AFL “smart” football with a chip inside to tell us whether it was a goal, but local table tennis is on the cusp of joining an international revolution.
After a century of using a celluloid ball, which replaced rubber and cork ones, the International Table Tennis Federation last September replaced it with a plastic version.
It had to happen. The Chinese, which incidentally constantly have 520 million of the 40mm critters, can no longer export the celluloid kind because they are seriously flammable, which is of enormous concern when transporting.
It gives us a reason for telling you about the popularity of table tennis along the south coast when many other clusters of players in community halls across the state have regrettably declined in numbers.
The new plastic ball, which is also seamless but firmer, bounces higher and generates less spin, hasn’t reached our shores yet because the global demand is so great that China cannot produce them quick enough.
We caught up with Jesse Brown (pictured), 23, of Encounter Bay, during a practice session at the Great Southern Table Tennis Association’s base in the Institute Hall, The Strand, Port Elliot last Thursday night. He is a brilliant player – and a real sport – so we tested him by throwing heaps of table tennis balls to try and rattle him. We failed.
The exercise, however, emphasised what this fabulous group of all ages is about – fun. They have a summer competition at Inman Valley and an autumn competition at Port Elliot where you can discover what it’s all about before joining a more serious winter season there when about 60 players compete. More than 30 social players also gather on Friday mornings for a hit, chat and a chocolate chip bikkie over a cuppa, and then we have other social matches for retirees at Port Elliot and at church halls in the area.
The local game is also for players of all ages, from a spritely Brian Odgers, who at 85 plays table tennis in between three rounds of golf and a few sets of tennis during the week, to some talented school students.
Yes, there is a lot of interest in this game, and GSTTA president Graeme Rashleigh said one of the pleasant issues the association may face in coming years is that the current hall can only cater for five tables.
“Table tennis is great for eye-hand coordination, and is tremendous light, repetition exercise,” Graeme said.
“We are proud of the fact our association was formed in 1948 – making it one of the oldest table tennis associations in the state – and we have provided an opportunity for people to be involved in sport.
“There are some very good players here, but importantly table tennis is for everyone of all ages and various standard.”
It’s also one of the cheapest sports – $5 membership fee which covers the association’s high insurance premiums, plus between $2 and $4 per match night depending on the competition. The Friday morning sessions are $3, but hey, you get the coffee and choc-chip bikkies.
Like every sporting and social group, the association is run by some hard-working volunteers for the health, fitness and enjoyment of so many. Good on ’em.
If you are one of the many home garage champions and would like join the fabulous crew at the GSTTA – places are available now – contact Graeme on 8552 2233. He promises not to throw heaps of the new plastic, seamless, firmer, bouncier and low-spin balls all at once when they eventually arrive. Visit: gstta.weebly.com