The months of hard work that went into the 2019 NSW Country Tennis Championships have been rewarded, with the Forster-based tournament named the Community Event of the Year at the 2020 NSW Community Sports Awards.
The awards recognise outstanding achievements and contributions to community sport in NSW over the past 12 months.
Run by Tennis NSW, the 2019 country championships was considered the biggest in the tournament's nearly 100-year history, with more than 800 participants and spectators attending the week-long event.
More than 1000 matches of tennis were played over the course of the tournament, with Forster's own Brenton Chambers claiming the blue ribbon AMT men's competition, while off-court the event boasted an impressive roster of social functions, training camps, Q&A sessions with former professional players and other tennis-related activities.
Tennis NSW member engagement coordinator Tayla Wilson believed the off-court events really helped enhance the tournament and played a big part in the country championships receiving the recognition it had.
"We made it a real spectacle of tennis," she said.
"We put almost four months of work and planning into the event."
Forster Tennis Club coach Jaime McDonagh said it was very satisfying to see the event recognised given the challenges that had to be overcome to get it off the ground.
"It's fantastic," Mr McDonagh said.
"It shows what hard work does and the fact we worked so well with council and (Myall Lakes MP) Stephen Bromhead and Tennis NSW."
The club's commitment to hosting the country championships was thrown into serious doubt when, seven months out from the tournament, strong winds brought down a number of light poles at the courts, leaving the club with a $200,000 bill to replace them.
With insufficient funds to cover such an expense, the club approached Mr Bromhead for help, who promised a $200,000 grant to replace the lights if the coalition was re-elected.
Mr Bromhead and the coalition were re-elected, however, the solution was complicated by the fact the funding wouldn't be available until the new financial year.
With the club needing to have the lights installed in time for the country championships in July, a collaborative arrangement was struck between the club, Mr Bromhead and MidCoast Council, who all recognised the value of hosting the event in the area, and three days out from the start of the tournament the lights were turned on.
The event subsequently injected an estimated $600,000 into the local economy.
Nearly 18 months on, Ms Wilson says Tennis NSW is looking forward to bringing the country championships back to Forster in 2021, after the 2020 tournament had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.
"Next year we're definitely looking at going ahead," she said.
"We only want to make it bigger and better."
Stay ahead with local news by signing up for the Great Lakes Advocate newsletter here.