Players revel in new squash centre in Pirie

Dozens of eager squash players hit off at their new headquarters in the Port Pirie aquatic and leisure centre on Wednesday.

The Port Pirie Squash Club has picked up as many as 15 new members despite having been forced to play at Clare for the past three years.

This had resulted from the loss of the YMCA courts, in Gertrude Street, and the construction of the headquarters as part of the city’s $25 million sport hub.

Club president Greg Hay said 35 players would compete in the pennant competition that night.

He said a “core group” of 10 players had travelled to Clare to keep the club going.

“We reckon we have picked up 10 to 15 players,” he said while competitors warmed up on the glass-fronted courts.

“We cannot believe it. We are excited about tonight.”

In a speech to open the centre, he said the club had welcomed the “vision” of the Port Pirie Regional Council.

“We gather with thanks that our special game will grow through these facilities and through their loyalty to a group of players who said that squash is too good to let die,” he said.

“We acknowledge centre manager Terry McGinnis, of Belgravia Leisure, who wants us to thrive. 

“We are here at a historic moment. The first pennant in extraordinary facilities begins and so does the renaissance of the club.

“When we walked for the first time into the centre, we breathed just a little more deeply and held that breath.

“It was truly beautiful and we connected to something special. Congratulations, you are the first to play. I thank the committee for preparing this moment. I congratulate you on participation.

“Not too many ‘eff’ words in a sentence, but there is fun, fitness and fellowship – eagles will fly.”

Pennants director Simon Oehms was hobbling with a “moon boot” among the spectators after having hurt his ankle in the final match last season.

Doubts hang over whether he will ever play on the new courts.

He said older members and higher-ranked players had been asked to take the newer competitors under their wing.

Brody Maywald, 15, warmed up on one of the pristine courts. 

“It is a bit of fitness and fun,” he said.

The success of the club would be music to the ears of council members who backed the sport despite the odds.

The players previously competed at the YMCA courts which are to be demolished to make way for a carpark. Teams kept travelling to Clare in the knowledge that something good was around the corner.