Social tennis is set to make a comeback at Garema with the official opening of a new court, complete with lights and a wall to have a hit against.
On Sunday, community and Garema Hall committee members gathered at the restored rural hall to check the courts out and enjoy an afternoon tea.
The courts are the result of funding from both Forbes Shire Council and the NSW Government, and the ribbon was cut by Member for Orange Phil Donato and Councillors Michele Herbert, Brian Mattiske and Jenny Webb.
Local tennis legend Cliff Nelson and tennis coach Peter Clifton had the honour of the first hit to christen the court, which is actually a multipurpose surface.
Garema Hall committee member Ross Williams shared a little of the venue's long and proud history: the hall actually celebrates 100 years this year and it looks like the early four-court set-up went back to 1920.
Philip Quirk, who was unable to attend but used to do the maintenance on the courts, said they had been re-done after the 1950s floods, and lights were installed in the early 1960s.
In its heyday the Garema courts saw local tennis two nights a week and Sunday afternoon competition against surrounding communities including Caragabal and Wirrinya.
Ross acknowledged the council and government for the funding for the project, and thanked all the contractors involved in bringing it to fruition.
He said the hall committee has now been working for about 12 years to update the hall - including installing toilet and kitchen facilities - and the funding for the tennis courts is an exciting addition.
"This court now gives us the opportunity to gather - we're going to try to organise the first Sunday of the month for a social hit," he said.
"We have an annual cricket day every year the last Saturday in August."
Forbes tennis coach Peter Clifton, from Garema himself, is delighted to have something else to draw families to the venue.
It's all about the social aspect, he says, "to bring people together - of all generations, give them something to do, something that they don't have to travel too far to do".
For decades tennis was central to rural community life: it remains a game the generations can enjoy.
"You've only got to think back to late 70s early 1980s when they had that Farrer Shield competition which was six a-side - six ladies, six men - and not only did Forbes, Grenfell and Parkes play but Wirrinya had two teams, Mulyandry had a team, Warroo had a team, Caragabal had a team," Peter said.
"You used to have a really great competition through the winter - you could play every second weekend and travel different spots."
The hall, with amenities and sport offerings, can only become more appealing as a place for people from the rural community to gather, he added.
The court is across the field from the hall but that's not an accident, it's pretty close to the original court location and it keeps use of the whole site.
Toddy Doyle, John and Peg Clifton, and Cliff Nelson have all enjoyed many games of tennis at Garema and around the district - they had the honour of cutting the celebratory cake.
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