There are rumblings of discontent in the Auckland schools tennis ranks, but there is some light at the end of what is a murky tunnel.
There are strong feelings that the criteria for promotion into the premier A1 boys' and girls' ranks are arbitrary and governed by self-interest from some private schools.
"Private schools have massive investment in protecting their premier sports positions," was one pointed remark from a Herald source.
The premier tennis competitions are reaching the pointy end of the season, with six teams in the girls and seven in the boys. The Herald understands that Botany Downs and Selwyn, among others, who both performed strongly in the 2014 girls' A2 division and are doing well again in 2015, are unhappy that there appeared to be no pathway for promotion. Complicating the saga is the fact that St Kentigern, who withdrew both their premier girls' and boys' sides from the 2014 competition, are back in the fold. No one doubts that they are good enough, as they are representing Auckland, along with both Westlake schools, at the nationals in Wellington next week, but that put further heat on the draw.
At the heart of the issue, however, is whether the criteria for inclusion in premier grade should be on individual player rankings, which is the norm in tennis, or team performances in the previous year.
There is a concern that the regulations are too loose and allow the usual suspects unfettered access to premier status.
However, things are not so easily pigeon-holed, argues Auckland Secondary Schools Tennis Association president Barry Schmidt, of Auckland Grammar.
"I don't think all the rules fit every sport. You cannot rank tennis on last year's team rankings, because once players leave you have a totally different team," he said.
He used to work with the late John Hume to sort the draw, always a tricky one when you need to gauge interest from schools who want to play in premiers, the relative strengths of teams with non-regular players or even overseas students, and the desire to avoid byes.
"We talked about having the A2 winners automatically go up, but Auckland Grammar won the A2 one year and couldn't go up as only one team from one school was allowed in the top grade," Schmidt says.
There was drama last month after the ASSTA AGM when the draw had been done based on the rankings system.
There was an original call to have eight teams in the girls, after 10 had put their hands up for entry. King's was, based on the rankings, on the cusp of relegation from the boys. That decision was overturned by the ASSHA board, which governs College Sport in the region, who ruled that premier tennis inclusion would be based on 2014 placings, plus the reinstatement of St Kentigern.
The board has a clear desire to not have two teams from one school in premier grades, though there are precedents for that, notably in water polo.
The competition was postponed a week, as it was in 2014 when St Kentigern withdrew late from premier tennis. Schmidt is hopeful the impasse can be sorted out well before Christmas so all parties know where they stand.
College Sport chief executive Dave Currie is driving much of the latest work on formulating clear policy. He is as frustrated as anyone at the situation.
"My view is that we have to be driven by process ... and there hasn't been enough trust. It has to be sorted. We can't go on like this. At some point we'll lock everyone in the room until we get white smoke," said Currie.
He expects to be in a position to make a recommendation to the ASSHA board in the next two months.