Saturday, August 30, 2014

The History of KZN Squash

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THE STORY OF KZN SQUASH

 

Squash was introduced to the then Natal by British forces early in the nineteen hundreds but for many years it was regarded as an elitist sport with a very small following.

There were few courts for a start and coaching was hardly provided for - among the early courts were Caister Hotel on the Berea, Durban Country Club, Victoria Club in Pietermaritzburg and one at the Greyville racecourse.

Enthusiasts Lieutenant Frank Gouws and Maynard Marais called a meeting at the Royal Natal Yacht Club and the Squash Racquets Association of Natal was formed - the first squash league was formed in 1949 with only 6 teams with four courts available. The teams we know of were :

Garrison which became Defence

Gelmar which became Dunlops

Jewish Club which became Circle

Racqueteers which became DHSOB

Royal Natal Yacht Club which became RNYC

35th  Squadron which became Airforce

A feature was the brand new court on Snell Parade with a gallery that seated two rows of seats for spectators !! Another court of interest was Air Force in the swamps on the bluff. Nine teams were now playing but still only four courts so a system of byes had to be introduced. In 1951 the league teams numbered 13 and so a second division was formed with still only four courts available not counting an old one at the Red Cross building in Old Fort Rd ( it was condemned because the ceiling was very low - barely room height ! ) Meanwhile the court on the bluff was proving to be a hazard because it was difficult to find it amongst all the bush where there were more monkeys than players and the journey home late at night was fraught with unintended ditching of cars in the many canals of seawater !

Growth was steady and new clubs were formed but it was really in the sixties and seventies with the much vaunted squash explosion arising from the professional aspect introduced by the great Geoff Hunt of Australia, Jonah Barrington,( Eng ) Cam Nancarrow,( Aus ), Ross Norman ( N Z ) and later on Jahangir Khan ( Pak ), Gogi Alaudin ( Pak ) Gamal Awad ( Egypt ) that really saw phenomenal growth and the squash boom was on with courts springing up. A noteable one was at Westville where a fine match court was built, capable of seating 450 spectators and this was packed to capacity to watch great matches such as when Geoff Hunt ( British Open winner no less than eight times ) would play the entire Natal team - and beat them with out dropping one game !

Later on the name was changed to the Natal Squash Rackets Association and eventually to Kwa Zulu Natal Squash Union after a very successful unification process. Many fine players have featured as well as administrators who have nurtured the game effectively.

KZN teams have featured prominently in major tournaments such as the prestigious Jarvis / Kaplan Inter Provincial and this has been staged in Durban successfully on many occasions.

Today the headquarters of KZN Squash are at Berea Rovers which boasts 5 glass-back courts and the number of teams and players has grown tremendously over the last half-century and the game goes on under care of a committed executive of both men women who show a devoted care for coaching, development, marketing, league and tournaments, and I have no doubt that our squash fathers of 1949 would be surprised and indeed, delighted with the current situation in 2011.

 

Dave Stevens

 

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