Wodonga, Victoria, 20 February 2024 | Courtney Walsh

Harley Langstaff had a message for his grandfather Neil as the patriarch of the Leongatha clan stepped on to the court for a Tennis Victoria Country Week grand final on Friday.

It had been a busy morning for the nine-year-old, who helped his dad Joel and the rest of the Langstaff family warm up for the match in between running drinks and cheering the team on.

The experience of a week away in Wodonga and Albury, where three generations of the same family represented Leongatha, whetted his appetite and he wanted in on the action.

“He told me, ‘You have to play for at least another five years, so I get the chance to play with you’,” Neil Langstaff told tennis.com.au.

It was a dramatic morning for the team, with the grandfather tearing a calf muscle during a final the Leongatha L’s won by one game over the Merry Marshians from Bacchus Marsh.

The Section 11 team led by Langstaff also featured his sons Ethan and Joel Langstaff, while Harley’s elder brother Zac, 16, enjoyed his first Country Week triumph in the decider.

“It is something that I am super proud of, to be able to play in a team with my father and my brother and my son,” Joel Langstaff said.

“The best thing about Country Week is seeing players of so many different ages and shapes and sizes and ability, and you look around and get a reminder that it is a great lifestyle and that tennis is good for your long-term health.

“It is such a positive thing for the boys to have so many good role models around.”

The great Aussie tradition of family members getting together to whack some fluffy yellow balls around a court was evident throughout the duration of Country Week 2024.

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It is not quite a tennis version of the reality show Farmer Wants A Wife but there were plenty of couples competing in the Albury-Wodonga teams event who partnered through the sport.

Dairy farmer Robin and Anne Albert met at Country Week in Albury-Wodonga in 1988 and noted how fortunate they are that their shared love of tennis brought them together.

It took some persistence from Robin, the oldest player at Country Week this year, but the couple said the only argument they have ever had since is about who is the luckier one as a result of their first meeting.

“He lived two hours away and a few nights (after Country Week) he rang and said, ‘I’m a reporter from The Age and I heard you won your section’ (and asked) to do an interview,” Anne told Tennis Victoria.

“He then said, ‘While you are here, I need to tell you you were in the company of a known criminal named Robin Albert’ and I said, ‘Yeees?’. And then he cracked up (and) told me who he was and asked me out.

“We got to know each other and we went out a couple of times and then he would drive up two hours after he had done his farm work and have a cup of tea and then go home.

“You can see why I was hooked. It was something I would never forget. He is just amazing. He is a wonderful husband, wonderful father and you can see why I love him so much.”

Pat Flynn, a Country Week “legend”, competed in what his son-in-law Matt Allen believes was his 60th edition as an active player in Melbourne or in towns along the Murray River.

Allen, a Wangaratta farmer and his son Sam, were among a strong team who represented the Hume Hornets in Division 1, while the elder Flynn had another great week with mates.

Country Week has also been kind to Kieran Fitzgerald, who was inducted to “legend” status this year 50 years after playing in his first edition of the event at Kooyong 50 years ago.

The Bendigo resident has missed the event only once and that was to get married in 1976.

His daughter Casey met her husband Brandt Fleming while playing Country Week and his son Aidan is as renowned for his superb tennis at the tournament as he is for coming up with creative names for the teams he leads.

“Becoming a ‘legend’ just means you are old. It is not going to make a difference to me,” Kieran Fitgerald said.

“It has been great to see the kids come through. But I have to keep it a bit low key because Julie (my wife) doesn’t come, so I can’t be seen to be too excited about it.”

As a young boy, Aidan Fitzgerald can remember going to watch his dad play tennis and said he “always smiled and just loved it and that is infectious”. It helped him catch the tennis bug.

Fitzgerald, who recorded an ATP Tour ranking in doubles, played collegiate tennis in the US in Tennessee and Texas and has played at professional events around the world.

But he is not surprised so many families have bonded at Country Week given the enthusiasm of the participants and the camaraderie that is evident on and off the court.

“There really is nothing like this in the world. You wonder how all these people can take a week off work, but once you have played one, you can understand why,” Aidan said.

“Dad’s teammates come around a few days before the event every year and they have a few hits and start the planning. They are as excited as little kids before the first week of school.

“He is in his 70s and on the morning of Country Week, he is packed the night before and ready to go and at 5am, he is ready to head out the door.”