by Wade Townsend
In the Junior Boys’ Teams, Australia and New Zealand have kept a 5-0 scoreline throughout the first day of play. Qualification is now secured for both nations for the World Junior Championships, but they won’t be resting on their laurels. A grudge match is about to go down between the two power houses of Oceania table tennis. Expect metaphorical fists to fly between these two sporting rivals.
Meanwhile, the final place on the podium will be decided between Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Both nations secured a 3-2 win against the mixed New Caledonia and Tuvalu team. Fiji will have the home crowd, who have already been vocal in their support on the first day of play. With a medal at stake, Vodafone Arena is going to get loud tomorrow; at least near Fiji’s table.
A similar situation is in the Junior Girls’ Team event. Both New Zealand and Australia have secured their spot in Italy for the World Junior Championships. However New Zealand didn’t emerge unscathed; New Caledonia was the thorn in their side with Lorie La getting a win on the board.
Fiji and New Caledonia will be playing off for the bronze medal, and it’s anyone’s guess how that match will go. Both teams pushed their Australian and New Zealand counterparts and have a depth to their team. With a rowdy New Caledonian bench and Fiji fans, this matchup could promise to be the most interesting and closely fought contests of the day.
In the Cadet Girls matters are more straightforward as Australia looks set on taking gold. They have Fiji left to play and have already seen off the second seed New Zealand 5-0.
In the Cadet Boys’ Team event New Caledonia caused the biggest surprise of the day. They took down the New Zealand outfit with apparent ease. The Kiwis were completely dominated on the table and went down 5-0. It seems likely New Caledonia will be leaving with silver, while Australia look a certainty to take gold.
The first day of action has shown that New Caledonia has across the board pushed the top teams and is knocking on the door of territory previously only dominated by Australia and New Zealand. With individual events getting underway tomorrow, perhaps everyone should beware the New Caledonian underdogs.