The Magic behind the scenes

As the future stars of world tennis battled it on Thursday morning to be crowned this year’s Traralgon International champion, a small army of volunteers was buzzing around the courts.

The courtesy bus needed driving, there were ball boys and girls to be organised, cleaning to be done and meals to be cooked.

Each year months of preparation goes into planning for the tournament with the bulk of the work in the lead-up and during the event falling on the Traralgon Tennis Association’s small army of volunteers.

Association manager Susie Grumley said the tournament being an International Tennis Federation grade 1 event meant there was a lot more work which needed to be done to put on a world class event.

“We have to have a courtesy bus that goes every day and transports the players, we have to provide the chef and all the cooked meals and there’s just a lot of extras,” Grumley said.

“All our sponsors’ signage and all those types of things that need to be done, the flags have to go up.

“There’s so many more things that have to be ticked off compared to a local junior tournament.”

With the tournament’s main draw played across six days, two days of qualifiers and then Australian Open Junior Championships qualifying rounds later in the week, there is no shortage of work for the volunteers.

Grumley said the scale of the event meant she needed to begin preparations “about three or four months beforehand”.

“It’s pretty full on with getting everything organised and finalising everything,” she said.

“We have our big corporate dinner so we had 140 here last (Wednesday night) so that’s an added extra onto the tournament as well.

“It’s a wonderful night and a lot of organising and planning, a lot of volunteers.

“We could have up to 60 or 70 volunteers over the event.”

One of those volunteers is Wendy Moore, whose playing career at the association stretches back 20 years.

Moore is president of women’s tennis at the association and has been overseeing its kitchen for the past five years.

Her preparations for the tournament began two weeks before the players arrived, planning meals and rearranging the kitchen.

“We offer four different hot meals each day and they’re sort of carbohydrate based – pastas and rices and spaghettis and that sort of thing,” Moore said.

“Then on top of that they get salads and a drink and fruit and bread.”

But she doesn’t do all the work alone with a chef hired to work alongside Moore and her team of volunteers, with about six helpers on hand at any given time.

With 128 players competing across the men’s and women’s main draws there is no shortage of work to be done and Moore’s days are often long.

“When the tournament starts my day starts… I’m at Woolies at 7.30 in the morning collecting all the fresh bread and rolls,” she said.

“I come in here and set up the kitchen ready for the volunteers that come in at nine o’clock in the morning.”

Twelve hour days are common but after Wednesday’s corporate dinner she was at the association’s clubrooms until 10.30pm.

But she said it’s a labour of love.

“You wouldn’t do it unless you enjoyed it,” she said.

“As I said, it’s long days and we have great camaraderie in here with all the girls who come in and help – it’s fantastic.”

The club’s volunteers have done such a great job over the years that last year Moore, Jill Brock, Val Kennedy and Pat Murdoch all received service awards from Tennis Australia.

Brock handles the club’s cleaning professionally but maintains the gardens in a volunteer capacity.

She said she loved helping out at the club as it felt like a “second home”.

“If it needs fixing I fix it – it’s like a big backyard,” Brock said.

“That’s all it is and I look after it like it’s my own house.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time, I’ve been involved with the club for 38 years and I’m still on the committee.

“I’ve been here a long time and I don’t know how long I’ll last but I’ll keep on as long as I can.”