Canterbury tennis boss dumped

By Nick Tolerton of the Christchurch Star

Well-known Rangiora tennis identity Sam Clarke has been dumped as patron of Tennis Canterbury in a row that reflects splits in the sport since the earthquakes wrecked Wilding Park and courts at several clubs.

Clarke, who served on the association's senior committee for 42 years, was nominated again as patron by the Tennis Canterbury board.

But at the annual meeting Colin Hunt, president of the Canterbury Tennis Seniors Association and a former Canterbury chairman, moved a vote of no confidence in the nomination, and this was carried.

Two new candidates, Tony Ralfe and Don Taylor, have been put forward for the patron's position, which will now be decided at a previously scheduled special meeting on November 28.

However, the dumping of Clarke, 78, shocked many tennis supporters and has drawn a blast from tennis legend Onny Parun, who says new forces have managed to infiltrate and control the sport in Canterbury.

"Sam has been a long and loyal servant of Canterbury tennis who more than deserves to be its patron," he said. "May those forces that rejected him forever hang their heads in shame."

Born only 300m from Wilding Park, Clarke is Mr Tennis to many people. He has been a distinguished administrator and coach, and prepared the park to host 10 Davis Cup ties during a golden era for the sport in Canterbury.

Tennis Canterbury chairman Peter Maciaszek said statements had been made to and fro earlier in the meeting before the no-confidence vote.

"Some strong statements were made by Sam and some strong statements made in reply," he said. "So there was a little tension in the meeting at that point."

Clarke said the robust discussion came when some speakers were trying to extract information about the financial package former Canterbury chief executive David Blackwell received when he left.

He said he thought that was history, they had a new chief executive and were moving forward, and there were more important things to discuss.

"So I expressed that in no uncertain terms."

Since the earthquake, instead of working through the democratically organised delegates' meetings, representatives from some clubs had been getting together and meeting among themselves, Clarke said.

He believed if clubs had a complaint, they should bring it to the delegates' meeting.

Clarke said he "burst out laughing" at the decision and did not feel hurt, because tennis was bigger than him.

Hunt said he would "plead the fifth" when the North Canterbury News asked him about his no-confidence motion.

Asked about the sport's divisions, Hunt said there would be a meeting in the next 10-14 days of clubs concerned about the tennis set up. Interclub was having to be run through clubs and this took a lot of co-operation, "but I must say clubs are doing it very well".

The North Canterbury News also asked Maciaszek about the splits evident in local tennis, but he said there was a collaborative approach and he believed all parties would work together.


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