Awards Winners for 2019

The annual Squash Central Awards were held on the 7th December at the Whanganui Squash Club to wrap up the years fantastic achievements across the District (criteria period from 31st Oct 2018 – 31st Sept 2019).  Covering all the districts territory from New Plymouth to Ohakune through to Dannevirke, Tararua and Levin and in between, it was the second year in a row that all categories were filled up.  A total of 50 nominations were submitted from the clubs, showing that there are some fantastic people doing wonderful things for the sport of Squash in the region.  


Matthew Ratcliffe (Whanganui) took out the Referee of the Year award and was acknowledged for obtaining his District Referee qualification.  An extensive amount of written and practical testing was required, along with time invested over a period of 9 months and Ratcliffe is always willing to step up & ref finals or difficult matches around the district tournaments.


Ashhurst Pohangina’s Brayden Bryce won the Most Improved Senior Player trophy after he had a massive year moving through D Grade and into C Grade.  Even though he is full on involved with his own club, Bryce could be seen playing many tournaments around the district.  His points movement for the year was an impressive 965, from 1700 to 2665 and now he is only sitting 35 pts off B Grade.


Young Jack Shearer from Kawaroa Park won the Most Improved Junior award.  Shearer has had a very productive 2019 season, moving a massive 955 grading points, from D2 to C1.  He is often found at the club early hours of the morning working solo sessions and as a result of his hard work, has moved forward in leaps and bounds.  Jack lead the Kawaroa Park D Grade men's squash team that won the District Super Champs competition, earning them the right to represent Central at the Nationals in Whangarei.  He had fantastic performances at both of these events, walking away with a 100%-win rate which played an integral part in this team in taking 3rd place at the national event.  Individually, Jack took out the Kawaroa Park Squash Clubs Open Junior Boy’s championship as well as the Under 19 Boy's Championship and the Most Improved Boy award, a fantastic way to cap this young man's 2019 Squash season. 


The Men’s Masters was won by Kent Darlington (Whanganui) who continued to hold his own in amongst the District & Masters national top players.  He represented Central in all the Senior rep fixtures against Eastern, Wellington and Waikato.  He won the Central Men’s Open for the first time along with the Central Masters title.  He equalled the Club Champ record for titles at his Whanganui club, by winning his 13th and also is the Whanganui Masters Club Champ for 2019. He is ranked #2 overall in Central on the grading list and also took on the role of NZ Junior selector for 2019.  Kent continues to train hard and chase tournaments as a Masters player.  He still finds time to coach the Whanganui Juniors on a Monday night and coached the Men’s E grade Super Champs team at the Whanganui Club this year along with volunteering his time during club tournaments.  He was also a member of the Central Masters team which headed to Timaru for the NZ Masters Nationals in October.


The Women’s Masters award saw Joy Koolen (SquashGym Palmerston North) win this year’s title.  Koolen is a great supporter of Ladies interclub where most of her competitive squash is played.  She is a big part of SquashGym’s Business House & Challenger Series events. This year she has taken on the role of the Central Masters team Manager job and with a number of people unavailable or pulling out she still managed to put together a team to head to Timaru.  Koolen is also a big part of the Nga Hau E Wha SquashGym team.  In the mix for a second award Koolen also took out the Volunteer/Contributor to Squash trophy.  At her SquashGym club she has introduced two new series this year, a Doubles Series and an E Grade and Below Series - this is targeted at E, F and J Grade players wanting to get better, helping them move through their grade.  She also contacts every new member to welcome them to the club and tells them what is available to them and offers help to settle them into the club along with finding people for them to play.  Since coming back onto the committee she has built the Business House back up and this now has a full grid of 32 teams of 4 players along with Challenger and Grand Prix Series.  This year she managed the Women's interclub team and co-ordinated those players in the Masters interclub.  She also overall managed the six SquashGym Super Champs teams while finding coaches and Managers for each team. 


Administrator of the Year saw Paula Laing from Waitara Squash Club take out the award after being involved in the club for the last three years, holding the role of Secretary for the last two years. Having spent seven years on Tararua's committee, she bought a variety of skills to Waitara that have been put to good use.  Along with the general activities of a Club Secretary, she has worked on securing funding for the club which will see some essential building maintenance able to go ahead, spent time ensuring that the clubs iSquash is in order, and assisted getting the iSquash court booking facility up and running at the club.  She has jumped into tournament draw preparation and tournament control space along with training some apprentices at a second tournament to upskill the team for the future.  Paula is the current Chair of the Taranaki Zone Committee, and over the previous year encouraged the Zone to hold a Masters Interclub this year as it had not been run in Taranaki for many years. 


