Competition tough for new tennis season

By Alex Mitchell

Goulburn Murray Lawn Tennis Association’s top-tier competition will be as hot as ever when the new season starts this weekend.

The GM1 division will feature two new entrants — a fourth Shepparton side and a team from Rich River — taking the league from five teams to seven and ensuring plenty of action.

The reigning premier Shepparton Bulls will have to wait another week to start their title defence, scheduled for a bye first-up.

Tatura’s beaten grand final side will start its quest for redemption by welcoming Shepparton Hornets to town.

Rich River will begin its stretch in the top tier with a home fixture against Shepparton Lakers, the talented side having finished third in GM1 last season before being knocked out in the preliminary final.

And Numurkah, which did not win a match last season, will begin facing Shepparton’s new entrant, the Vipers.

Association president Mark Mills said he was glad the administration was over and game time was finally here.

‘‘It’s exciting to have gone from five to seven teams in the top grade, so we’re looking forward to that,’’ Mills said.

‘‘We’ve got Rich River stepping up and hopefully they can give a good account of themselves and Shepparton has another side too.

‘‘It will be interesting to see how the first few weeks play out.’’

The structure of the second division has been shuffled around, with two divisions (GM2 mixed and open) replacing last year’s GM2 A, B and C format.

‘‘We’ve got two divisions there, the GM2 mixed has the same format as last year of three men and three women, and now open with just six players,’’ Mills said.

‘‘That’s trying to accommodate teams that have a few more men than ladies, so we can get those blokes a hit.

‘‘It’s a little bit of an unknown at this stage, but from the sides that are in it should be good.’’

Three divisions — West, East and Open — will operate at the GM3 level.

Tatura has rebranded with an insect theme, with Cockroaches, Beetles, Wasps, Mosquitoes, Spiders and Locusts the club’s mascots across all grades.