FUTURE TABLE TENNIS CHAMPION
No sporting accomplishment by a Maori in 1957 deserved more praise, more congratulations, more encouragement than that of the 13 year-old Whakapara table tennis wonder girl. Nettie Davis.
Her remarkable feats at the New Zealand championships at Lower Hutt last September raised her almost overnight from a modest, unknown country girl, into the star of the championships.
Nettie arrived with the Northland team as just another player. She left as the most promising player ever produced by this country.
A more unassuming child than Nettie would be hard to find. This splendidly built girl is beautifully proportioned, seems almost casual on the table, but possesses a really fluent polished style. If there is a fault it is her footwork. Nettie seldom moved smartly. When she did have to move she was inclined to be sluggish, that is for one of her tender years, but perhaps that is the influence of her training.
Nettie told us that she is coached by her 71-year-old grandfather, Lon Davis, in a tin shed. Possibly the shed does not allow for a great deal of space, which would result in restricted footwork, but would permit greater concentration on stroke production. Then again what is the opposition Nettie gets? She must now get training with top-class players.
No player has ever emerged in New Zealand table tennis with greater potential. Nettie's first sensation was her defeat of Miss Joan Brown, who was later to go on and contest the New Zealand women's open singles final in the inter-association matches. Nettie beat Miss Brown the Hutt Valley No. 1 player, in three sets, but narrowly lost to Miss Fay Inglis in her other single. Both opponents were seeded players in the New Zealand women's singles. Nettie never lost another single in the inter-association teams matches.
In the New Zealand singles Nettie beat Miss Eileen Brown, former Wellington and now a Canterbury representative, in the second round, but lost to Miss Ellen McNeill, of Hutt Valley, in the third. Miss McNeill, a seeded player, is one of the most experienced players in New Zealand Nettie failed against her in four thrilling sets, in which she twice lost after havng handy leads early. Nettie was not disgraced in being beaten 3-1.
Nettie's fame was, however, really made when she reached the final of the New Zealand open mixed doubles championship, partnered by the elongated Garry Frew, of Whangarei. They lost to New Zealand champion. Bob Jackson, and Miss K. Lye (Auckland) in four sets.
It was a terrific performance for a child to reach the New Zealand final. The only other occasion on which a youngster has done it was in Wellington in 1953 when 14-year-old Tweenie Evans, also a Maori girl, and Miss Joyce Williamson (Canterbury) won the New Zealand women's open doubles championship. Tweenie (Waikato) incidentally, did not have the polished style possessed by Nettie.
It was a hard week for Nettie. She played in numerous events, and five finals. She won the New Zealand under 16 years girls' single and doubles, was beaten in the New Zealand under 18 years singles and mixed doubles.
It is to be hoped that Nettie, who has a desire to take up nursing, will continue to take table tennis seriously. If she makes the normal progress, she might become a New Zealand champion.