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Special open day to celebrate 100 years

Maccabi Tennis Club (MTC) – believed to be the oldest remaining Jewish sport club in Australia – is inviting the community to a special open day on Sunday, March 17 at its modern East Bentleigh clubhouse, to celebrate its 100th anniversary in style.

The free event will begin with tennis and pickleball courts being available for a hit from 11.30am. At midday, don’t miss an exhibition match between former federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg – the MTC men’s singles club champion from 1992 to 1996, and 2023 club champion James Oklander. An official ceremony will follow from 1pm, there will be delicious food, and a concluding raffle draw from 1.45pm, offering prizes including two tickets to a Jerry Seinfeld show, a new racquet, and a lesson with head coach Asaf Nagar.

Frydenberg said the centenary event – postponed from last October – is “a wonderful milestone to be celebrated by our whole community”. “I have very fond memories as a young kid battling away on the courts at Alma Road, playing the likes of Paul Kovacs, Clive Fredman, Fred Wurzel and the hard-hitting Nissenbaum brothers,” Frydenberg said. “It’s great to see a new generation of motivated and talented male and female players coming through, as they represent a bright future for a great club with a great culture and a very proud history.”

The club was formed on September 17, 1923, as part of the Judaean Physical Culture Society of Victoria, at a meeting in Rose Carrick’s home. The first members rented courts in St Kilda and entered local competitions. In the early 1930s, it became the South Judaean Tennis Club (SJTC), based at the Judaean League of Victoria’s community centre at 97 Alma Road, St Kilda, for the next six decades.

The club experienced a golden era in the ’50s and ’60s under the presidency of Hans Licht – a sport reporter for, and later editor of, The AJN – who succeeded in recruiting Jewish players from across Melbourne. In 1960, the club’s top women’s team made it as high as the Victorian A Grade Pennant, led by Eva [De Jong] Duldig and Pam Sacks – the former going on to become a Wimbledon doubles quarter-finalist and making it to the third round in singles on three occasions. In that era, the club fielded nine men’s pennant teams too, including in Special B grade.

In the 1980s, a smaller North Judaean Tennis Club in Carlton disbanded and its members joined SJTC. The closure of the Alma Road site in the 1990s was a major blow, but good news wasn’t far away for the club, renamed Maccabi Tennis Club. The Maccabi Victoria Sports Foundation, with the support of the club’s board, raised more than $1.5 million to build a clubhouse and eight Plexicushion hardcourts on a site at Bignell Road, East Bentleigh, leased from Glen Eira Council. It was designed by club members and architects Clive Fredman and John Malina, the planning consultant was Clive’s son Joel, and the builder was club member Milton Levin.

On February 17, 2008, the Leon Haskin Tennis Centre – named after the president at that time – officially opened, and MTC has gone from strength to strength since. Current president Ryan Behr said recent club achievements include fielding more junior and adult pennant teams, installing LED lighting on four courts, and introducing an online court booking system.

Many club stalwarts, including De Jong-Duldig, Clive Fredman, and Paul Kovacs, will be attending the 100th anniversary open day, which Behr said will be a proud moment for the club and a fun day out for families. Kovacs, who played his first men’s pennant season for the club in 1958 – fondly recalls the club’s on-court success, but told The AJN he is most proud of its players being good role models in the broader tennis community.

“Our players would earn a lot of respect and show that we were not only good players, but also good people,” Kovacs said. De Jong-Duldig warmly recalls the era of Licht’s influential presidency, and the hard work done by the late Leon Haskin and his committee in the challenging years after the Alma Road site closed. She added, “Turning 100 is a great achievement for the club, and I hope the club goes well for another 100 years.”

Clive Fredman said, “Being the first Maccabi club to turn 100 in Australia is a significant milestone, so this Sunday should be quite some celebration!”

Pre-register for catering purposes by securing your free ticket

Credit: AJN

Some of the club’s earliest members, pictured in 1928.


At the opening ceremony for the Leon Haskin Tennis Centre in 2008. From left: Ian Davis, David Mandie, Frank Sedgman, Leon Haskin and Eva De Jong-Duldig.

Josh Frydenberg in action in the 1990s.


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