|Men's Singles Champion
||R A Algie (A)
|Women's Singles Champion
||Miss J M Williamson (C)
- R A Algie (A)
- R V Jackson (A)
- W O Jaine (A)
- W J Fogarty (O)
- K F Dwyer (A)
- V N Brightwell (O)
- Albert Kwok (O)
- M L Dunn (W)
- J S Crossley (W)
- B D P Williamson (C)
- Miss J M Williamson (C)
- Miss M M Hoar (WR)
- Miss J E Leathley (O)
- Mrs D J Chapman (O)
- Miss E McNeill (HV)
- Miss M McLennan (O)
- Miss A M Hughes (W)
- Mrs E A Collins (SC)
- Miss B I Powell (SC)
- Miss P M Quinn (C)
|V M Mitchell (Chair), H A Pyle
(Deputy Chair), K B Longmore, W Mullins, T S Williams, J C McCluskey, A E
Carncross, P Dudley, A R Algie, K C Wilkinson (Secretary),
H N Ballinger (Treasurer).
Champion Visits New Zealand
Weve had world champions here before (Perry, Szabados, Barna and Bergmann), but none
of them were reigning champions. Bergmann came the closest, losing his title only
seven months before his visit and poised to win it back five months after. Laszlo Bellak
was the current world mixed doubles title-holder when he visited in 1938 but as 1951
dawned we still awaited our first visit from a reigning singles world champion.
The wait ended on 6 June when Johnny Leach touched down in Wellington
Harbour at the end of a long flying boat journey from Singapore via Sydney.
Leachs ascendency to the status of world conqueror had been rapid and spectacular.
It began during his war service with the RAF. He was on 24 hour shifts and would often
stay up for most of his 24 hours off and practise pushing the ball to various parts of the
table simply to develop ball control. By wars end he was a classic all-rounder: long
range defence, attack on both wings, the drop-shot hed mastered them all. But
many saw his skills spread too widely and thinly to take him to the top. Renowned English
coach Jack Carrington disagreed. He took the 22 year old under his wing,
urged him to hit the ball harder, move his feet quicker, and believe he could beat anyone
in the world. By 1946 Leach had a world ranking, reached the world semi-finals in 1947 and
became world champion in 1949. He lost narrowly in 1950 to Frenchman Michel Haguenauer in
the semi-final, and regained the crown in 1951.
The complex negotiations leading up to Leachs visit is summarised in a 1950 article.
He had already travelled extensively and Richard Bergmann influenced him to include New
Zealand in his latest trip. Bergmanns memory of his own experience here in 1949 was
Michel Haguenauer (35) accompanied the now 28 year old Leach on the four
week New Zealand tour. While Haguenauer was destined never to win a world title he was
still a world class player and able to match the champion in their series of exhibition
contests. Unlike some previous exhibitions these were highly competitive both were
out to win. Leach won a narrow majority but the spectacle was warmly received wherever
they played and regardless of who won. Haguenauer was, like Leach, a skilled all rounder
but with a ferocious forehand and a chop defence played closer to the table than
Leachs long-range floating returns. Leach was more of a stylist with impeccable
footwork, Haguenauer (six foot two and fourteen stone) more spectacular but a little
ungainly. He played with a hammer grip (no finger on the blade) while Leach
used two fingers for extra control. They made less use of spin than our last international
visitors, Barna and Bergmann in 1949.
They were a popular pair Haguenauers hearty laugh became familiar to those
who travelled with him, and Leachs more reserved good humour was often on display on
They played fourteen provincial contests with the not too surprising result of fourteen
wins, all to nil. Johnny Leach was clearly going easy on his lesser opponents, but this
was to his cost in his first match against Wellington. John Crossley beat
him 21-18 in the first game. Seeing that game slip away Leach knuckled down in the latter
stages but Crossley, remembering his international success in Scotland the previous year,
rallied brilliantly and held on to win. Leach won the next three 21-8, 21-9, 21-10. No
other games, singles or doubles, were dropped by the touring pair on the tour.
Among the lighter moments were Leachs 11 point games with local players using a tiny
two-inch wide bat, and his practice of occasionally playing out of turn in mixed doubles
if a shot looked a bit difficult for his local partner to deal with.
