKelvie as a reserve.
Both travelled to Australia in August to compete in the Australian masters tri-series.
Squash Southland are thrilled with the results and Baker said the pair's achievements in the last two months were amazing.
Squash Southland saw a bright future for the sport in the region.
"I've put the entry in for them [the masters team] already," she said.
As players crossed over into the masters age group (35+) the depth of talent was increasing and it provided opportunities for Squash Southland to enter teams in a range of events, she said.
Squash Southlandare grateful to the Community Trust of Southland and the Southern Trust for their funding, and to Yunca, which provided the uniforms, she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News