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13 July, 2021

Table Tennis Centre celebrates 50 years

THE Mackay Table Tennis Centre on Bridge Rd has turned 50 and is still renowned throughout Australia as one of the best in the country for the sport. Shortly after it was opened in 1971 it hosted the Australian Sub-Junior Championships in 1974, and is believed to be the first regional centre to have held the event.


EARLY DAYS: Housewives fixture players in action in an early shot of the Mackay Table Tennis Centre, believed to have been taken in the early 1970s, not long after its construction. Photos: Contributed

By CHARLIE PAYNE

THE Mackay Table Tennis Centre on Bridge Rd has turned 50 and is still renowned throughout Australia as one of the best in the country for the sport.

Shortly after it was opened in 1971 it hosted the Australian Sub-Junior Championships in 1974, and is believed to be the first regional centre to have held the event.

John Cooney, who went on to become a prominent Mackay businessman, was a young junior at the time, and remembers Daily Mercury legend Jim Connolly broadcasting interviews with players from the centre.

It also hosted the Australian Junior Championships in 1992, and numerous other major titles have been held there, as well as two boxing events.

It was officially opened by the Mayor Sir Albert Abbott in July 1971, but efforts to get it built date back to the early 1960s, when the association was playing at the Church of England Hall in Shakespeare Street.

Roy McLean, Frank DeCampo and Keith Neilsen were early proponents of the new centre and Roy called a meeting at Wilkies Hotel to talk about how to get some money.

No doubt it was well attended and a fund-raising drive started with raffles sold at the Boomerang Hotel from 1962-74.

Jim Hardy and his son Peter sold tickets from the Kooyong Hotel and formed the Kooyong Table Tennis Club, later donating the association’s honour board.

Roy McLean, Frank DeCampo and Ian Williams, a cousin of Roy’s, were guarantors for a bank loan for the new centre.

Shortly after the centre was opened Brian Morgan started bingo on Monday nights, with John Lewis later becoming promoter of what was to be a long-running and profitable venture.

The original centre comprised seven playing areas – five along the eastern side and two length-ways to the west – and little else. Extensions in 1984 added three more playing areas, toilets and showers, storage rooms, canteen, office and players’ lounge.

The original building cost $26,000 and was built during 1970 by Mackay builder Alf King.

Two extensions built in the 1980s, and officially opened in 1985, cost about $150,000 and were built by local contractor G.W. and J.L. Fergus.

Association executives in 1971 were president Nev Strickland, secretary Daryl Woosley and treasurer John Lewis; and in 1985 president Col Searle, secretary Paul Daley and treasurer Norma Shuttlewood.


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