Cards on the table

TABLE Tennis Fremantle came away with a swag of medals from the recent Australian Masters Games, but still don’t have anywhere to show them off, saying they feel “dudded” out of a permanent home by the East Fremantle Lawn Tennis Club.

Club stalwart Gordon Lee again defied his 84 years to take out the men’s over-70s gold from a player 10 years his junior, while current club champion Adam Peck won the “blue ribbon” men’s open singles.

Lee also teamed up with Geographe Bay veteran Les Dearden to take out the men’s over-70s double gold.

Peck and fellow Fremantle player Simon Batley took out the men’s over-40s doubles, while Lee got bronze with Yvonne Cleal from the Topspins club in the 70+ mixed doubles, and bronze in the team event with Dearden. Alex Pervan also got bronze in the 60+ mixed doubles.

Mr Lee says TTF is going strong with about 100 members, but he’s still smarting after the lawn tennis club terminated a memorandum of understanding to build a new multi-sport pavilion on its riverfront grounds.

Back in 2018 the East Fremantle club scored $200,000 to upgrade its community hall from the Morrison government’s Community Sport Infrastructure Program – later tied to the notorious “sports rorts” scandal.

Part of the club’s appeal to Sports Australia in its application was giving the table tennis club a permanent home after some 80 years in the wilderness. Income from the upgraded hall would “allow EFLTC to fund other planned projects including … a new facility to be shared with Fremantle Table Tennis Club,” the application said.


It was also emphasised by former president Paul Hemsley in a letter to members just before a crucial AGM vote: “The “multi-use” narrative that we used to secure the $200k SportAus Grant was pivotal to us delivering the hall upgrade – we would not have a new deck without it,” he wrote.

But Mr Lee says once the hall money came rolling in, the tennis players went cold and the pavilion was abandoned at the 2021 AGM.

Mr Hemsley this week told the Herald the table tennis club was always aware that the project had to be approved by the lawn tennis members – it was written into the MOU.

He said there was no way the club could have made it a commitment when it needed approval from a host of stakeholders including East Fremantle council and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Mr Hemsley said the sub-committee which put together the pavilion proposal for members came to the meeting keen to sell it, and a number of members were disappointed it didn’t get up. He says the tennis players also contributed three times as much manpower putting it together than TTF, while both had commited $500.

He agreed the club’s application to Sports Australia could have been more explicit about the pavilion being conditional, but says they’ve lived up to their promise to be more inclusive, saying bookings from various groups have doubled since the hall was upgraded.

Mr Lee reckons fears of a ping pong takeover were behind the no vote, which was far-fetched; while TTF has saved $120,000 over the last decade and was ready to raise the rest to completely fund the pavilion. He says they’re a pretty low-cost and low-maintenance partner: “The tables just sit there and they’re all 50 years old; all you have to do is buy a new ball every now and then and they cost 50c.”

He says the club is still on the hunt for a new home.


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