In one of the strongest displays of provincial rivalry in years the Wisden and Slazenger Cup inter-provincial badminton competitions got underway today at North Harbour with teams literally scattered with former world stars plus some of the best current locals and those from years past.
Such is the barely veiled bitterness between some of the six associations in the Wisden Cup top division of badminton that it’s clear some teams have place huge importance on winning the tournament.
“There is plenty of good old fashioned rivalry between players and managers. Some of it can go back a long way. Off the court there’s great camaraderie, but it’s the one big chance during the year for some of these players to be in a team against current and former top players and no one wants to lose. Having overseas players of good standard around just adds that bit more to everything. There’s plenty of unknowns this year,” says Carrel the Badminton New Zealand Events Manager.
Southland have managed to acquire Ji Hyun the former New Zealand coach and a Olympic singles medallist in the Seoul Olympics as well as another Korean, Jin Ah who played for Waitakere last year. Also moving to Southland are Joe Wu from Waikato and Maoni Hu he who played for Southland last year but usually resides in China. Add in home-grown New Zealand team talent in James Eunson and Anna Rankin along with regular Southland rep Nic Raines and the Southland team is looking strong for a potential first title.
Perhaps the main rivals for Southland are defending champions Waikato who have a wide variety of nationalities as well as plenty of experience too. The 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games singles gold medallist Tracey Hallam lines up for Waikato alongside Kiwi reps Madeleine Stapleton, Susannah Leydon-Davis and Felicity Leydon-Davis as well as Peruvian born Doriana Rivera.
The men are headed by former national coach, TJ Weistra who was a talented world ranked Dutch player followed by German Tim Dettman then there’s Oliver Leydon-Davis a New Zealand representative plus the talented James Paterson and Michael Fowke.
The host team North Harbour have former Kiwi No1 John Moody returning on the men’s side and have two Australian imports, Leisha Cooper and Ann-Louise Slee, while Waitakere have former top 20 singles player Andrew Smith from England and talented countrywoman Emily Hollis. Also at Waitakere is the New Zealand men’s national singles champion, Dan Shirley, arguably the nations best ever player with several Commonwealth Games medals to his name and a bronze medal at the world champs.
Auckland have a couple of unknown players listed in their top singles places, Zhang Bo Yuan in the men’s and Stephanie Shalini Sukumaran in the women’s. They are followed by several current and former Kiwi internationals such as Kevin Dennerly-Minturn and Henry Tam as well as Donna Haliday, Victoria Cheng and current national singles champ, Kylie Luo.
Canterbury are the only team out of the six in Wisden Cup who have not taken on two imports, however they do have their own No1 player in the form of teenager Asher Richardson, although he has apparently had a major hand injury which could include a broken bone.
The Slazenger Cup comprises of Auckland(2), North Harbour(2), Bay of Plenty, Otago, Waikato(2) and Wellington North with a win meaning promotion to Wisden Cup. There is no clear-cut favourite in the Slazenger Cup with most of the teams containing a large number of junior players, although North Harbour does have two ex-internationals in Kerrin Harrison and Chris Blair.
Competition starts Tuesday 2 August with the final rounds Saturday 6 August from 9am at the North Harbour Badminton Centre, Forrest Hill.
Early results from Slazenger Cup:
Bay of Plenty 10 Waikato(2) 6, Wellington North 9 North Harbour(2) 7, Auckland(2) 12 Otago 4.