ValMuirhead1Val Muirhead died at Waikanae at the age of 84. She was a former Epuni Club/Empire Club member and Hutt Valley Table Tennis Representative. Val was a Empire Club/Hutt Valley Association Committee Member and a Hutt Valley Life Member.

Val had a open attacking style. She joined the Empire Club in 1955 from the Epuni Club. Val was in the following Empire winning interclub teams. 1955 B Grade Team (with Ron Menchi, Murray Sherlock, R Inglis) and the 1960 A Reserve Team (with Merv Burns, Ron Menchi, John Ogilvie). She played Hutt Valley A Grade for the Empire Number 2 Team (1959-72) with her best result 50% in 1965 (18/36) and 1967 (12/24). At the Empire Club Val won the Best Sportsperson Award jointly with Eddie Harris (1958) and the Most Outstanding Performance (1959). At the Empire Club Championships Val won six Women Singles (1963, 1964, 1966, 1968-1970), nine Women Doubles (1958-62, 1967-68 with Joan Brown, 1963 & 1970 with Merle Harding) and four Mixed Doubles (1959, 1963-64 with Keith Pointon and 1970 with Hone Ridley).

As a junior Val won the 1950 Wellington Open Under 18 Girls Doubles with N A King (W). She was a Hutt Valley Women Team Representative (1956-71) to the NZ Championships. In most of these teams was Joan Brown (1953-62, 1964-65, 1967-72). Val won the 1958 Bush Open Women Singles and the 1963 Hutt Valley Closed Women Singles. In Women’s Doubles she won: six Hutt Valley Closed tournaments (1962,1964-65,1967, 1969 with Joan Brown, 1963 with R Bush); five Hutt Valley Opens with Joan Brown (1961,1965,1969), with Gwen Schneider (1963), with Jeanette Wilson (1967); four Wellington Opens with Joan Brown (1965, 1967-69); the 1971 Kapiti Open with Gillian Kemp; the 1967 Manawatu Open with Joan Brown; the 1959 Wairarapa Open with Mary Anderson; the 1964 Wanganui Open with Joan Brown. In Mixed Doubles Val won the Hutt Valley Closed twice (1963 with Peter McLauchlan and 1964 with Albert Roberts); the 1963 Wairarapa Bush Open and the Wairarapa Open with Geoff Jennings; the 1966 Hutt Valley Open with Denis Thorner. In 1963 Val played in the Australian Open.

1959 was Val’s best year. She was ranked Number 8 on the New Zealand Women’s Ranking List. She represented the North Island (with Barbara Packwood (Captain), Joan Brown, Neti Davis) against the South Island ( Pat Purdon (Captain),June Shadbolt, Thelma May, Pam Crowe ). Won 7-5 by the North Island. In the NZ Championships Val and Joan Brown were runner up in the Women Doubles to Mary Anderson (HV)/Val White (W) 21-12 15-21 21-8 17-21 21-19. In the North Island Championships Women Singles Val beat the seeded Pat Purdon (3rd round) and Mary Broadbent (Semi Finals) and was runner up to Joan Brown 21-14 21-14 10-21 21-11. Val and Joan Brown were runner up in the Women Doubles to Pat Purdon (C)/Pam Deans (W) 11-21 21-16 22-20 21-19. In the Hawera Teams Tournament Empire Club (Joan Brown, Val Muirhead, Betty Gardner, Bev Christensen) beat Wanganui (Gwen Schneider, Cynthia Gifford-Moore, P Haywood, Joyce Williams) in the Women’s Final 6-4.

Val was on the Empire Club Management Committee (1957-72) and was one of the fifteen signatures when the Club applied to be an Incorporated Society in 1961. The Certificate of Incorporation was registered on December 19, 1961. She was also on the Hutt Valley Table Tennis Association Executive Committee. The Empire Golden Jubilee Book said she served for 20 years on the Hutt Valley Committee. In 1965 history was made when the Hutt Valley Association appointed her as its sole selector. The first time a woman has held that position. Hutt Valley beat Wellington 21-7 to win the Jack Croudis Memorial Shield and Canterbury to win the Brightwell Trophy to win both matches for the first time in the same year. She was elected a Hutt Valley Association Life Member and became a Table Tennis Wellington Life Member when the Wellington Association and the Hutt Valley Association merged in 2002. She was also on the NZ Executive Committee (1971-72). Val also served on the 1980 NZ Championship Committee.

Information for the article was provide from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Val Darroch, Empire Table Tennis Club Annual Reports, Empire Club Golden Jubilee Book (1934-1984), Empire Club website, Table Tennis NZ website and Wellington Table Tennis Association Annual Reports.  Unfortunately I have been unable to locate Hutt Valley Table Tennis Association Reports for this period. Also some Empire Club Annual Reports were missing (1934-36, 1939-45, 1954,1955,1970). No information was founded from her time at the Epuni Club.

Hutt Valley Women's team (1957). L/R back: Fay Inglis, Val Muirhead (c), Pam Oben; front: Mary Garden, Joan Brown
Hutt Valley Women’s team (1957). L/R back: Fay Inglis, Val Muirhead (c), Pam Oben; front: Mary Garden, Joan Brown.

Malcolm Wong

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