First class pickleball action was on the court at Drinan Park as Bundaberg hosted a rematch of the New South Wales Pickleball Open on Saturday.
Bundaberg Tennis President Tomas O’Malley said it was fantastic to have pickleball players Brendan Lee and Nicholas Cooper in the Bundaberg Region for the rematch.
“Pickleball is a relatively new sport in Bundaberg and to able see some of the best players in the country playing here shows everyone what the opportunities are and what they can strive to,” Tomas said.
“It’s always good to see local people who do well on the big stage return to the area.
“There’s that connection to community and it shows what can be done.
“It’s obviously a new sport here and effectively only over a year and a bit we have seen a huge number of people come into the club who otherwise probably wouldn’t have come to play just tennis.”
Although competitive on the court the two champion pickleball players were more than happy to share their skills with locals, and other pickleball enthusiasts who had travelled to Bundaberg for the rematch.
Returning to Bundaberg to visit family Nick said he was excited about the rematch after winning the New South Wales open against Brendan last year.
The passion for sport runs in Nick’s family as his younger brother is local Olympian Isaac Cooper.
“It’s good to come back and showcase the sport at a high level and get all the community involved,” Nick said.
“It’s exciting they have this court here, pickleball is such an inclusive game – for all ages and all abilities.”
Nick went to Kepnock State High School and he was introduced to pickleball a few years ago from his father-in-law, who is a pro pickleball player in the United States. Nick is now a director on the board of Pickleball Australia Association.
“From what I’ve seen happen in the United States pickleball is going to be massive everywhere,” Nick said.
“I’m just excited the sport is growing so fast here.”
Brendan was at the end of a 20-day pickleball coaching tour to North Queensland when he stopped in for the rematch.
He said after visiting 20 pickleball clubs between Hervey Bay and Cairns, Bundaberg was a standout location.
“There are places popping up all over Queensland to play pickleball so if you are going on holidays, you can take your paddle and play pickleball,” he said.
“All up I think there are 70 places around Queensland where you can play now.”
Organising the pickleball rematch Barry Franklin said pickleball was one of the fastest growing sports in the country.
Barry said he was keen to watch the pickleball rematch, and it was great the duo also shared their tips with the local community on how to improve their pickleball game.
“We have this really fantastic outdoor court here in Bundaberg, and it has proven to be really good as people come from all around to drop in and play on it,” he said.
“Last year we had over 60 members and we’re expecting to reach more than 100 this season.”
Barry says although pickleball is similar to tennis, it's also quite different and when a match gets underway it can be a lot of fun to both play and watch.
“In tennis the commentator will call for quiet, but it’s the opposite when pickleball starts – they commentate the game the whole way through,” he said.
“The biggest complaint about pickleball is that there is too much laughter!
“It’s massive growth we’ve had – really big.
“It’s a sport you can start playing after one day – it’s an easy game to play but tough to master and that’s why it’s great to have these two guys here showing us stuff we will never be able to do!”
After the evening’s event Bundaberg Pickleball’s Geoff Strube said the rematch of last year's New South Wales Pickleball Open was a sight of skill and athleticism that left the large audience gobsmacked.
“Brendan won in three hard fought sets reversing the result of their last meeting at the New South Wales Open,” Geoff said.
“Shot making in the windy conditions was outstanding with the frequent rallies leaving the crowd applauding.
“Post-match both players rated Bundaberg’s outdoor pickleball court one of the best in Australia!”