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Old Apr 28th, 2012, 10:58 PM   #1
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Katherine Westbury Playing For Thailand

Not sure if this has been posted already? But this is pretty disappointing.

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Another of New Zealand's top young players has flown the coop because of Tennis NZ's lack of funding.

Hamilton-born Katherine Westbury, who was seen as one of our brightest young hopes, has decided to play under the flag of Thailand, an option open thanks to her father being born there.

Westbury, 19, pushed American veteran Jill Craybass to three sets at Auckland's ASB Classic last year, but has been out injured since last October, planning on getting back on the circuit in June, although this time with the backing of the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand.

Her departure follows on from Sacha Jones quitting New Zealand tennis earlier in the year to tap into the strongly funded Australian system.

"It is disappointing for all the same reasons that it was when Sacha left," Tennis NZ chief executive Steve Johns said.

"First and foremost it's disappointing that we don't have the funding to keep those players in our programme. At the end of the day we respect her decision and if she thinks she'll do better overseas then we wish her all the best.

"Unlike Sacha, we've always known that this is an option for her," Johns said. "Her father lives over there, he came to us and asked what funding systems can we help Katherine with. We had to be up front with him and say we didn't have any funding systems to assist any of our players at the moment.

"They've obviously given it some thought and they think they can get her more support in Thailand, which time will tell."

Despite its profile as one of the world's biggest sports, tennis continues to be snubbed by High Performance Sport New Zealand, which doesn't help fund players to make it on the professional circuit.

However, there is hope inside the sport of being taken seriously by Sport NZ, which has agreed to partly fund a sponsorship and marketing position in TNZ for the next two years. TNZ is also moving out of its offices in Auckland suburb Glenn Innes, to the Millennium Institute on the North Shore.

Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin says they're keen on helping TNZ and other sports explore more revenue streams.

"Part of this is about making sure our organisations are capable and financially viable going forward," Miskimmin said. "One thing that a lot of sports are asking us for is to have more understanding of marketing and commercialisation, so they can build independent income streams.

Ad Feedback "We've worked with a number of sports around that and tennis is one we're working with. We've agreed to support them in that process, so they can have someone dedicated to that marketing and commercial approach."

The Millennium Institute is the country's national training centre. Canoe Racing has already moved to the facility, where High Performance Sport NZ is also based, and a number of other national sporting organisations are considering moving there.

"It's about immersing Tennis New Zealand in the country's leading high performance sporting environment," Johns said.

"Where we are at the moment is good because we're at a tennis centre, but there can be times when it's very quiet and there's not a lot going on.

"The move to the Millennium Institute is all about getting into that high performance environment where we can work alongside other sports' NSOs. High Performance Sport NZ are based up there.

"From an athlete perspective we can use their sports science and gym facilities." While Sport NZ has opened its chequebook, it doesn't mean High Performance Sport NZ will do likewise, but Johns is hopeful that this is another step towards that happening.
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