PROUD TO BE A MEMBER OF COLLAROY
On Saturday March 4, there wasn’t a rainbow to be seen in the skies above Long Reef Headland, but there were plenty on the ground at our tennis club.
In fact, the Club was a riot of colour and colourful characters as we celebrated the inaugural Collaroy Pride Day in conjunction with Northern Beaches Council’s celebration of Sydney WorldPride 2023.In some ways, this event could have been seen as a brave move by the Management Committee, given that our earlier AO Pride evening was the very first Pride event ever held at a tennis club on the northern beaches. (So now we hold both 1st and 2nd spot!)
See PHOTO ALBUM of Collaroy Pride Day at the bottom.
The overriding theme of our event was that EVERYONE is welcome at Collaroy Tennis Club… simple as that. It was about creating a space within which LGBTQIA+ players specifically, could feel included, accepted and safe, while enjoying the sport we all love in our beautiful part of the world.
It was also about showcasing our Club as a beacon of inclusion and diversity on the northern beaches. That philosophy is one of the things of which we Members are most proud… that regardless of physical or mental ability, cultural background or gender identity, we aim to make everyone feel valued.
We can all feel especially proud of how this event was embraced by the club in general, with some 60 members, their partners and friends coming along to join in the fun and many of them providing their help throughout the day…
… from dressing the club (Legend Fiona and thanks Rob, Glenn, Kenny and Co.), to preparing, chopping and presenting the wonderful food and drinks on offer (Mmmm… Ros’s famous slices – and special thanks to Kate, Lynne and Anna G), to organising sets (special shout out to Martin), greeting visitors on arrival, handing out FREE Cocktail vouchers and schmoozing the celebrities (Anna and Gareth G and Rob), organising the Photo Booth (Anna C), providing the music and recording the event for posterity (Wil) and many, many more.
Even non-members Tony and Eric gave up their time to again become ‘Tong Masters’ at the BBQ. Tony also brought Fiona’s vision to life, spray painting the amazing C O L L A R O Y sign that greeted visitors as they entered the club grounds and sending up his drone to capture some great photos.
A further 70 or so attendees comprised everyone from celebrities Layne Beachley, Kirk Pengilly and TV’s Mitch & Mark, to Mayor Michael Regan and fellow Councillor Kristyn Glanville, no less than six representatives from Tennis NSW (Wayne Swaysland and his wife Leanne, Nikita Sayle, Jaslyn Hewitt-Shehadie, Madeleine Farac, Daniela Scivetti and Dane-Lucas Kovacevic), Co-Founders of our event partner Fusion Pride Northern Beaches – Sean Moran and Deborah Richardson-Bull – and of course our partners from Evolve, Ryan, Scotty, Paula, Matt and Mariana.
Proceedings kicked off with the Mayor officially opening Collaroy Pride Day and then Gadigal elder Uncle Neil performed a beautiful Welcome to Country smoking ceremony, Aboriginal clapsticks echoing our heartbeats as the scent of eucalypts filled the air.
Co-Founder of our event partner, Sean Moran of Fusion Pride Northern Beaches, then gave a heartfelt speech about the importance of such events and how sport and tennis in particular can be such a powerful force for unifying people and promoting community engagement. There was a quiver in Sean’s voice as he spoke of how authentic he felt our Club was in welcoming everyone.
The formalities closed and it was onto the tennis with the Evolve Team running some fun Cardio Tennis workouts that got hearts pumping. Music coursed through the Club as visitors tried out their tennis skills and the exhibition matches got underway with ITF ranked Wheelchair Juniors (and club members) Isla Gillespie (16) and Rafferty Stevens (10) taking on coach, Paula Gibson-Roy and our own ‘Wil on Wheels’ Jauco. Paula must have played extremely well as the senior pair somehow won the match against their highly qualified young opponents.