These could hardly be defined as tests the players in the opposing team were from
two different countries. But it was deemed a New Zealand test team and competition for
selection was intense. There were grumblings over the scheduling. Only two tests were
played, and on successive nights. Provided selection was based on merit, this meant the
same players would play in both and no others had a chance to play their way in. But the
schedule was tight and couldnt be changed. Selection was indeed based on merit and
chosen for the singles were NZ champion Bob Jackson and (back from retirement
refer below) Russell Algie! John Crossley and Neville
Brightwell were selected for the doubles.
Jackson had already been exposed to the tourists in the Auckland match and it hadnt
been a good start to his international career. He had begun nervously and even when he was
able to execute one of his favourite shots with precision (the drop shot) he could only
stand and watch while Johnny Leach raced in and put it away for a winner. This severely
dented his confidence.
In the first test in Wellington he and Algie played a little more freely but the
score-sheet still made sorry reading with an abundance of single figures. Crossley and
Brightwell did rather better in the doubles, 13-21, 13-21, 15-21. Improved scores were
registered in the second test in Auckland.
Prior to the test matches Christchurch had hosted a contest featuring an all-New Zealand
selection (John Crossley, Neville Brightwell, Laurie Wilson and
Pat Spillane) with all four playing singles and doubles against the international
tourists in front of a crowd of 1,200 at the Civic Theatre.
Representing the North Island, Algie and Jackson faced the tourists once more in the final
contest of the tour in Hamilton. Owen Jaine joined Algie for the doubles.
All the New Zealand players, national and provincial, did their best. But it was never
going to be good enough.
Leach and Haguenauer Assess NZ Table Tennis
The New Zealanders lucky enough to face Johnny Leach and Michel Haguenauer on their 26 day
tour were all beaten by faster footwork (attack and defence) and superior anticipation,
ball control, consistency, concentration and experience (13 world championships for
Haguenauer, 5 for Leach). When asked his honest opinion on the standard of table tennis in
New Zealand compared to other countries he had visited, Johnny Leach said that even our
best players were well below world standard. The stroke play of New Zealanders is
quite good, he said. What is lacking is footwork, concentration and the sheer
will to do better. He stressed that stroke play without tactical skills cant
win matches at top level.
Michel Haguenauer added the comment that New Zealand players are too anxious to win the
point quickly rather than tactically, and if necessary patiently, work towards an opening
for the kill shot. Both urged New Zealand to import a professional coach, and to expose
New Zealand players more often to international competition.
Leach considered John Crossley our best player, followed by Russell
Algie and Bob Jackson with Neville Brightwell
not far behind. He thought Trevor Flint had made an impression overseas
(refer below) but like many others in New Zealand, would benefit from professional
coaching. Andy Wong, who played singles alongside Jackson in the Auckland
contest, was named as the countrys most promising young player.
New Zealand farewelled the popular duo on 1 July. The tour had been financially
profitable, had given our top players and administrators plenty to think about and,
through generous media coverage, had considerably boosted the public image of the sport in
Even more popular visitors would arrive in 1953.
New Zealand Team at World Championships - Again
Following what was now becoming a well-worn path, three more New Zealanders made their way
by sea to Europe to participate in the World Championships. Russell Algie
had shown the way in 1948 followed by John Stewart, John Crossley and
Neville Brightwell in 1950. Even as the 1950 trio were still voyaging back to New
Zealand mid-year, Jack Borough was investigating the availability of
positions for himself and Trevor Flint on the crew of any vessel making
its way to England later in the year. He was determined that they would find their way to
Vienna, Austria in time for the 1951 championships, accompanied by a third person and
competing as a New Zealand team in the Swaythling Cup competition.
A number of players were approached to complete the team but were unavailable. Eventually
Hutt Valley representative Jack Knowlsey agreed to travel and all three
began an anxious wait for a job opportunity on a ship. Feeling they were running out of
time, Borough and Flint opted to travel as paying passengers on the Rangitata
while Knowsley continued to wait for a crewmans position. He had been leaving home
each morning packed for the trip, waited around the gangways at the wharf all day and
returned home without success every day for three weeks. A day or two after Borough and
Flints departure he finally secured a stewards position on the Taranaki
and sailed off in the wake of the Rangitata.
