At just 15, Tauranga's Max Henderson is making his mark in the sport of table tennis - and he has high hopes for himself at this week's New Zealand champs.

Max is one of 56 Bay of Plenty athletes competing in the Table Tennis New Zealand Open Championships at the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre this week. He is competing in both the Under 15 and Under 18 age groups and is looking forward to reaping some awards.

Just a few days into the competition he's already having some success representing the Bay of Plenty squad, winning all three of his pool matches.

"I've been going well. I've just only played U18 matches and won all matches," Max says.

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Max, who is also an U15 New Zealand squad member, is looking forward to his doubles competitions, where he will team up with Southland's Finn Holden, who also part of the New Zealand team. They will play in both the U15 and U18 divisions.

"We met last year at the New Zealand U15 squad training camp and sort of been friends ever since. We thought we'd make a good pair.

"Under 15s we're predicted to come first, we're hoping for gold for that. U18s is a step up, tough matches but we're hoping to make Bay of Plenty and Invercargill proud."

In the U15 Boys Singles division, Max is second seed and says he will be "trying to live up to that second place potential and do one better".

He's also in the Bay of Plenty mens team, seeded around sixth or seventh.

"We've got some strong players for that event. I believe we're seeded roughly around sixth or seventh but we'll try and do our best."

Max started playing table tennis in Year 7 at AIMS Games and has carried it through to Year 11.

"I enjoy it because it's fast pace, it's always changing and I just enjoy it alot. Everyone's friendly, its always a good time," Max says.

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Tauranga table tennis player Max Henderson in action. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga table tennis player Max Henderson in action. Photo / George Novak

Max is one of 335 people from New Zealand, New Caledonia, Australia, Sri Lanka and Germany who are competing in the national champs, including 56 athletes representing the Bay of Plenty, about 45 of them from Tauranga and Pāpāmoa clubs.

Table Tennis Tauranga president Paul Henderson says having the national champs in Tauranga is great news for the community, attracting not only hundreds of competitors but hundreds of supporters coming from out of town as well. He says every visiting player will have at least two people supporting them.

"That's being conservative ... it's awesome for Tauranga," Henderson says.

"The great thing about this event is it's a whole week."

This year is the first time the competition, which started on October 3 and runs until Saturday, has been hosted in Tauranga for 40 years and Henderson hopes it will be the beginning of more major competitions for the city.

"It's just amazing. We're getting a lot of good feedback from people out of town saying they're enjoying the competition so far."

Henderson says Table Tennis New Zealand executive director John Lea, who is also the treasurer of the Bay of Plenty Table Tennis Association, "was instrumental" in securing the event.

"On the back of the success of this I think we'll have a good chance to hold this again," Henderson says.

"It's wonderful and we are hoping to bring other events to Tauranga, national and international."

Next year, the Bay association has already secured hosting rights for the Secondary Schools Nationals.

Henderson says the popularity of table tennis is growing in Tauranga, something he attributes to the sport being all-inclusive and appealing to diverse groups of people from all ages, sporting abilities, backgrounds and ethnicities.

"It's growing very quickly. It's a resurgence really, and that's right across New Zealand.

"It's a great way to meet people."

Next year, Henderson is expecting the sport to grow even further in Tauranga, working with Sport Bay of Plenty to develop a coaching plan and going into schools so table tennis is considered as an option.

"A lot of people just don't think of table tennis."

Henderson says the local junior teams are playing well and having an U13 girls team this year means they will be able to develop the sport in the future.

"We're all working together to grow that."

During the competition games are played from 8.30am to 8.30pm each day, with mens and womens semifinals on Saturday starting from 3pm, followed by finals from 5.30pm.

Max Henderson's 2018 highlights:
North Island U15 Boys Singles title winner
South Island U15 Boys Singles second place
Waikato U21 Singles winner
Bay of Plenty U18s Singles winner