The Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton League launched with a bang on Tuesday night with new teams, an innovative new match to savour, and exhilarating action right from the first serve. Defending champions, the Tiger Broker Tigers, were favourites against newcomers the Starship Rockets, but were slow out of the gate. Even with last year’s MVP Edward Lau on court, the Tigers struggled to find their rhythm in the fascinating new 3v3 match format, losing 3-11 11-4 6-11.
Lau recovered from his slow start to pounce on NZBL rookie Ricky Cheng to win the Men’s Singles 11-7 11-7 and draw the tie even. Courtney ‘the Thrillo’ Trillo didn’t miss a beat and picked up where Lau left off to dispatch Rocket’s Catelyn Rozario 11-7 11-9. With all the momentum the Tigers looked set to strike the killer blow as young pair Feng and Wang stormed through the first game of the Men’s Doubles. Fortunately, experience came to the rescue for the Rockets as Curtin and Soedjasa battled back to take a critical win 6-11 11-9 11-9 in a hotly contested match.
Undefeated in last season’s NZBL, Women’s Doubles pair Apalisok and Pak continued their dominance, easily defeating Rozario and Tagle 11-6 11-8. With the tie score 3-2, the Rockets needed a star performance in the Mixed Doubles to have a shot at a Golden Game win. Manota and Tagle were up for the task, and bedazzled the favoured Lau and Pak who never really got into the match winning 11-5 11-7.
It was fitting that with such an exciting 2020 season finale, the 2021 season opener would also be full of drama. Rockets coach Fanny Megahwati won the coin toss and had the tough call to determine who would play the golden game – backing her mixed doubles pair to continue their winning ways and clinch the tie. After a fast start, the Rockets dropped away with Lau and Pak finding redemption and overturning their previous match to win 13-11. Edward Lau was named Crystal Ashley Match Day MVP, continuing his strong performances into the new season.
The second tie of the Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton League was a stark contrast to the league opener. The newly formed Mighty JAZZ Apples took on the Plenty Bay Whales on Wednesday night. While it looked to be a close contest on paper, it ended up poles apart. The Whales were on song early, storming through the fast paced 3v3 in quick fashion winning 11-7 11-9.
The Apples had to feel confident with Oceania Champion and Youth Olympic Medallist Oscar Guo taking the court against league debutant Andy Rouse in the Men’s Singles. After a dominant start by Guo, Rouse shook off his first match nerves to weave together a stunning performance. At times it looked as if Rouse simply had the shuttle on a string as he disrupted Guo’s rhythm to secure the upset win 4-11 11-9 11-9.
Inspired by Rouse's signature win, rising star Shaunna Li quickly defeated league newcomer Angelina Ung 11-2 11-5. Men’s Doubles duo Leydon-Davis and Tong then continued by winning a comfortable victory over Vong and Wong 11-6 11-6. The Women’s Doubles was a closer contest, with Li and Ng initially struggling to find their rhythm in the new combination, however they pushed through a slow start to take the match 7-11 11-9 11-7.
With only pride on the line for the final Mixed Doubles match, the Apples were hoping to avoid a 6-0 whitewash. The Whales simply couldn’t be stopped. With a tsunami of momentum, Li partnered with Jeffrey, working hard against the experience of Fu and Vong, fighting for every point and closing out the tie with a 7-11 11-5 11-7 victory. Andy Rouse was named Crystal Ashley Match Day MVP for his fantastic upset win in the Men’s Singles.