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TENNIS (Centenary History Text, 1961)

TENNIS (Centenary History Text, 1961)

See Also TENNIS (Sport)

The following text is an excerpt from the Centenary History of the Geelong College published in 1961:

Chapter sixteen

'IN THE YEAR 1881, ten years after the College moved to Newtown Hill, an asphalt Tennis Court was laid down between the main school doorway and the playing field. Matches were played against the Grammar School and the Geelong Tennis Club, and the game became so popular that it was blamed for the poor performance of cricket teams.

By 1885 the first College champions had appeared in the persons of A. D. ("Gus") Kearney and I. G. Glassford. In 1890 Kearney won the championship singles in the Intercolonial Tournament, won the doubles with Glassford, and was chosen to represent Victoria against New South Wales. The following year, their last at school, Kearney retained the singles championship, Glassford won the handicap and the pair were runners-up in the doubles.

For about twenty years thereafter, tennis continued on a less spectacular level; there is no complete record available till 1911 either of teams or of school champions, if there were such.

In 1911 it was found necessary to cut up the old court and root out the surrounding trees in order to make way for the Morrison Hall. Stumps were removed to the Cow Paddock to be broken up with small explosive charges, but someone blundered, and one day a large billet of wood crashed on to the roof of Room I in the old wooden buildings (close to the site of the modern Room J) . The missile stuck fast in the ceiling, showering teacher and pupils with wood and plaster, disturbing the serenity of the atmosphere and causing a hasty, undignified exit.

In 1912, Mr. and Mrs. T. S. Hawkes presented the College with a new court which was laid down on the site adjoining All Saints' Church. Their interest in the sport was very natural as their two young sons were displaying such phenomenal ability that the story of College tennis for the next seven years was to be largely that of the Hawkes brothers. Jack, the younger, a left-hander, carried off the Schoolboys' Championship of Victoria and the Raynes-Dickson Shield every year from 1914 to 1918. He did not fare quite so well at school, where he was twice beaten in the singles by his brother Tom. (During the 'twenties Jack Hawkes was one of Australia's leading doubles players in Davis Cup matches.)

In 1920 Messrs. Eric and Jim Russell presented another, tennis court. The third, the gift of Mrs. McFarland and Mr. Mephan Ferguson, was added in 1925. The annual school tournament and the House tennis competitions received great impetus from these added facilities.

The next notable player was A. L. Hassett, winner of the Public Schools Singles Championship in 1931 and 1932, who afterwards concentrated on cricket in preference to all the other games in which he might have excelled. He was, in fact, the College's last individual tennis star.

* * * *

The Preparatory School obtained its own asphalt court in 1942. In 1948 the three senior courts were reconstructed in en-tout-cas, and in 1959 their surface was renewed with an improved porous material.

* * * *

There is a long record of matches against the Geelong Grammar School, others against Melbourne Public Schools and the Geelong girls' schools, and occasional engagements with senior players. Through all this has run a thread of pleasant informality which has not reduced the keenness of the players or the seriousness of their game.

The quality of tennis must have varied considerably over the years. The great individual players undoubtedly raised the standard of the whole school while they were present, and for years afterwards. But tennis is a sport in which coaching can do something for the ordinary boy. Mr. Rolland, a tennis "blue" himself, was often on the courts, and sometimes took parties of boys to play in senior company. In more recent years a great deal was achieved by Mr. E. B. Lester and the boys of the committee, who had many opportunities for both hard work and administration. After 1952, Mr. F. R. Quick organized the complicated programme of coaching by professionals.

Today the hitting wall at the north end of the courts gives valuable aid to young players in perfecting their strokes. Before 1916, the west wall of Room 'W' served this purpose; its successor, a wooden structure, stood in the yard outside the cloak room until the building modifications of 1934 brought the beginnings of the cloisters.

The new members of the Associated Public Schools are all well organized for tennis, and there is a plan for the whole group of eleven schools to run matches concurrently with the cricket programme. There might be in such a development the danger of drifting into a grim battle for premierships, but, if this hazard were avoided and the "friendly match" atmosphere preserved, tennis could be, on an enlarged scale, what it has always been, one of the best training grounds for good personal and inter-school relations.'

Sources: The Geelong College 1861-1961 by G C Notman and B R Keith. Chapter 16, pp 117-119.
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