Hidden gem continues to shine

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013
Tony Johnson
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
STILL GOING STRONG: Eighty-eight-year-old Tony Johnson taking part in the Southland Table Tennis Social Group session yesterday.

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The Southland Social Table Tennis Group is regarded as a bit of a hidden gem in Southland sport.

You won't find any superstars in attendance and there are more laughs than grunts of disappointment echoing around the Lindersfarne St venue in Invercargill.

However, the organisation still has an important place in Southland sport and that importance was recognised yesterday.

Yesterday marked 20 years since the social group was started as every Tuesday and Friday morning they have got together for a game of table tennis.

Most of the players in attendance each week are retired or just people looking for a social sport to stay active.

Two mornings a week since 1983 the group has started playing at 10am, had a break for a cup of tea at 11am before returning to the table and finishing at 12.

Current organiser Dawn Wood said it was just as much about the camaraderie than the sport.

There are no egos and the unwritten rule is the players play to the standard of the opposition rather than trying to dominant the table.

The group was instigated in 1983 by June King and Nancy Foley and has developed into an important weekly activity for those who take part.

Wood said the members looked after each other and if a member didn't turn up for a week or two they made sure they were OK.

Gordon Surgenor said he played table tennis as a youngster in the 1950s and to have this group in place where he could still play the sport was great.

Surgenor is known as the story teller of the group, often having the other members listening intently during their tea break.

At 81 however he's not the oldest member, that honour goes to 88-year-old Tony Johnson who has played for 18 of the 20 years the group has been going.

A usual turnout each session is about 20-odd people and Wood said they were always looking for new members.

Each session costs $4 but bats and balls are provided.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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