Wodonga, Victoria, 23 February 2024 | Courtney Walsh

Melbourne teacher Laura Langmead had a sense of pride in the achievement of her teammates after the eclectic group were crowned Country Week’s champion team on Friday.

A leader of the Mutton and Lamb team which claimed the top division of Tennis Victoria’s annual teams event, Langmead has been a participant in a tournament which drew more than 1320 players to Albury-Wodonga this year for more than a decade.

But it was not just the performances of her mates, who ranged in age from 28 to 70, which pleased her as the side upset regular champions Tandara in the final in a comeback triumph.

Langmead, who was a scholarship player in the strong American collegiate competition before returning to Australia to play with Kooyong, was thrilled by the vibrancy of the event.

READ MORE: World’s biggest grass-court event a hit in Albury-Wodonga

The event featured veterans who had been playing tennis for decades and others who were freshly introduced to the sport and enticed to play after hearing about the lively social scene.

Langmead was struck by the amount of younger players competing and said they represented the future of the time-honoured tournament.

“It was really, really lovely to see so many strong and independent women coming up as a collective group and enjoying their tennis,” Langmead told tennis.com.au.

“You have to create a sisterhood with your team and it was really nice to see the next generation of young women and girls coming through.

“I reckon there were about two teams in our section of fresh new faces, which was really nice to see, and it was so lovely that we were able to do our yearly catch up.

“You get everyone from the tennis world back together and it is important to be able to catch up and share stories and form stronger friendships. It is really nice.”

Recent Tennis Victoria Inter-Regional singles champion Eliza Bingham (nee Long) plays alongside Langmead in a richly talented team featuring grandmothers and mothers who balance their family and professional duties while having a great time on and off the court.

“The oldest member of our team, Pam, is 70, and the youngest member is Eliza, who is 28, and they are really positive, uplifting women who just love to play tennis and then have a good time among everyone at night,” Langmead said.

Jordy Aitken, a tennis coach from Grovedale who represented Grape Therapy in Section 2, is among the younger women Langmead was delighted to see having a ball on the border.

The timing of the tournament, which is held in the second full week of February every year and heads to Swan Hill in 2025, was perfect for Aitken as she celebrated her 21st birthday.

Aitken, whose mother Vanessa played in the tournament for the first time, has now played in three Country Weeks and cannot imagine not playing the teams tournament in the future.

RELATED: Family bonds strong at Victorian Country Week

“If you have any friends who are umming or aahing about playing, I would say that I think you just have to go yourself, because you can’t know how good it is until you have been,” she said.

“Personally, I had only heard good things about it and I can only say good things about it and I can’t really think of any negatives at all. It is so much fun.

“Just getting to play against all the other women in our section, they are all so nice to be around, and you remember each other’s names and have so much to talk about.

“There are lots of different players you play against. I played some ladies who were so crafty and so precise with their shots, and then you would play other women who were such hard hitters. It is great to be able to get such a good range of experiences.”

Given tennis is a competitive sport, overcoming aches and pains and occasional injuries are among the challenges, but it is rare that those issues act as a deterrence for players.

Brenda Bishop, who is a member of the Sunbury Ladybirds, once put off surgery to ensure she was able to participate in Country Week.

A decent proportion of competitors in the men’s and women’s ranks are parents and Kerry White, inducted as a Country Week legend prior to the tournament, said this can be a challenge to overcome, particularly for those with young children.

But she is adamant the positives far outweigh the negatives and, similarly to newcomers like Aitken, said nothing would stand in the way of her heading off to Country Week each year.

“There’s a lot more that goes into it for mums, I think, particularly being second week back at school. There is a lot going on, particularly when your kids are younger,” White said.

“But it’s a week that I hope I never miss for many reasons. And even if I can’t play for any reason, like this year was a bit dodgy tennis wise because I had a knee arthroscope and things weren’t too good, but I would come and cut oranges and hold drinks for everybody.

“That’s what this week is, a great getaway with the girls while having a whole lot of fun.”