(from left) Rockhampton’s Paula Hockings, Kerrod Coughlan, Matthew Pettett and Rayden Smith are off to the national titles.
(from left) Rockhampton’s Paula Hockings, Kerrod Coughlan, Matthew Pettett and Rayden Smith are off to the national titles. Chris Ison

Young quartet off to titles

HOCKINGS will join three of Rockhampton's top young table tennis players as part of the Queensland team contesting next week's Australian Junior Championships on the Gold Coast.

Against all expectations at last year's event, Hockings finished fourth in the country in the under-15 Girls singles after stepping up to the occasion.

Rockhampton Table Tennis Association's Allan Clarke said Hockings performance last year was a real surprise.

“She went away with okay form, and exceeded all expectations,” Clarke said.

“I'm hoping she can hit her straps again.”

This year Hockings, 16, will move up into the under-18s division and Clarke is expecting her to surprise a few of her older competitors.

“Now she's up an age group it's going to be interesting but I think she can step it up,” Clarke said.

Hockings will be joined by Kerrod Coughlan, Matthew Pettett and Rayden Smith in the Queensland team.

Coughlan is in his final year in the under-18 division and is Queensland's highest ranked player after the withdrawal of the State's best under-18 player, David Fielding, due to a back injury.

Coughlan returned from last year's nationals with a determination to perform at that level once again and will get his final chance this year before he moves up into the senior ranks.

In the under-15s, Pettett will be hard to beat if he can play his natural game.

Pettett's ability to keep the ball in play, along with the fact he is left-handed, works to his advantage and will make it difficult for his opponents.

Due to the sport being dominated by right-handed players, his game catches his opponents by surprise and given the competition is played in a first-to-11 format, there is not much time to work your way into the contest after falling behind.

“There are not that many left-handed players going around,” Clarke said.

“A good left-hander has a bit of an advantage because it takes a while for his competitor to get used to playing a ‘lefty'.”

The final member of the quartet from Rockhampton is under-13 and under-15 competitor Rayden Smith, who will be competing in his first nationals. Clarke said playing up an age group this year would help him improve his game in the future.

“Rayden's got that experience to gain,” he said. “That's why the coaches are really keen on them playing at bigger competitions.”

All four players will compete in two matches during the day in their individual age groups in the team's competition and then compete in the singles at night to be held at an elite sporting facility, the Gold Coast Super Sports Centre north of Surfers Paradise.



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