They arrived in England a good three months before the world championships. Under the
guiding hand of New Zealands man in London (the ever-reliable Corti Woodcock) and
assisted by coach Jack Carrington, the three were introduced to a London club (St Bridges)
and entered a succession of tournaments ranging from club championships to the English,
Welsh and French Open.
The team was considered to be slightly below the standard of the Stewart / Crossley /
Brightwell combination but managed to register fairly similar results. Trevor Flint was
the most consistent and the most successful. He reached the second round of the English
Open and round three in the Welsh Open. At a huge Central London tournament (291 in the
mens singles alone) Jack Knowsley reached the mixed doubles
semi-final. By the end of the build-up period, all three felt they were playing several
points better than when they left New Zealand.
They supplemented their financial resources, and maintained their fitness, by taking on
casual work as council employees.
Outplayed at World Championships
They travelled from England to Vienna under no illusions. Any contest win in the team
events or single match in the individuals would be an achievement to treasure for a
life-time. The hard reality is that they lost heavily to France, South Vietnam, Hungary,
The Netherlands, Germany and Austria. Their moment of glory all but came in a contest
against Portugal which they lost 4-5. It was unfortunate that Jack Borough had
to play the deciding singles at 4-4 with an injured shoulder.
Trevor Flint scored 19, 19 and 17 against a top French player in the
first round of the individual singles New Zealands best performance. Flint
has a strong chop defence and lightning attacking strokes down either wing. He was to
become one of New Zealands top players on his eventual return.
The individual events were a triumph for England. Johnny Leach reclaimed
the mens singles title he had won in 1949, and a pair of identical twins
Rosalind and Diane Rowe (17) sensationally won the womens
doubles in a spectacular final.
The party split up for the voyage back to New Zealand. Jack Borough returned immediately
after the championships, Jack Knowsley about a month later and Trevor Flint remained in
London for the rest of the year for business reasons. As the main instigator of the trip,
Jack Borough communicated with the NZ media and his thoughts were widely reported. He felt
a major disadvantage in New Zealand was lack of top level match play. Top players in
England get more chances to play against better overseas players in one season than New
Zealanders would get in seven, he wrote. Trevor Flint later added that many English
players practised six nights a week for eight months of the year. All three noticed a vast
difference in the speed of the tables in Europe they were much faster, especially
The trip by the three adventurous New Zealanders gave officials another chance to
re-assess our position in the world, and to examine our priorities. A major controversy
arose over which should come first engaging an international coach, or financing a
trip to the next world championships by an officially selected team. The next article
deals with that debate.
Professional Coach, or 1952 World Championships?
An issue which occupied the entire year and stirred a high degree of
emotion and parochialism was an AGM decision to select and finance a team of three men and
a manager to attend the 1952 World Championships in Bombay, India.
Doubt was expressed at the meeting over whether this was the best way to spend such a
large amount of money, hard-earned cash from the pockets of grass-roots players. Wanganui
Association led the opposition by moving an amendment to the original proposal
allowing more flexibility - only go to Bombay if NZTTA considers the money in hand is not
needed to assist the game and affiliated Associations within New Zealand. The mover of the
amendment (Morrie Gordon) included in his statement of case a suggested
alternative use of roughly the same amount of money - engage a professional coach to tour
New Zealand for six months.
The arguments on both sides were well aired and would be thrashed out again on two further
occasions. Those favouring the World Championships believed the benefits of international
competition would filter right through to grass roots players. And this was a great chance
to get to the Worlds for a lesser cost they were usually played in Europe and it
could be a long time before they were held in Asia again. Those favouring the alternative
claimed that direct contact with players at all levels by a professional coach would be
better value for money.
The Wanganui amendment was put to the vote and narrowly defeated. The original motion was
then carried, again narrowly. The trip was on.
Problems arose immediately. Financial support from Associations was essential and they had
already been asked whether, if the trip went ahead, they would agree to contribute to the
cost of air travel, or sea travel? Not surprisingly, the majority favoured the cheaper sea
option. But when leading players were approached regarding their availability (if
selected), every one of them said they would only travel by air.
The issue was resolved by the launch of an art union (raffle, lottery), large enough to
raise a £1,600 contribution to the air fare. Most Associations agreed to support it.
Meanwhile the management committee was formulating selection policy and decided by a
narrow majority that the three best men would be selected. No young developing player was
to be included.
