Wanganui representative tennis coach and No 1 player Kyle Butters is feeling a little nostalgic for the 'good ole days' as he leads the team into their Christie Cup challenge against a very strong Hawke's Bay squad on Sunday.
Butters was part of the golden era of Wanganui tennis when they held the Cup, symbol of Central Districts tennis supremacy, from November 2012 through to February 2017, nearly becoming the first association since the Cup's introduction in 1963 to retain it for five straight seasons.
His cousin, Paige Hourigan, was on the ground floor of a career which would see her rise to become New Zealand's No 1 women's player, while other top professionals like Emma Hayman, Leela Beattie and Victor Romero would also don the blue polo shirt over that time period.
More members of the Butters clan – Kyle's sister Paris, mother Tara, and another extended family member in Rebekah Butters-Chamberlain - likewise made big contributions, as did men's stalwarts Simon O'Leary, Patrice Mahey and Michael O'Callahan, along with talented teenager Taylor Quirk.
Multiple team NZ masters women's champion Karen Cranston, Charlotte Gollan, and the Hiri sisters – Gabrielle and Dana – furthered strengthened the lineup.
The professionals were known to finish national tournaments in Auckland and then jump straight on the plane to join Wanganui's cup defences at the Basset Street courts, with Hourigan sometimes playing in both on the same day.
But since Kyle Butters' return from his sports scholarship tenure at Boise State University, all of the above mentioned players have now moved on or have other commitments this weekend.
"We've lost about six of the top players, we're really struggling," he said today, after naming the squad following last night's practice.
"Hawke's Bay know that, they've got one of the best teams in the country."
After Manawatu took the Cup from Wanganui in 2017 by the barest 13-11 margin – there are 24 matches of singles, doubles and mixed doubles played in every challenge – Hawke's Bay returned to the fold after previously not taking part since 2008.
Taranaki took the prize from Manawatu, and then in January last year, Hawke's Bay reclaimed the cup for the first time since the 2004-5 season, with another 13-11 victory.
However, a lot has changed in 12 months, as on January 26 this season, Hawke's Bay smashed Taranaki 21-3 in their rematch.
No 1 player Rob Reynolds co-captain's a squad that includes former Kiwi No 1 and Davis Cup veteran Dan Willman, while seven of the older squad players went to the national seniors tournament in Hamilton two weeks ago and won eight gold medals.
In the search for the necessary 13 victories to win the cup, Butters is likely to opt to put together his highest seeded players together as doubles and mixed doubles combinations, sacrificing some other games, rather than use tactics of the past where Wanganui had enough depth to put a top seed with a lower seed player and still carry off the majority of the wins.
This time, the player-coach feels beggars can't be choosers.
"Especially with a depleted team, that's for sure. We'll do our best."
Butters has taken over the head coaching role from Jono Spring, who stepped down in January for personal reasons.
The fixture starts on Sunday morning with six men's and six women's singles games, followed by six doubles games and then six mixed double games.
When Wanganui won the Christie Cup off Taranaki in 2012, it was the first time they had held it in 50 years.
The team's are
Men: Kyle Butters, Jono Spring, Nicky Caton, Sasha Milentijivic-Vague, Jack Prenter, Sam Butters.
Women: Ngakuira Osborne, Noel Simmons, Rachel Cronin, Dale Turner, Kate Davey, Paula Fore.
Men: Rob Reynolds, Rynold Timothy, Luke Donovan, Dan Willman, Alby Hailes, Jonathan Fall, Craig Giddy.
Women: Alex Cave, Olivia Addis, Samantha Cave, Abby Oliver, Roisin Dinan, Stacey Margerison, Sophie Ward.