On a recent July afternoon in Castle Hill, a Hills District tennis family made history by winning the elite Sydney grassroots tennis competition – the Premier League Division of the Sydney Badge Tennis Competition.
The Hills District team made its debut into Badge Tennis in 2011. Its Premier League team consisted of well known local talent: Neil Smith (head coach and owner of Castle Hill Tennis Academy), Robert Kilborn (coach) and Neil’s three sons, Blake, Cameron and Jordan. The team finished 4th in 2011 and lost in semi finals to Sydney Lawn Tennis Club.
The 2011 experience paid dividends and the same team finished Minor Premiers in 2012 with an outstanding 70% set win ratio. Their semi final win against Canterbury Bankstown put them into a grand final match up against Sydney Lawn Tennis Club, which has held the championship title for the last five years. The grand final was held at Caterson Tennis Centre, Castle Hill on Saturday, 21 July 2012 with spectators and club members in attendance to witness an afternoon of entertaining and high quality tennis.
The Hills District team were convincing winners 5 sets to 1 over Sydney Lawn. They are the first team ever to have played and won with four members of the same family in the team. Their individual performance rankings across the Sydney Badge Tennis Competition, which boosts over 1000 + participants were equally impressive: Cameron (#1), Blake (#2), Neil (#9), Jordan (#17) and Robert (#33).
Whilst he may not be a Smith, the fifth member of the Hills District team, Robert Kilborn has enjoyed a long standing friendship with the Smith family and is also godfather to Blake. He partnered alongside Neil for 10 years back in the late 1980s and early 90s while competing in the very same Badge Competition. They represented Strathfield Tennis Club. Together they teamed up to win the elite Badge Men’s 1:1 competition for eight (8) consecutive years.
Neil and Robert have also won many doubles and singles titles including the Manly Seaside Championships and still practice and play together regularly. Robert currently coaches for the Castle Hill Tennis Academy in Castle Hill, alongside Neil, Blake and Cameron. Neil and Robert have both represented Australia in 35+ Seniors Tennis and hold State and National titles.
Neil and Michelle Smith have operated the Castle Hill Tennis Academy for more than 20 years at Caterson Tennis Centre, Fred Caterson Reserve Castle Hill. For 24 years Neil has been a full time Advanced Level Coach, a current Tennis Australia Talent Development Coach and has worked with Tennis NSW and Tennis Australia on a number of grassroots and junior development initiatives. Neil also sits on the Tennis Sydney Management Committee of Tennis NSW and is involved with the NSW tournament sanctioning advisory group.
Neil, Michelle and their boys believe tennis is a game for the entire family, and their continued success, both on and off the tennis court is testament to this.