Whanganui Squash Club A-grader Matthew Ratcliffe played a pivotal role in Central Squash winning the New Zealand Districts Champion of Champion titles for just the third time in history.
Four Whanganui Squash Club players were part of the 11-strong Central side to contest the Champion of Champions competition in Ohakune over the weekend.
As part of representative side, the players were competing for individual titles in each of their respective grades as well as the overall district title for most points earned over the three-day competition.
To be selected for the side players had to win their club championships and their district champs before going on to battle other districts for the titles in each grade from F to A.
The Central Squash team started one point down on Auckland, the defending title-holders as there was no A grade women's representative for Central this year.
After the first round, three players Emma Dowman, Allan Bailey and Mark Langdon, were eliminated out of title contention losing to their opponents. This left Central with eight still in the running, including all four Whanganui players.
Dane Kendall, Gabrielle Bevins and Whanganui's Pauline Slovak all lost in the second round to miss a place in their respective finals. This left Central with a good showing of five title contenders out of 12 finals.
First up was the Ohakune F grade man Sam Deadman who took it to the wire going into extended games as a player must win by two. Deadman eventually gained the first title of the day in a 3/1 victory.
The next player up was Whanganui High School student Samson Power in the E grade men's final. His opponent was a finely-coached youngster who made very few errors and took the title 3/0. Mairi Whittle of Taihape also failed to take her title losing 3/1.
This left Auckland leading the district points table by two points over Central and both had two more players in finals.
Whanganui's Ngakuira Osborne showed she had earned her new A grade status by not dropping a single game all weekend and took out her Eastern opponent in a very efficient three to win the B grade women's title.
This left Whanganui's Matt Ratcliffe, who was second seed going into the final to a very young and fit looking Aucklander Jack Condor. Both had moved into A grade recently and Condor was racing up the ranks.
Ratcliffe showed his years of experience and amazing touch on the ball along with a cool head under some interesting referee calls to hold off Condor's running game as he came unstuck under Ratcliffe's constant pressure to take the match and title 3/2.
This was Ratcliffe's third shot at the title after previously losing the finals match in 2016 and 2017.
His win took Central to a two point lead over Auckland to claim the NZ District Champion of Champions trophy for just the third time in history.
The Central Team consisted of:
Men's A - Allan Bailey (PN)
Men's B - Matthew Ratcliffe (WG)
Men's C - Mark Langdon (KP)
Men's D - Dane Kendall (WT)
Men's E - Samson Power (WG)
Men's F - Sam Deadman (OH)
Women's B - Ngakuira Osbourne (WG)
Womens' C - Pauline Slovak (WG)
Women's D - Emma Foreman (WT)
Women's E - Maire Whittle (TH)
Women's F - Gabrielle Bevins (ST)