Personality for the Year  was won by SquashGym Palmerston North’s Allan Bailey who is a familiar & popular face around the District and NZ.  His easy going nature and good squash skills have made him one of the most beloved characters in the squash scene for the past few years.  He is a passionate player who never gives up and enjoys playing as many tournaments as possible, which is most weekends.  His values, vibrant personality, and the way he carries himself on and off the court, and his overall general manner with people is exceptional and he loves bringing out his guitar for a few tunes at prizegivings! 


Young Kaitlyn Watts from SquashGym Palmerston North took out the Player of the Year award in her last year as a junior.  Watts has been the most outstanding female player in recent history in the Central District.  Her accomplishments are only rivalled by her passion, which makes her a dangerous opponent to anyone who takes her on.  This year she won the Junior Open Championships in Tauranga and the New Zealand Doubles Title.  To top this up, Watts also won a PSA event earlier in the year (March) in Auckland.  She made the NZ Junior squad that played the World Championships in Malaysia and is a member of the high performance squad that targets New Zealand’s best players.


The Coach of the Year was taken out by Victor Romero (SquashGym Palmerston North).  Romero has been SquashGym's head coach for the last year.  He has taken a group of kids and delivered coaching to them throughout the year in an attempt to make squash a yearlong sport and erase the summer/winter sport barrier that allows players to distance themselves from the sport.  He also started a successful 'SquashFit' programme that many members enjoy on Wednesday and Friday nights.  Finally, Romero was recruited by Squash Central to be the Senior and Junior coach for both rep teams.  He is a coach that can cater to players from juniors to masters and from beginners to high performers and who puts the person first and the player second.


The Team of the Year  was won by the Taihape Men’s F Grade Super Champs Team for their efforts as they won the District competition & then went onto take out the National Men’s F Grade title in Hamilton.  Coaches Josh Hooper and Mark McCord put their hands up to take on these men and coach them, every Monday night they would travel from far and wide as they all live out of town and spend around 1-2 hours training.  The team of Mike Smith, Matt Robertson, Korey O’hara, Ollie Gordon, Max Buchanan, Callum McCord and Jack Squires beat Ohakune 4/1 in the district competition and then smashed it at the Nationals by winning all their matches and only dropping one game over the entire competition.  They beat Hamilton 5/0, Hawkes Bay 5/0, Lugton Park 4/1 and then in the final they beat Henderson 5/0.  This is the first national title for the small club of Taihape since 2003 and only the 4th national title the club holds.


The Club of the Year was won by Kawaroa Park Squash Club from New Plymouth for the second year in a row.  In 2019 they hosted a National squash event for the fourth consecutive year, fielded 5 teams at the National Super Champs and pick up a National title from their C grade ladies team.  Their Junior programme has 45 juniors coming down to the club every Monday night.  Their highest graded Junior Brooke Reid was re-selected for the NZ youth development squad for a second year running.  They increased their female members by 13.5% which is primarily attributed to the time and effort put into women coaching clinics.  The club fielded seven teams in the district Super Champs competition, four went onto represent Central Districts at the National competitions.  They have a strong ladder league competition in house with 60 – 80 entrants.  However the club admits none of it would be possible without the tireless efforts of their volunteer committee of 15 which has worked hard dedicating countless hours & energy into making it function like a well-oiled machine!



Squash Central Awards Winners:

Referee of the Year – (Acknowledgement Award)

Matthew Ratcliffe – Whanganui Squash Club


Most Improved Senior Player – (Paula & Kent Darlington Trophy)

Brayden Bryce – Ashhurst Pohangina Squash Club


Most Improved Junior – (Sansom Family Trophy)

Jack Shearer – Kawaroa Park Squash Club


Men’s Masters Player/Services – (Merv & Jean Tapp Trophy)

Kent Darlington – Whanganui Squash Club


Womens Masters Player/Services – (Lois Mills Tray)

Joy Koolen – SquashGym Palmerston North


Administrator of the Year – (Sharon & Warren Patterson Trophy)

Paula Laing – Waitara Squash Club


Personality for the Year – (Barb & Mike Jack Trophy)

Allan Bailey – SquashGym Palmerston North


Volunteer Contributor to Squash – (Central Squash Trophy)

Joy Koolen – SquashGym Palmerston North


Player of the Year – (Central Squash Trophy)

Kaitlyn Watts – SquashGym Palmerston North


Coach of the Year – (Donna Wilson Trophy)

Victor Romero - SquashGym Palmerston North


Team of the Year – (Central Squash Trophy)

Taihape Men’s F Grade Super Champs Team


Club of the Year – (Carson Family Trophy)

Kawaroa Park Squash Club