The locals in the Squash Central team which went to the NZ Masters Squash Championships came away with a runnerup placing and a second tier title after four days competition in Timaru in late October.

Whanganui's Kent Darlington, Raetihi's Emma Rowe and Taihape's Emma Mullins were in the 12-person Central team, with one competitor for each age group from 35 upwards, with their team mates coming from Palmerston North, Levin and Taranaki.

In the 40-44 Men's grade, Darlington came runnerup, after playing "probably the best squash I have", before he will move on to the 45-49 age group from next season.

Seeded fourth amongst eight players, Darlington beat fifth seed Neil Rossin from Auckland after four sets, 11/4 5/11 11/8 11/3, which set him up to face top seed and former five time national champion Kashif Shuja (Bay of Plenty), who used to represent Central, and was the younger man in his first year of this division.

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"He still holds the NZ No 12 spot in senior ranks and is A1 graded," said Darlington.

"I had been hitting the ball well of late and knew if I could stick to a solid game plan against him I might have a chance."

Shuja was also coming straight off a Trans-Tasman series in the 35-39 age group, and Darlington pulled off the biggest win of his season by getting the upset 7/11 11/7 11/8 11/3.

After dropping the first set, Darlington hit form by winning the second and had been up 7/1 in the third before Shuja came roaring back.

"I then managed to dig deep and went from being 8/8, through to take that set 11/8 and a crucial 2-1 up.

"The fourth, again I took a big lead and this time managed to close it out, which was certainly very pleasing."

So the Whanganui player went through to the final for the second straight year, but had to face defending champion and third seed Allan Crome (Waikato), who had beaten the Australian second seed in the other semifinal.

"I gave it everything but he was just that much better and I lost 11/9 11/9 11/5," said Darlington.

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Kent Darlington with Ngakuira Osborne at the local squash prize giving earlier this year.
Kent Darlington with Ngakuira Osborne at the local squash prize giving earlier this year.

In the Women's 35-39 division, Rowe was seeded eighth, which meant she had to face top seed and eventual winner Shelley Kitchen, a former NZ Junior and Senior champion.
Kitchen won 11/5, 11/3, 11/3 on her way to claiming the title.

Rowe then faced fifth seed Jannah Wyeth (Wellington), which she also lost, however she defeated Otago's Janelle Hazeldine 8/11, 11/5, 11/7, 13/11 to take out the Consolation Plate.

Mullins missed out on the top draw of the Women's 55-59 division, and was seeded sixth in Division 1 of the same age group.

She then defied the odds by winning all her matches, beating Donna Brown (Midlands) and Joy Koolen (Palmerston North and Central manager) in three sets.

That put Mullins into the Division 1 final against top seed Libby Patterson (Wellington), and again she won in three straight sets - 16/14 17/15 15/9.

The Masters nationals concluded with the team's event, with Central seeded ninth out of the nine entrants.

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"We unfortunately had a lot of players unavailable in the lead up, however we still were able to pull together a team and go away for the trip," said Darlington.

Central lost to Bay of Plenty 11-1, which included Shuja getting revenge on Darlington with a narrow win in five sets.

The team then lost to Waikato (10-2), Midlands (7-5) and Otago (8-4), although Darlington won his matches against all three opponents, while Rowe beat Hazeldine again in the Otago matchup, this time in five sets.