The Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships will return to Whanganui after 93 years.

With tennis in decline in clubs across the country, the clubs are working hard to attract new members.

Whanganui Tennis Club president Dave Butters is no different, determined to increase the popularity of the sport.

"The vets are ageing and not coming back, so it's our job to try and promote it as best we can and to bring them in. And it's also our job to make sure they stay here once we do bring them in," he said.

Advertisement

After a successful membership drive the club is now turning its attention to inspiring the next generation of athletes. Butters and Whanganui Tennis vice-president, Roland Hiri, hatched a plan to bid for the next Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships to be played in Whanganui in December 2020.

Dave Butters. Photo / Georgie Ormond
Dave Butters. Photo / Georgie Ormond

"
"We were discussing what can we do to grow Māori tennis for the juniors in Whanganui because it used to be such a powerful thing," Butters said. "There used to be so many Māori playing tennis in Whanganui and when we first joined this club, I think there were only two playing. Now there's quite a few."

Run annually since its inception, the Māori Tennis Championships' return to Whanganui after 93 years will be a milestone in the tournament's rich and extensive history. The second tournament was also held in Whanganui in 1927.

"It was a huge, huge tournament.

"I always saw the tennis nationals starting back here, this was home and the plan was bring it home. The All Blacks have the motto Stadium of One, our motto was bringing it home.

"The goal has always been - we need the children. Why do we need the children? Because they're athletes. Māori kids and Polynesians are great athletes and it will just grow the game and promote it. We just want more Māori athletes coming and playing."

The Butters family, six of whom rep for Whanganui, are well known in tennis circles in Whanganui and worldwide. Niece, Paige Hourigan started her tennis career in Whanganui and is the top ranked female in New Zealand.

"Paige is a beautiful tennis player. She's the New Zealand national champion for seniors and I know it was a buzz for her when she went and played up in Auckland against Caroline Wozniacki.

Advertisement

"And she's an amazing doubles partner. She got to hit with Venus Williams a lot which is amazing when you see her on TV with those guys."

"The vets are ageing and not coming back" but there's a plan to rebuild in Whanganui. Photo / Georgie Ormond

Butters' son Kyle Butters is a former New Zealand national champ.

Kyle was forced to retire from professional tennis due to injury but has now returned to Whanganui to help his Dad grow the sport in the region as a coach and development officer, promoting tennis throughout schools.

"I've been over in the States on a tennis scholarship so I've been there for four years, Butters said. "I was playing tennis for a college called Boise State University studying there as well, so I got my degree."

Butters reckons anyone can do it.

"It's funny, you think how can two kids from Whanganui do so much?

"It's three things: you've got to have a dream, you've got to have great work ethic and they've got to be mongrels and never give up.

"If you've got those three things then you can do anything."

Made with funding from