I like to think that there is something unique about Hobart v Ballarat contests; there is the make-it-up-as-you-go-along absence of rules (an issue traditionally discussed on the Saturday evening where we conclude on an annual basis after gratuitously dissecting the first days play, predicting the second days play, catching up, drinking, proposing a few possible solutions for the Middle East and drinking some more – that we should develop a set of rules, and then drink some more); the smug satisfaction that we are generally much nicer blokes than the rest (I mean. Oops. Some other clubs….in other places); and there is a sense of creating a fair contest by whatever improvised means are required. It is nice for example, that Kieran Booth doesn’t deem this contest worthy. Also nice, is after the planned Hobart number 1, Hilton Booth, went down with a precautionary groin concern (never diagnosed one of those myself) Ballarat number 1 Daniel Williams gave himself an official weekend off….meaning a move from the ‘traditional’ (in the absence of any codified rules) 4 singles and 2 doubles to three of each. I think! Anyway, it all evens out….or so we thought. We haven’t traditionally done that well in this tournament in the past – narrowly winning two from what I believe to be 8 attempts.

I arrived to the pleasant news that Will Hoskin was two zip up against Graeme Bradfield in the number 4 game. That’s the sort of civilized and gentlemanly start to the day that only occurs in my fantasy life. I saw Will serving beautifully and covering the court like he does. But then some rot started to settle into Will’s game. It looked like Graham was a crappy version of his best, but…I was worried what might happen if this rot from Will continued. The best thing about serving like a goon in this game is that your opponent doesn’t get to look at your good stuff (kind of by definition really). Then there’s every chance if you can find the on switch to your serve it will create some befuddlement. Will got to 5-3 down in the third set and then found the on switch…magic!! Graeme was stuffed when Will starting hitting the lower part of the back wall with the railroad and the sidewall serves.

The number 3 game was next. Yours truly v Jeremy Rackham. There are match ups that bring out the best in both players…..and there are match ups like Serena and Venus Williams. And Jeremy and I. I don’t understand playing against Jeremy. I won in straight sets but I still don’t get it. I am guessing Jeremy doesn’t get it either.

The highly anticipated number 1 duel was Michael Williams versus Graeme ‘Boots’ Blundstone. I had a hit with Graeme on the preceding Thursday evening and it went so shitfully for me that I was worried for Michael’s prospects. I don’t doubt Michael’s quality in any way, but I felt violated by Graeme. As though the quality of his defaecating on me was even more severe than I would expect against Michael. Judging the quality of a shit storm is apparently not my special skill. Michael arrived with 7 minutes to spare before his game started (don’t worry Michael, we could feel every bit of your spiritual support from afar – it helped, it really did), stopped for a bit of chat…and eventually got changed… grabbed a racquetet…and proceeded to crisply try and break as many balls hit by Graeme with that racket as he could. The balls held up to the pounding (thanks Jo and Brett) and he was two sets up in a blink. I thought Graeme did a great job to mix a few things up, adjust some lengths and tighten his serving. When things have been going too easily and it changes it can be difficult to adjust. I thought it was a fantastic effort from Graeme to take a set off Michael on a court he is not familiar with. His court coverage was amazing and when he works out how to serve consistently at Ballarat he will win some games for sure. I had words with Michael at this point. One big part of the Widmer-Bradfield ‘tradition’ is a Saturday evening feed. And a drink or several. Quite unlike any other Tournament involving Ballarat, of course! I suggested that Michael had a duty to sort stuff out so we could relax and enjoy the evening festivities. That’s what happened. I claim full credit.

So. ..poised at 3-0 up – it was at this point I realized we only had 2 games of doubles on Sunday. Michael probably realized this and wondered what the hell the correspondent with alcoholic tendencies (by now drinking beer in the dedans) was talking about. We had already won. So I enjoyed myself appropriately. A nice steak. Several glasses of red. Good fun for all at Dyer’s.

So then – Sunday and Doubles…I was due to play both. Just call me Iron Man. Or Preserved and Pickled Man if you’re feeling unkind. Firstly with Paul Williams versus Jeremy Rackham and Graeme Bradfield. We like to call on Paul in case of emergency such as the Will ripping his hand open incident of 2014. Paul played better than some of his moans and groans would have you believe. His serves are nice to back up in the forehand corner and he certainly got enough blasted forehands on target to have an influence. He was less consistent at gallery swooping. On the upside was some very steady volleys and some flat whacked forehands on short balls skidding into the tambour vicinity. On the downside: something analogous to a baseball pitcher’s knuckle ball that lands on the wrong side of the net. But the net result was a serious problem for our opponents to get any sort of rhythm. They didn’t. Another clean sweep of sets.

The next game I played with Michael….my turn to guard the galleries. I quite like doing this…sitting back and watching some great players like Michael and “Boots” going at it from the best viewing vantage. Well played Michael! Again no rhythm for our opponents with Michael playing in a way that made everything dependent on what was coming off his racquet. Ball on target wins point – ball not on target removes dust from penthouse (to paraphrase Paul). No medium paced balls to let the Hobartians get into a groove.

A comprehensive win to the locals! The enormous trophy returns to Ballarat in a virtual sense. We think it’s in Hobart somewhere….it’s a big one and doesn’t travel easily. One thing that has become very clear is that the usual Hobart preparation was massively lacking with renovations taking place on their court. It is something that we should look at seriously when we take on the task of title defence next year that will be a first win away. But we won’t dwell on that shit too much. We were awesome.

So anyway – here’s my version of the rules. The sooner you blokes start listening to me the better. The visiting team puts forward a team. They can choose the number of players, hey they could even choose the format. The home team then comes up with what they can to match it. Those who bother to pay for airfares and expenses can and should be able to play and shouldn’t be excluded cos there are only a smaller number of spots. That’s my two Bobs worth and I’m writing this….so bad luck!

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