Memories of Collaroy vs The Burglars

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In 1982, the MWTA (now Tennis Northern Beaches) introduced Night Competitions for the first time. Collaroy fielded one of the first teams in the Wednesday Night Men’s Comp., consisting of Mark and Greg Petith, John Kelly, Dave Vincent, Clarrie Bridges and at one stage, Warren (‘Horry’) Marsden. They made the Final, playing a team destined to become their arch rivals for years – ‘The Burglars’, comprising members of Bareena Park Tennis Club (ironically captained by now Collaroy Tennis Club committee member, Dave Keogh).

John Kelly and Di Hoscke in 1981

With no lighting at Bareena Park, The Burglars played on several ‘Home’ courts – at the Kentwell Road complex now known as the Warringah Recreation & Tennis Centre, at Balgowlah T.C. and even Manly Lawn. Their original team comprised Dave Keogh, John Rose, Mark Howard, Glen Noritis and John Flanagan. Later, District Champions Matt Taylor and Tim Sedgwick along with respected local coaches Bryce Grant, Damien Gardiner, Sean van Munster and Paul Kerwin all served time as Burglars… not so much ‘behind bars’ as in front of them.

The Night Comp. was strong, featuring other combatants like former Touring Pro. Phil Davies from Mona Vale, the talented Anthony Gardiner and Ken Gray and Phil Oakes and the Rowland brothers from Forestville. But whenever The Burglars played Collaroy, as they did in almost every Night Comp. Final for 4 years, both teams knew that the tennis would be tough, though always played in good spirit… and that Mark Petith would hurl his racquet at some stage of the night, whether over the fence at Collaroy, across the court (at any location) or against the net post. (Given the frames he went through, Mark MUST have been sponsored at that time.)

Yet despite the occasional letting off of a little steam, a great camaraderie formed between the players on both teams, which still exists, four decades later. Those night matches became as well known for their socialising as for the tennis. The Home Team always supplied (at least) a carton of Tooheys New and nights that started at 7:30pm often didn’t finish until early the next morning. The rivalry was such that The Burglars’ John Rose (a carpenter by day) struck a special trophy to record the results of Finals between the two teams.

That trophy was special. It consisted of a chunk of tree trunk standing at about 70-75cm tall. The stump was treated with Linseed Oil and then a top coat of varnish. Four branches jutted out (two on each side) to which were glued Tooheys New cans, now filled with Plaster of Paris. An area from the top of the trophy to about a third of the way down was chiseled out to form a smooth sloping area. This was filled with bronze plates, engraved with the results of each Final between the two teams and screwed into the stump. But the pièce de résistance was the handle of one of Mark’s many broken racquets, jutting out at a 45 degree angle from the top of the stump.

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