The Country All-Stars team, which features Shepparton's Luke Dixon, is set to debut this weekend in Tennis Victoria's Premier League.MARC MCGOWAN March 1, 2013 4:10am
Luke Dixon (second from right) is Goulburn Valley’s sole Country All-Stars representative, but the likes of Shepparton’s Nick Gattuso (far left) could contend for a spot in the future.
Tennis Victoria country director Ken Barton says the inaugural Country All-Stars team will be out to prove tonight and beyond its players are just as capable as their metropolitan counterparts.
The All-Stars make their Premier League debut tonight against the might of Kooyong at Royal South Yarra before backing up against MCC at Doveton on Sunday.
Shepparton’s Luke Dixon is part of the 15-man All-Stars squad, but is not playing tonight or on Sunday.
‘‘Traditionally there’s a bit of, ‘Are country players as good as metropolitan players?’,’’ Barton said. ‘‘It will say a lot if this team is competitive and it really does indicate the importance of producing champions from country areas.
‘‘Australia has a strong history of that occurring and sometimes it’s tough for country guys to get the opportunity and feel as if they’re good enough.’’
Barton said the sole criterion for the All-Stars was a minimum of 50 per cent of the team had to be from the country.
‘‘That was put in there to ensure the team was competitive, because there was some concern,’’ he said.
‘‘But what’s happened is the response has been so strong, in terms of players originally from the country, that the (50 per cent) requirement is not as significant as what it was first thought to be.
‘‘The team, on paper, looks very competitive and it will be interesting to see how it does perform.’’
Dixon’s teammates are Australian Junior Davis Cup player Harry Bourchier, Andrew Gregory, Ryan Palfrey, Matt Hicks, Jayde Culph, Mark Shanahan, Curt Garwood, Aiden Fitzgerald, Mitchell Allman, Adam Fleming, Paul Rowbottom, Matt Maloney, Matt Fitzpatrick and Justin Robinson.
Bendigo-based Fleming is the team captain.
Barton said Bendigo Tennis Association executive officer Leon Retallick and Tennis Victoria tennis operations manager Nick Hinneberg had played leading roles in the All-Stars’ inception.
‘‘This is a great opportunity where country kids can see that, without going to the city, they have the opportunity to compete in these competitions,’’ he said. ‘‘Traditionally players would have had to secure a spot at a metropolitan-based club, so that’s exciting in that it’s the best country players.’’
The Country All-Stars will compete against Grace Park, MCC, Royal South Yarra, Kooyong Lawn TC, Dingley TC and Waverley.
There are seven rounds before the semi-final and final are held on April 12 and 14, respectively.
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