There is an air of excitement around the Ballarat Squash & Racquetball Association ahead of this weekend’s Ballarat Open Squash Championships.
Whether it be the improved player registrations numbers on last year, the impact of a new centre manager or the brand new facelift given to the club’s squash centre, Ballarat Squash & Racquetball Club Board Member Glen Rogan said the club couldn’t wait to host the region’s premier squash event of the year.
“People will notice the difference this year; we’ve had all the courts re-done, the whole façade re-done and the stairs up to the viewing area all re-done, so it has all been part of rejuvenating the centre,” Rogan said.
“We’ve come in with about 90 entries which is good and up on last year – last year we had 82.
“We’re trying to make it a very enjoyable tournament in which everyone comes in and has a great time, and goes away saying ‘that was great’.”
According to Rogan, a heavy focus on promoting the event via social media has underpinned the increase in player registration numbers – a tactic driven by new Ballarat Squash & Racquetball Club Manager, Russell McLean.
McLean, who is also the manager of the Bendigo Squash Club, was appointed to the Ballarat role in late March and has quickly set about putting structures in place to improve all facets of the tournament.
“Obviously this year, we’ve got Russell as our new manager now, and we’re trying to integrate the country clubs so they can talk a bit more, and he has done some good things at Bendigo so he is a great addition,” Rogan said.
“He is very new, to the point he probably only started officially this week, but he has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to get it running and working on the tournament.”
The initial results of this behind the scenes work are promising, with registrations widespread from around regional and metropolitan Victoria to go with the typical strong support from the region’s local squash players.
“Every year we have Melbourne Uni bring up a team, and we have a few guys from Bright way, a few from the Gippsland side,” Rogan said.
“Bendigo are bringing a good travelling group of 18, Geelong has 10 and six from Warrnambool, which is up from last year.
“As far as the lower divisions go, they are all heavily stacked which is great – there are 12 or 13 (players) in every division.
“We’ve also got 36 players from Ballarat which is great, which is up on last year and probably again due to our social media and pushing that out more and a lot earlier.
“It really helps if you get 30-40% of the players in the tournament that are local, it really helps your tournament.”
While many of the leading players on the Victorian Grand Prix Squash Circuit will not be taking part in the Open divisions this weekend, Rogan said the depth of the young talent on display would lead to an impressive standard of competition.
“As for the Open (events), it is up for grabs for any of the youngsters in the Men’s and Women’s,” Rogan said.
“It’s great to see Jessica Graham and Taylor Flavell in who are working hard on the tour at the moment, and for the Men’s side you’ve got Jason Holmes, Nathan Lindner and a few other guys in contention.”
The 2017 Ballarat Open Squash Championships will take place at the Ballarat Squash & Racquetball Centre on April 8 and 9.