I shall play Tennis all my life
When 19-year-old Ruia Morrison won the Auckland Women's lawn tennis title on January 30, she richly deserved the acclaim that was hers as the first Maori to take the crown. But the volume of applause may have been unwisely expended. Something should have been reserved for the great day when she becomes national champion. For this seems inevitable.
Ruia is a “natural” in every sense of the word. Virtually untutored, she unquestionably possesses some of the finest strokes ever displayed by a New Zealand woman. This natural gift of technique is backed by an unaffected manner, a placid temperament, and a great love of the game—this last being perhaps one of the premier requirements for success in every sport.
Now a student at the Auckland Teachers' Training College, Ruia lives in Maketu, Bay of Plenty, and is a member of the Arawa tribe. Her graceful, effective style can be traced directly to her Maori lineage. She has an inborn sense of rhythm and a fluid swing controlled by the supple muscles so typical of the Maori.
In many ways, Ruia demonstrates on a tennis court the same case and relaxation that were characteristic of another great Maori sports star, Mrs Moana Pomare (nee Manley), the former national junior backstroke swimming champion and record-holder.
Ruia is only young, but she has at least 11 years of tennis behind her. She first became intrigued with the game when she was eight and played in her first national junior championship when she was 13. This was at Auckland in 1950 and she reappeared each year in the junior division until she became a senior (19 and over) this season.
Two years ago, Ruia was eligible for the newly-created under 17 class but turned down certain title prospects to play in the under 19 grade and thus gained more experience. Last year, she won the national under 19 title, beating Miss Sonia Cox, of Otago, in the final. The previous year, in 1954, she was a semi-finalist in the national senior championships—having beaten Miss Cox in an earlier round. In the national tournament, she was eliminated by the eventual champion, Miss Judy Burke (now Mrs Tinnock).
At the national championships in Christchurch this season she waded through a tough field to make the final. She appeared certain to make history and become the first Maori New Zealand champion as her opponent was her oft-defeated rival. Miss Cox. But Miss Cox played her finest tennis and won a thrilling match, 6–3, 3–6, 7–5.
Two weeks later, Ruia became Auckland champion after some notable matches. The nervousness she showed in the national final was submerged under a real tide of confidence and this was demonstrated most forcefully when she met the New Zealand representative, Miss Elaine
Becroft, in the semi-finals. She won 6–4, 1–6, 6–4, but was down 1–4 in the last set. It was a remarkable recovery under such tense circumstances.
In the final, Ruia met the English international, Miss Rosemary Bulleid, who had conquered Miss Cox in the other semi-final. The English girl was constantly troubled by Ruia's pace and outed dozens of her opponent's shots which zipped off the court like bullets. The score was 6–4, 6–3.
This winter, Ruia will be playing basketball—she was an Auckland senior representative last year while still at Queen Victoria College—but she really can't wait for next tennis season. She is not entirely devoted to sport and is extremely fond of music, particularly operatic pieces. She also likes modern music and can play a ukelele, “but I'm not very flash at it!”
And how long will Ruia keep playing tennis? “All my life,” she says quickly. “All my life!”
Three Maori people received New Year honours from the Queen. They are Mr Pateriki Hura, a chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, who was awarded the O.B.E.; Mrs Lucy Atareti Jacob, of Levin; and Flight-Lieutenant Albert L. Tauwhare, formerly of Masterton, both of whom have been awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire). Flight-Lieutenant Tauwhare received his award in Britain where he is now a member of the Royal Air Force.