We’ve reported on several occasions how pickleball is gaining widespread popularity in Australia. Well, it’s also making a big splash in neighboring New Zealand now.
The Southern Slam tournament held recently at the MLT Events Centre in Gore, Southland County, New Zealand, was the first pickleball event of its kind in the southern part of the country.
Bigger And More Inclusive Tournament Next Year
The competition attracted a healthy 16 teams from Gore, Timaru, Dunedin, Queenstown, Wānaka and Invercargill. Plans are already in the pipeline for a bigger and more inclusive tournament next year.
Organiser Dan Winkel formed one half of the victorious duo, partnering with Southland cricketer Kieran Lloyd after they beat fellow Gore members Matthew King and Dee Ormsby.
“We had an excellent response from people who took part in the tournament. They enjoyed it,” Winkel told Brayden Lindsay of stuff.co.nz.
“Winning was a bonus. I just wanted a successful tournament, but we’re just pleased it was able to take place and went well.”
Winkel has grand designs for future versions of the competition.
“Next year, I would love to play it over two days and split it into three divisions: men’s, women’s, and mixed. That way, we might be able to attract a few more players and teams, and people can have more matches,” he said.
“Following that, I would love for the tournament to be opened up to players from throughout New Zealand.
“It’s a great sport and something that people of all abilities can play.”
Dan believes his cricketing skills help him with his pickleball game: “I think my cricket reflexes help, especially at the net when it gets real fast.”
Steady Increase In Interest
Winkel then talked about the steady increase in interest pickleball has experienced since it was introduced to Gore around five years ago.
“It’s getting bigger. We have a solid group who play it regularly here, and they are slowly starting to hold sessions in Invercargill, so hopefully, it becomes popular down there as well.
“The more we can get playing it, the better it is for the sport.”
Pickleball is still very much a niche sport in New Zealand, but Winkel hoped that would change over time.
MLT Event Centre
The MLT Event Centre is part of the Gore Multisports Complex. The event center offers sporting and fitness activities all year round and is home to Eastern Southland Netball during winter.
There is one sprung wooden court and three synpave courts that can accommodate a variety of sports, events, and trade shows.
Gore is a town and district in the Southland region of the South Island of New Zealand. It has a resident population of around 8,000 people (2022).
Gore is known for its country music scene and hosts an annual country music festival. The town is also surrounded by farmland and is an important center for agriculture in the region.
It is located on the southern tip of the southern island, 250 miles southwest of Christchurch.
Visit the Gore Pickleball Facebook page for more information about its pickleball community.
Pickleball New Zealand
The Pickleball New Zealand Association actively promotes the development and growth of pickleball throughout New Zealand while supporting local pickleball clubs, communities, and players.
Learn more about their Strategic Plan here.
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