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Hillcrest Tennis Club still acing it after 85 years

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Once upon a time, there was a tennis court near every church, park or sporting and social club in Mayfield.

But, today, close to a century later, most have surrendered to residential construction, commercial developments and carparks.

So, that makes Hillcrest Tennis Club’s achievement of 85 years, and still going strong in 2023, all the more remarkable.

Tennis is enjoying a resurgence, according to Hillcrest members Elva Osborne, Bev Picton and Dennis Osborne. Photo: Rod Thompson

The organisation was first created by the sheet steel manufacturer, Lysaghts, for the company’s workers to enjoy a hit at the Usk Street location in 1938.

Now, it’s home to an upgraded clubhouse, toilet facilities and two synthetic courts.

“We think it’s a terrific milestone to celebrate,” Hillcrest Tennis Club president Elva Osborne said.

“Newcastle and District Tennis Association began in 1912, however tennis had been an established sport, particularly among the well-to-do who had larger estates in Waratah and Mayfield, which allowed for a court.

“Back then, parents and educators were teaching their children or students to play, due to its increasing popularity.

“Hillcrest started not long after.

“So, obviously, we’re delighted to still be here after 85 years.

“We’ve got good membership, about 50 – from ages 10 through to 86, and excellent coaching.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, especially in the past couple of decades.

With volunteers the backbone of the club, there have been numerous fundraisers to keep Hillcrest afloat.

That situation was somewhat relieved in 2016, when the members received a $40,000 grant from Port Waratah Coal Services, allowing the organisation to unveil renewed courts in 2017.

“If they had not come to our rescue, we would have had to fold,” Osborne said.

“We simply didn’t have enough funds to replace the courts.

“So, we were very lucky and grateful to Port Waratah.”

And, even better, the future looks bright for Hillcrest.

Membership is rising again and it might have a star in its midst, too.

Young gun Sachin Shankar, who recently represented Northumberland in the under-11s at the Regional State League in May, returned from Grafton with a victory under his belt.

“Our coach Jason Quinn does a brilliant job,” Osborne said.

“He has a lot of juniors who are coming through the ranks.

“We see many of them, undertaking their special programs, at the weekend.

“But, we have high hopes for Sachin.

“He started here when he was five… and I think he’ll go a long way; he’s a lovely player for someone so young.

“Jason’s coaching him.

“Then there’s Vienna, she’s about 14 and a coach as well.

“She was ninth in this area beforehand; however, I believe she’s about 15th overall in the state now.

“She’s really good.”

Osborne, who’s been a member for more than 35 years, said Hillcrest had bounced back strongly from COVID, too.

“We had to change a couple of things, but bookings and joining online, that’s worked well for us,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.

“Plus, tennis is a very reasonably priced sport.

“You can also play it at any age, so there’s plenty of appeal.

“Tournaments like Wimbledon, and the success of someone like Ash Barty, lift the profile as well.

“Even though we don’t host competitions anymore, social tennis fits better into people’s lifestyles.

“They’re enjoying the sport, the physical activity and they can connect with others.

“And, seeing the kids with smiles on their faces, having a hit, also makes you feel better.

“Especially on Saturdays and Sundays, when Jason and his daughter coach them… they look like they’re having fun, which is the main thing.

“We might host an 85th birthday celebration towards the end of the year and bring everyone together.

“The goal is to reach our 100th,” she added with a laugh.

“And, while we can stand up and keep a committee going, we’ll be here for a while yet.”

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