History of Squash in NZ

The Explosion: The seventies

It was no coincidence that life member Murray Day saw in the seventies era as President from 1969-71, following previous years on the Management Committee, during which  the sport boomed both in club growth and playing numbers. Day then followed his stint as New Zealand president by expertly leading the World Squash Federation for 6 years from 1975-81, as the global march of the sport started to explode under his skilful guidance.

He wrote at the time of the 50th Jubilee:

"Without doubt the explosive decade in the history of New Zealand Squash was the seventies. From a humble membership of: 81 clubs, 7 districts, 194 courts, 16,629 affiliated members at the commencement of 1970, to a very impressive: 185 clubs, 9 districts, 476 courts, 48,304 affiliated members, by the end of the decade."

Statistically most impressive figures, but did the Management structure and the playing ability move with this growth?

In 1970, the registered office of the Association was at Palmerston North where it had been sited since 1953 when Roy Haddon was elected Secretary, a position he held until 1971. The Messiah of New Zealand Squash held the position of Secretary for some 21 years as he had previously been Secretary in 1949 and 1951. Also when the Secretariat moved annually with the Championships, Roy Haddon and Palmerston North were synonymous with Squash Rackets. In recognition of his services to the sport he was elected a Life Member of the Association in 1966.

Presidential run

During this decade, four Presidents laid the foundation for the future of New Zealand Squash. Firstly Murray Day who was President from 1968-71 served an extra year to allow for continuity of administration for the ISRF Championships which were awarded to New Zealand in 1971.

Don Green, a former New Zealand champion assumed the Presidency in 1972 and 1973 and was the first President to bring international playing experience to the administration table.

Michael Sumpter followed. His legal background set the scene for the sport continue its expansion into the 80's. At the end of his term, Michael assumed the role of Secretary of the ISRF when the headquarters moved to New Zealand.

A second Michael (Fenton) took over the mantle for the period 1977-79. Being from the deep south of Invercargill he gave the squash scene the depth of geographical stability which ensured that parochialism of administration departed from the New Zealand scene. He was the leader behind the purchase of the commercial complex from John Reid which became established as the New Zealand Squash Centre (later to become Club Kelburn) then so ably managed by Nick Cass.

In 1971 Don Massam assumed the role of Secretary to the Association, a position which he so capably held for seven years. The sport had expanded so much that in 1979 it was agreed that the association required an Executive Officer and in that year Bill Murphy established a new headquarters in Tauranga where it resided through to 1989.

Foremost in world

Without a doubt the administration of New Zealand Squash was then the foremost in the world. New Zealand led the way in so many facets of the sport and above all had one administration to cover both women's and men's Squash.

Many administrators were instrumental in nurturing the participants in the sport to international standing. Day always believed that the strength of our sport was (and remains) that administrators get involved at the grass roots as most of them are mixing and playing with players at tournaments.

As if paralleling the rise of the administration, Bruce Brownlee placed New Zealand firmly on the World Map in 1976. He captured the prestigious British Amateur title, recognised then a "world title" and one of the most sought after by players from all over the world.

Championships retained

The decade began where the previous one ended with Don Burmeister retaining his New Zealand crown and Teresa Lawes securing the women's title. The following year was the period highlight when New Zealand was awarded the ISRF World Championships. The New Zealand titles were held just prior to the ISRF Championships and probably contained one of the most international fields ever with players from Australia, Egypt, India and Great Britain, the winner was the colourful player from Egypt, Asran.

Pam Buckingham (Guy) avenged her 1970 defeat and added the 1971 title to her 1969 victory. Her name reappeared on the Mitchell Rose Bowl in 1973, 75 and 78 for a total of five championships.

Cecile Fleming won the coveted title in 1972 and Jane Ashton, a visitor from England, in 1979.

The only other title holder during the decade was Jenny Webster who won the crown in 1974, 76 and 77. While Webster and Guy dominated the scene during the 70's, only Neven Barbour amongst the men was able to hold the crown more than once, in 1973 and 74.

Following Asran's win in 1971 the title was captured the next year by Hamiltonian, Laurie Greene. Then after Barbour followed Trevor Johnston, Howard Broun, Bruce Brownlee, Phil Kenyon from the UK and Frank Donnelly from Australia.

Top players from previous decades still made their mark on the Squash scene during the 70's and they included Cecile Fleming, Kathy Graham, Viv Hargreaves, Don Preston, Robin Roche, Ann Stephens, Ken Turnball, Charlie and Megan Waugh and Ros Woodhead. (Some of who remain active today in Masters Squash).


But, the up and coming players were starting to work through the rankings and they included Robyn and Craig Blackwood, Stu Davenport, Susan Devoy, Karen Lever, Dean Lovett, Ross Norman, Annette Owen, Paul Viggers and Joanne Williams (Milne).

It is not only champions who make a championship but the other unheralded players who fill up the draw, win the odd event and "make" the tournaments the world renowned successes that are the envy of overseas players. Unless we forget, these players included, Graham Bird, Heather Corporal, Peter Dibley, Butch Isaacs, Murray Lilley, Larrie O'Neill and John Stevens, and a number of other very talented exponents of a rapidly expanding sport.

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