CENTRAL Wimmera Tennis Association has introduced sweeping changes on the eve of the 2019-20 season.
An urgent meeting was called a week out from the opening round to address the format of the senior season, due to a lack of teams needed to run a B Special competition.
Officials decided to dissolve the B Special competition and revise the format of the association's other grades.
"It was a last-minute change, but I think it was the right thing for the association," president Jeremy Quast said. "Last year, we had 27 seniors teams, and this year we have 26 - so we've only lost one team. They had just not been able to commit, but fingers crossed they come around next year and want to play again."
Quantong Tennis Club has not entered a senior team this season.
Eight teams will compete in pennant, eight teams in A Special and 10 teams in A Grade.
Brimpaen, Central Park and Natimuk have all been promoted to pennant from A Special. Telangatuk East and Haven will drop down to compete in A Special.
Horsham Lawn will have two sides compete in the pennant grade.
"To have five (clubs) in pennant ... it could have worked, but it wasn't going to be ideal," Mr Quast said.
"To now have eight, you're going to have a lot of competition. You're still going to have some strong clubs at the top, but I think with a majority of clubs you could throw a blanket over them and they're going to be quite even."
Teams competing in pennant will consist of three men and three women - down from eight players in previous seasons.
"We've gone to a three and three format, so the number one and two doubles pairs will be playing doubles against each other, where the old format didn't allow that, and everyone in pennant will be having a match of singles," Mr Quast said. "We don't know how it's going to work yet, because we haven't tried it here.
"It has worked in other regions. There are other associations that have run the three and three for nearly 25 years and it's been quite successful. We've adopted that kind of format, and hopefully it takes off."
In previous seasons the third and fourth-ranked players would not compete in singles matches.
Mr Quast said the new pennant structure would create more opportunities for junior tennis players.
"We needed to create a pathway for our top juniors who wanted to play a lot of singles," he said.
"They found that when they got to pennant, they would play doubles only.
"To keep the 17 and 18 year-old juniors interested and help them transition from juniors to seniors, we needed to change that pathway and have it so they all play singles."
In other changes, Kalkee and St Michaels have been promoted to A Special from A Grade, while Central Park will only have one team compete in A Special, with one promoted to pennant.
They'll join Drung South, Homers and Noradjuha in the competition.
Horsham Lawn, Central Park and Haven will all enter two teams in the A Grade competition, following the dissolution of B Special.
Drung South and Natimuk are the other sides promoted to A Grade from B Special.
They'll join Laharum and Brimpaen in the competition.
Mr Quast said the changes were made with the competition's sustainability in mind.
"Clubs now have to think about tennis from an association point of view - not just a club point of view," he said. "We couldn't have 13 teams in A Grade.
"We still have very strong numbers; I think we just had to make a change.
"A team was being pushed up from B Special every year, but not being replaced. If there had just been a steady six teams in B Special we probably wouldn't have needed change.
"It's so late, and it's just before the season, but I think it's going to be the right thing for the association."
The senior tennis season starts this Saturday.
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