As the heavenly aroma of sautéeing onions wafted through the site, indicating the BBQ was underway, Chief Polaroid Photographer Anna Cosio, resplendent in shiny blue wig, started shooting at the Photo Booth and we welcomed two amazing young guys onto Court 5 for our Top Players Challenge. 23 year old Ben O’Connell, a former Internationally Ranked Junior and younger brother of ATP Top 80 Pro., Chris O’Connell took to the court to play 21 year old Nikita Volonski who holds a current ATP Wold Ranking and is a former Finalist as Tennis NSW’s Junior Male Athlete of the Year. Both Ben and Nikita coach with Evolve.
The evenly matched pair played a classic match that see-sawed throughout, with the crowd in awe at the quality of some of the shots played. Eventually Ben wore down his younger opponent, taking the match 7-6 in a Tiebreak. It was an absolute thriller that had the crowd cheering from start to finish.
Then it was time for the Celebrity Challenge to take centre stage. Three of the players appearing had held World Rankings on the tennis tour… one was a World Champion – not on green grass, red clay or hardcourt, but in the deep blue ocean!
Seven-time World Surfing Champion LAYNE BEACHLEY came to play at Collaroy… and she CAN play. She partnered with former world ranked player and Member of the Board of Directors at Tennis NSW, Wayne Swaysland. The Layne and Wayne show took on our own Collaroy Member, well known media commentator and former professional player once ranked as high as 150 in the world, Kerryn Pratt, who partnered with another former world ranked player, now Vice President of Tennis Sydney – Australia’s largest LGBTQIA+ tennis club –Tracey Macmillan, fresh from competing in the Australian Open’s GLAM Slam.
This match was so much fun with Layne surprising everyone (except her former coach!) with how well she competed in the company of the more accomplished players on court. There was some excellent tennis played with Layne and Wayne finally running out winners in a tight and hard-fought contest. In the end, Wayne’s classic leftie serve proved the difference, bamboozling his opponents, Kerry unfortunate to be facing him on the backhand side.
Coaching Vouchers from Evolve valued at $540 and a Belle Property hamper (complete with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot) could be won by Spinning the Rainbow Wheel and the Rainbow Range of 6 Hydro Flasks were awarded to those who ‘Struck the Best Pose’ at the Photo Booth.
Layne and her husband, Co-Founder of legendary Aussie Rock band INXS, Kirk Pengilly, along with Mitch & Mark (soon to be seen on Channel Ten’s ‘Location, Location, Location’) all mingled freely with the crowd, selflessly appearing in selfies and other photos with fans and generally enjoying themselves. A big thanks to Anna G. and Gareth for convincing their friends Mitch & Mark to come along. They were truly fabulous!
Collaroy member Maria, was overheard at one stage saying: “I’ve just looked around and seen a World Surfing Champion… an International Rock Music Legend… two TV Stars… is this really our little, local tennis club?!” (Ah, you gotta love it when a plan comes together!)
Club President, Vito formally closed proceedings and then in true Collaroy fashion, a big group including some newfound friends from Tennis Sydney, repaired to THE COLLAROY for free Mardi Gras Cocktails at the After Party. All in all, it was a sensational day.
Ryan from Evolve called it “… hands down the biggest and best event we’ve seen in our time at Collaroy”.
Co-Founder of Fusion Pride Northern Beaches, Deb Richardson-Bull, said: “Such a wonderful day – a lovely afternoon with the family and the club was so welcoming.”
And Nikita Sayle – Head of Inclusion, Diversity & Programming at Tennis NSW praised the Club, saying: “The event was amazing! A huge congratulations to the Collaroy Team and your event partners.”
A massive thank you to all the local businesses that came on board to sponsor and support this wonderful community open day celebrating inclusion:
- THE COLLAROY
- Northern Beaches Council
- Evolve Tennis Academy
- Belle Property
- Hydro Flask
- Tennis NSW
- Tennis Sydney
- Coles Local – Manly Corso
- 4 Pines
- Vida Marketing
… and to our event partner, Fusion Pride Northern Beaches and GAYCARE.
Here’s to more wonderful celebrations throughout the year.