ROD Fulton’s involvement with Haven Tennis Club started when he was 12.
More than 45 years later, Fulton still enjoys picking up a racket as much as he did in those early days.
His cousin, Haven club stalwart and life member Sue Exell – whom the club’s main walkway is named after – was the catalyst for him joining the club.
Fulton started playing for Haven in the Central Wimmera Tennis Association senior competition when he was 16 or 17, and has never looked back.
“Over my time I’ve played in D, C, B and A grades,” he said.
“My fondest memories are playing with my son Brad, and meeting my wife Marcelle at the club. I’ve played in three premierships, including one with Marcelle – that was pretty special.”
Fulton became a club life member in 2007, an honour he accepted with great pride.
He also serves as club president. Fulton is proud Haven has become known as one of the region’s best tennis precincts.
“We have an amazing set-up. We’ve hosted the Central Wimmera grand finals a few times now, and I think it is a premier place,” he said.
“From a viewing point of view particularly, Haven is great.”
Fulton said while he loved the game, the best part of playing tennis was the social aspect.
“Just meeting people in general has been great,” he said.
“One of the things I also enjoy is being the village idiot – mucking around and having a lot of fun.
“That's what tennis has to be – fun. Pennant is more serious, but I think the minute we take it too seriously in the other grades, people start to lose enjoyment.
“One of the funniest times I’ve had on court is when two Haven teams were playing each other one day.
“I reached over the net and got one of the opposition players in a headlock so he couldn’t continue to play.
“We won the point.”
Haven will field four senior teams and 18 junior teams in the 2018-19 Central Wimmera season, starting this week.
The club also runs the ANZ Hot Shots Program, and has taken a group of young players to the Australian Open twice.
Fulton said the junior program was one of the club’s hallmarks, and something he was very proud of.
“We have a great junior program through amazing work from Sue Exell and Rebecca Bird,” he said.
“I have grandsons, and hopefully they will play at Haven in time.
“We all want tennis to keep going.
“The whole idea of our club is that people feel welcome and want to continue playing the sport.”
Fulton believes summer sport has progressively suffered more as traditional winter sports such as football become more year-round commitments, but hopes tennis will always have a strong place in the Wimmera.
“I think the pre-season of footy probably needs to back off a little bit and let the other sports have their time in the sun,” he said.
“Footy is important and I love the game, but they have to see there are other sports.
“And while people are playing those other sports, they are keeping their fitness up.”