What About the Women?
Then came a further complication: a strong argument was put forward (in the press and
elsewhere) for a womens team to be sent rather than a mens. The AGM had
decided on a mens team but the decision could be overturned. It was suggested that Margaret
Hoar, June Leathley and Joyce Williamson could be approached.
This was not followed through and the idea of changing the team from men to women came to
nothing. But a rapidly improving 20 year old from Wellington, Pam Smith,
took the initiative and embarked on plans to assemble a team of three women to accompany
the men by paying their own way.
The Bombay / Professional Coach debate did not lie down. It was re-activated, again by
Wanganui (with support from North and South Taranaki) at the New Zealand Championships.
Notice was given of a Special General Meeting on the evening before the finals to consider
applying the money raised by the art union to the engagement of a professional coach. Jack
Carrington, who had trained Johnny Leach, was named as the preferred person with Richard
Bergmann second choice.
Many of the same arguments were presented again but this time the decision went the other
way. The motion to cancel the trip and engage a coach was passed by 54 votes to 38.
Neither Carrington nor Bergmann were available so there would have to be a search for an
On hearing the trip to Bombay was now cancelled the leading players were devastated. They
had played their hearts out at the NZ Championships under the impression that a good
performance could earn them selection. The four mens semi-finalists, all from
Auckland, were particularly angry with their own Association. Auckland had voted to call
off the trip but only 20 clubs out of 59 had attended the meeting which made that
decision. I know of at least three clubs that were not even advised of the
meeting, complained Owen Jaine. If Auckland had cast its ten votes
the other way the trip would have been saved.
Rumours that the four considered boycotting the semi-finals and finals as a protest are
confused and contradictory. Newspapers blazed headlines such as Table Tennis Men
Threaten Strike but a later NZTTA enquiry found that the rumours arose from the late
arrival of three players who were legitimately delayed by the cancellation of a bus
One More Attempt
There was a final attempt to rescue the Bombay trip. Otago Association, with the support
of Wellington, Canterbury and Marlborough, called for yet another special meeting in
November, proposing the restoration of the original AGM decision. The motion was narrowly
Wellington, strong supporters of the trip, blamed what they saw as a seriously flawed
voting system. No Association could exercise more than ten votes regardless of its size.
Associations with a total of 705 interclub teams were able to outvote those totaling
1,089, fumed an angry Tommy Williams on hearing the result.
By and large, commentary in the press favoured the trip throughout the debate. Considering
they had been writing about it, recommending it and anticipating it since late 1950 this
was unsurprising. But after the November meeting there was no going back. New Zealand
would not be attending the Bombay World Championships. With the help of Corti Woodcock in
London applications for a six-month tour of duty in New Zealand were sought from
professional English coaches. Six were received and Woodcock recommended Ken
Stanley a person unknown in New Zealand. He was scheduled to arrive on 1
The divisions created by the year-long controversy were deep and slow to heal.
Championships Decision Spoils Mixed Doubles Plans
Two male players, one a top New Zealander and the other a former World Champion, developed
an interest in whether or not a NZ womens team competed at the 1952 World
Championships alongside the men assuming at that point that the men would in fact
be going. Russell Algie had been involved in coaching in 1950 and his
students included a promising young player, Barbara Williams. She
improved to such an extent that he encouraged her to enter the Auckland Championships even
though she had no experience of competitive table tennis, not even interclub. She won the
womens singles! It was such a remarkable debut that plans were made for her join Pam
Smith and Charlotte Savage, currently training at the Michael
Szabados academy in Sydney and hoping to enter the 1952 World Championships as a New
Zealand team, travelling with the men. Algie had already decided that, if Miss Williams
did travel, they would play the world mixed doubles together. A similar plan was afoot in
Australia. Michael Szabados was coaching 20 year old Pam Smith
who had moved to Sydney from Wellington to improve her game under his tuition. He was keen
to play the world mixed doubles with her if she made the trip.
But in a disappointing anticlimax the women chose not to pursue the possibility of
competing at the World Championships once the decision was made to cancel the mens
trip. The chance was lost and it would be another six years before the first New Zealand
woman competed at world level.
