8 February 2024

A shout-out to glory days: Griffith teacher revives Cunial's 1990s tennis legacy

| Oliver Jacques
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tennis players shaking hands on court

Lachlan Date has revived the Peter Cunial era launched in 1997. Photos: Oliver Jacques.

The late 1990s were the glory days of Griffith’s tennis – when up to 100 players would rally on court for a Thursday night competition in between downing $2 beers at the clubhouse.

Schoolteacher Lachlan Date is attempting to resurrect that legacy by reviving the men’s tournament launched by former club president Peter Cunial 28 years ago.

“I remember joining the Cunial comp as a 13-year-old back in 2003,” Mr Date said. “At 6:45 pm, this was the place to be in town. It was humming, and stubbies were just $2. I started playing in Division 11 and a few years later ended up in Division 3.

“I’d just like to see more people down here using the club these days, to create the same space Cunial had back then.”

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There’s been no formal men’s competition in Griffith for more than a decade, so Mr Date sought out the now-65-year-old Peter Cunial for guidance.

“I got Peter’s 1997 Excel spreadsheet and converted it to the latest version. I managed to get 11 players for our first competition, it’s one division, that kicked off on Thursday [1 February].”

Five of those players are returning from the Cunial era: Blake Rayworth, Campbell Jeremy, Nathan Crowley, Benard Gray and Mr Date himself.

The former club president attended the clubhouse on Thursday to officially pass on the baton.

“It’s been 19 years since I walked through the club gate,” Mr Cunial said. “I got a pinched nerve in the back of my neck during the 2005 competition and haven’t played since then.

“I keep getting approached by people saying, ‘When are you going to restart it up?’ so I’m glad Lachlan has done it. He’s running it exactly the same as I did.”

Tennis players

Mauro Ruffolo, Lachlan Date, Peter Cunial, Robert Irvine, Nathan Crowley, Campbell Jeremy and Brendan Augustus at the start of the new competition.

The men’s tournament is an individual contest within a doubles team format. Each week, a player is partnered with someone new and they play all the other teams in eight-game sets. This competition will end in April, with the player who has won the most games in total over the eight weeks crowned the champion.

“Back in my day, we ran eight divisions, we had 88 guys plus a whole heap of reserves,” Mr Cunial said. “We had guys on the waiting list. If you didn’t turn up one night, you never got another game, as there were plenty of people to replace them.”

The competition was kept afloat by beer.

“The price of beers eventually went up to $5. The fee for the night was probably just $5, so it was the 88 guys drinking beers that kept us going,” Mr Cunial said. ”We raised a lot of money for the club.

“Our oldest member was Tom Condon, who played in his 80s.

“I got it all going but I also had a lot of helpers: Brian Hammond, Andrew Oates, Brian Newman, Geoff Cotterill, Steve Mitchell and others.”

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In keeping with tradition, Mr Date charges just $3 a beer, making it more enticing than the pub for a Thursday night.

“I’d like to grow our numbers for the next competition, which will start in Term 2,” he said.

”We may not be able to replicate the Cunial era, but we’ll give it a shot.”

If you’re interested in playing in the men’s competition from April onwards, contact Lachlan Date. If interested in playing in a women’s or mixed competition that runs throughout the season, you can message the Griffith Tennis Club Facebook page for details.

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