The inaugural awards dinner for the New Zealand Squash Hall of Fame is being described as an enormous success.
More than 150 people enjoyed a night of celebration at the Novotel Ellerslie Hotel in Auckland, joining emcee Joseph Romanos in saluting the first eight personalities to be inducted into the newly formed Hall of Fame.
Former world champions Susan Devoy and Ross Norman were among the inductees - Norman flying back especially from his home in the UK to attend. The 1986 World Champion says he did not hesitate to come back out of respect to New Zealand Squash, and the myriad of people who helped him early in his career. Bruce Brownlee, Stu Davenport and Leilani Rorani were the other players inducted on the night, while administrators Murray Day and the late Roy Haddon, represented by his son Gerald, were also recognised for their indefatigable efforts off the court.
But is was former world number one Leilani Rorani who stole the show. Rorani spoke of her Maori heritage and of her childhood in Hamilton. She extolled the efforts of her father who taught her squash from the coaching manual of Dadir El Bakary, who in turn had an enormous influence on her career as New Zealand's first professional squash coach. Dadir, the eighth inductee, was unfortunately not present at the awards dinner. However, few were left to doubt his value to the sport in this country, after Rorani had finished talking.
The hard work now starts again for the New Zealand Squash Hall of Fame voting panel, who will consider the next batch of inductees for 2010. Chairman Don Cotter says they have a list of potential candidates who are all very worthy, and just who gets the nod will no doubt be the subject of lengthy debate amongst those making the decision. Another new initiative was also born out of the New Zealand Hall of Fame, with a fundraiser established to raise $50,000 to pull all the archives together from around the country. Joseph Romanos has also agreed to write a book about the history of New Zealand Squash and those that have made the sport what it is today.