Welcome Back, Algie
The decision (short-lived as it was) to select a team based on merit for the 1952 World
Championships in Bombay was a major factor in Russell Algies
decision to come out of retirement. He declared last year that his top level
playing career was over and was conspicuously absent from the 1950 NZ Championships. But
in May this year he made himself available for Auckland interclub and quickly returned to
form. His almost certain selection for Bombay, his work with Barbara Williams
(pictured) and the prospect of playing doubles with her at the World
Championships kept his enthusiasm bubbling. He eagerly anticipated the New Zealand
Championships and the announcement of the team.
By the time the Championships drew near, pundits were busy predicting which three men
would be selected. Algie was at the top of everybodys list.
NZ Championships: All eyes on Algie, Jackson, Hoar and Leathley
New Zealand table tennis fans never got to see an Algie / Cantlay mens final in the
1940s. The question at the Wairarapa-hosted NZ Championships in 1951 was whether they
would get to see an Algie / Jackson final and if so, who would win? They had also
seen two consecutive Hoar / Leathley womens finals and the same pair were seeded one
and two this year. Would they meet again - and if so, who would win?
Joyce Williamson had other ideas. The 16 year old was seeded 5th but
spared an encounter with second seed June Leathley thanks to a
giant-killing performance by unseeded Ellen McNeill who beat the twice
runner-up three straight. This left Williamson the task of dealing with a fired-up McNeill
in the semi-final. It went to five, but Williamson won. When she faced Margaret
Hoar in the final she was a warm favourite, having beaten her in the Wairarapa /
Canterbury inter-Association contest. Despite her reputation for saving her best for the
big matches, and generous support from her Masterton home crowd, Hoars defence was
simply not good enough for Williamsons confident and consistent attack. It was a
spectacular match, won three straight by Williamson and bringing Margaret Hoars
three year winning streak to an end.
The win by the young Canterbury star put her in the record books as New Zealands
youngest champion. For Margaret Hoar, it was a mere blip in her career. Much success was
still to come.
The mens giant killer was Kevin Dwyer. He beat, first, John
Crossley (4th seed) and then 6th seed Neville Brightwell. He was
rewarded with a semi-final berth where he found Russell Algies
defence too impenetrable. Bob Jackson won the other semi-final, helped by
an error-ridden Owen Jaine.
A shadow was cast over these semi-finals. They were played after the four had just learned
to their disappointment that a trip to the World Championships for a team of three men had
been cancelled (refer earlier article).
Only a purist would define the much-anticipated Algie / Jackson final as a spectacular
match. Algie won in four games after a dour (but delicately tactical) 51 minute cat and
mouse struggle with both players attempting to outwit the other with cleverly disguised
spin. Algie had the measure of his 20 year old opponent although his attacking game let
him down somewhat. Jacksons day would come again.
Murray Dunn (15) drew attention to himself by beating 18 year old Andy
Wong, the player declared by Leach and Haguenauer to be our best young prospect.
Dunn would have met Frank Paton in the next round but Paton had fallen at
the first hurdle, leaving Dunn a clear run to the quarter-finals. Algie put a stop to his
chances of going any further but the two had a great match with Dunn hitting tremendously
hard and with confidence.
The championships were a major challenge for first time hosts, Wairarapa,
who appear to have done a remarkable job despite accommodation difficulties. Their
souvenir programme with its eighty pages and rich variety of articles surpassed anything
Inter-Island Contest Hits Rocks
For the first time since 1946 no inter-island contest was played. The irony is that this
was meant to be the year when contests for both mens and womens teams would be
held for the first time. Only men had been catered for until now.
The two contests were scheduled separately at two different locations. North Taranaki were
to host the mens but were unable to meet a condition imposed by the South Island
team that, unless the hosts paid the cost of air travel, they wouldnt come. The best
North Taranaki could do was offer one quarter of the fare. This was not accepted and,
despite mediation from NZTTA, by the time some sort of compromise was struck it was too
late and the contest was cancelled.
The Waikato Association, scheduled to host the womens event two months later,
concluded that they were unable to meet the financial burden. Thus the womens
contest was also cancelled.
Annual General Meeting Plans Ahead
The womens inter-island event was one of several proposals unveiled at the AGM by
the NZTTA Executive. Setting up an Umpires Association and introducing a junior
inter-Association tournament were others.