Wheelchair aces say tournament will grow
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THE Key Employment Northern NSW Wheelchair Tennis Tournament may have had humble beginnings last year but Australia's top two female players believe that from a small acorn, a mighty oak can grow.
Marny Cringle from Maitland and Port Macquarie's Janel Manns are at Westside Tennis Club this weekend for the tournament that only had four players last year. This year there will be eight particpants, with the two girls taking on six of the boys for the Northern NSW title. The fact the numbers aren't huge isn't a concern to the girls.
"Nowra is the South Pacific titles and they kicked off like this," Manns said. "The first year they had three or four participants, the following year they had eight and this year was the first year they had a full female draw."
In two weeks' time the pair will be in Kuala Lumpur for the second largest event behind the Paralympics and the girls are already getting excited about the chance to represent Australia in Beijing in 2008.
"We've just become recognised by the Paralympic Committee as the new potentials for Beijing," Cringle said. "The FESPIC Games are the lead-in for newcomers to all sports and then you lead-on from there."
Although looking to this weekend as preparation for Kuala Lumpur, there's a bigger picture issue that the tennis guns have in the back of their mind when they play in a tournament like this.
"For us to be here, aside from match practice which we need for FESPIC, there's a lot of wheelies along the coast in the country," Manns said.
"I used to work for wheelchair sports and a lot is made available for anyone living in our metro areas, so I love to see young kids with disabilities come and have a go and realise that there is a lot, they can have a great time and there's the potential to make something of their life."
Westside pro Allan Pade says the weekend isn't just for the eight tournament entries but anyone who wants to come down, either disabled or able bodied. There's even a WillAid Challenge this afternoon for six of the better- ranked local juniors to see how they go playing in a wheelchair.