Youngsters? table manners put to test
By JAMIE BROWN
WHEN Cabarita brothers Wade and Kane Townsend wrap up a table tennis match, they are wringing wet with sweat, breathing hard and buzzing.
"This is not your ordinary game of garage ping pong," said Wade, a talented 16-year-old who was still reeling from his narrow victory over a tough Victorian team opponent.
The win, yesterday afternoon, put the NSW Under-18 team ahead of Victoria for the first time in ages.
Victoria dominates this sport in Australia, and in the seven years the tournament has been running, this is the first time it has been held outside Melbourne.
The national youth championships are being played at the Far North Coast Table Tennis Stadium behind the Goonellabah Workers Sports Club.
"You have to have passion in this game, and focus," said Wade, a ping pong enthusiast since the age of six.
"And you have to show your passion with a shout every time you score a match point in order to maintain your focus."
With their father Graeme coaching the NSW Under-18 team, and their mother Cathy ? a player and coach ? loudly clapping from the sidelines, the brothers have plenty of support and encouragement.
And then there's the training: Sessions in the gym to work stomach and legs, developing upper body strength and agility.
Practice involves playing the game ? often ? usually at the local community centre in Cabarita.
The results speak for themselves, with the pair ranked third in Australia in Under-18 doubles. Wade is ranked fourth in the country for Under-18 singles and Kane ranked fourth.
Wade says his grandparents, Doug and Shirley Gray, also of Cabarita, encouraged him to play at first, with Doug taking his grandsons to tournaments on the Gold Coast as youngsters.
Today, the lure of world-class competition keeps the pair on their toes, and scouts will be picking a national youth team based on performances in Lismore this week.
Last year Wade visited Cairo as a member of the Australian Under-18 team, which finished 10th in the world. This year he hopes to return to the world arena.
Kane, meanwhile, has already been chosen to represent Australia at the Oceania championships in New Zealand this winter.
Today competition continues, with doubles events and Athletes With Disabilities tackling the best in their youth catgeories.
Many of the country's highest ranked players are among the 52 players who have travelled from as far as Perth and will be part of a field of 32 to vie for number one spot in the individual singles, being played tomorrow and Saturday. The table tennis stadium at Goonellabah is open to the public Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon and nights with coaching on Friday evenings.
Inquiries to the Goonellabah Workers Sports Club, in Oliver Avenue, on 6625 2299.