Toolangi Tennis History

by Joanne Priestley

Tennis has been a part of Toolangi since the early days of European settlement. The first record details an annual meeting of the Toolangi Tennis Club in 1901 when Mr Waters was re-elected Honorary Secretary and Mrs Bassett Honorary Treasurer. Plans for the annual social dance were discussed as well as a forthcoming match against Healesville ‘when the Toolangi Players get into form’.[i]

There were tennis courts at ‘Glenora’, a guest house beside the Post Office owned by the Bassetts, at the Toolangi House Hotel and also at ‘Heathlands’ a guest house owned by the Smedleys. It was at ‘Heathlands’ where famous poet CJ Dennis played matches with house guests and others, including local school teacher Florence Mitchell (1911/12), and the club had its early beginnings.

Little is known of early Toolangi Tennis, as it’s suggested by some that many of the early records were at ‘Arden’, CJ Dennis’ former home and were destroyed in 1965 when ‘Arden’ burnt down. This is quite possible, as local mythology believes CJ Dennis was an Office Bearer of the early club [see author’s note]. Despite the lack of early records, newspaper research shows that a game was played in 1912 between Toolangi and Yea, in Yea. The Toolangi Team consisting of Demby, CJ Dennis, L Smedley, A Smith, Peacock and J Smedley were the victors 49 to 25.[ii] The return match played in Toolangi in early 1913 was won by Yea 42 to 40, even though Toolangi won more sets with the team of Smith & L Smedley, McLaine & Dennis, J Smedley & Peacock.[iii] Another article records a game against Lilydale in January 1926 with Toolangi the victors.[iv]

At a Tennis Club meeting on 10 November 1950, it was moved to form a tennis club to be known as Toolangi Tennis Club.[v] Also decided at the meeting was that a shed be erected at Mr Smedley’s court with timber supplied from Mr Milner. Fees were set at 7 shillings 6 pence and only financial members could use the court. Keith McLaine was elected the first President, a position he held for many years. Matches were played on Sundays until the 1954 season, when the club joined the Glenburn and District Tennis Association, that played on Saturdays.

As the popularity of the club grew, the one court at Heathlands Guesthouse (Smedley’s) wasn’t enough. Several sites for new courts were investigated, until a decision was reached in 1952 being that they were to be erected on the Hall site. Numerous working bees cleared the site to a minimum of 112 x 112 feet.

Two teams were entered for the 1955/56 season, with elected selectors to decide on teams and priority given to players who trained at least once a week – Men Tuesdays, Ladies Wednesdays and Mixed on Fridays. For the 1956/57 season, captains of three teams were elected and non-members of the club were to pay 2 shillings per hour to use the courts.

It is not known exactly the year the club moved to the new courts, but it was after October 1959 when the purchase of plastic lines and nails for the new court was authorised[vi], and before the arrival of mains power to the hall in 1963. As the old diesel motor to run the lights was no longer needed, the tennis club used the shed as a club room from 1963 until 1969/70 when the Hall supper room was built.[vii]

Applications were made to the Shire for grants to help the expanding club; in 1956 for the new courts, in 1958 for fencing materials and again in 1968 to build clubrooms. It is not known whether any of these grants were successful but the Social Committee, which consisted of all Lady members of the Club, certainly worked hard to fundraise! Many, many hours were spent at working bees. Other locals also pitched in and donated items and/or labour – all helping to support the club.[viii]

In 1960 Toolangi had joined the Lilydale & Wandin District Association but moved to the Upper Yarra Tennis Association in 1964 season with three teams.6 The number of teams entered during the ensuing years increased until in the 1980s there were six senior teams with six players in each team and five junior teams with four players each, an amazing 56 players![ix] There were also two Toolangi cricket teams the same year! 78 players every Saturday plus emergencies!

Juniors were also wanting to play but with only one court available in the early days, they had to be satisfied with social games on Sunday mornings. By 1966 there was coaching available for Juniors at a cost of 25 cents per class. The coach, Mr L Callick, then donated all money back to the club. One junior team was entered in 1966 but more wanted to play so plans began to construct a third tennis court.[x] This was completed in time for the 1967/68 season but not fenced until 1970. Junior tennis continued to be a feature in Toolangi with lessons continuing until recently.

Beginning in 1965, a highlight of community events was the annual tennis game against the cricket team and reciprocated cricket games against the tennis club. Players took it so seriously that they trained hard and then could hardly move their arms for the match.

Social Night tennis began in 1970. Non-members were charged $1.50 per hour per court. An in-house, night competition was initiated in 1999 and was so popular it was held over two nights. However as only one or two of the lights worked, games were only played in terms 4 & 1 during summer with longer daylight hours.

Eastern Region Tennis (ERT) was established in 1995 by amalgamating the smaller tennis associations within an eastern wedge radiating from Melbourne, including Upper Yarra District Tennis Association. Toolangi Tennis Club (TTC) was deemed too far away to be included in ERT so TTC, Juniors and Seniors, joined the Diamond Valley Tennis Association instead. Unfortunately, the distance to places like Epping and Lalor saw Juniors move to Healesville or Kinglake clubs. A Senior Toolangi team hired courts at Healesville and played as Toolangi but the cost became prohibitive. TTC re-applied to ERT for inclusion but although ERT accepted Toolangi, they considered the Toolangi courts unsuitable for play. Major working bees were held to repair the courts but the constant maintenance and high cost of en-tous-cas proved unfeasible and by this time the club was no longer viable and it disbanded.[xi] Management of the courts was handed over to the CJ Dennis Hall Committee of Management in 2003.

Despite the Tennis Club no longer being active, a sub-committee of the Hall continued to fulfill the community’s desire to play tennis with a social night tennis competition and tennis lessons for children. Affiliation fees (including insurance) were paid to Tennis Victoria until mid-2007 when the cost became prohibitive. With no public liability insurance, the courts were locked to the general public and an annual Family Membership was offered for a minimal sum to cover insurance and gave families unlimited use of the courts.[xii]

In 2010 an enthusiastic group of people, with guidance and help from the Helen McPherson Trust and Sustainable Gardening Australia Foundation, converted the unused, overgrown third tennis court into an amazing community garden. Efforts to replace the surfaces on the remaining two courts were also attempted but the funds required were prohibitive. With the folding of the Hall Committee of Management in 2018, jurisdiction of the courts passed to the Toolangi Castella Community House Inc. Community interest has again surged with major works being completed in 2021, so the future once again looks bright for tennis in Toolangi.


Life members

Gordon McLaine

Beryl Demby

Rick Sholl
Rose Thomson
Tom Thomson

Cliff McLaine
Jim Church

Jean Sholl
N (ance) McLaine
Nancy Church

Keith McLaine



Glenburn & District Tennis Association

First premiership – C McLaine, K McLaine, W Hughes, Nance McLaine, D Blackmore, J McPherson


Toolangi Blue



Upper Yarra District Tennis Association

B Grade

B Special

C Grade

Section 2, Section 3 & Section 4 Red

Section 1 & Section 2 Red

Section 6

Section 2

Section 1

Section 3 and Junior Section 1 and 2

Section 1, Section 2, Section 5 (Toolangi Red)

Section 1

Section 6

Winter Junior Section 4

Late 80s
Section 2

Section 7

Section 6 and Junior Section 6

Section 5

Winter Section 3


Diamond Valley Tennis Association

Section 2, Section 3


*Author’s note: No reference has been found to support the local mythology that CJ Dennis was an Office Bearer for the Toolangi Tennis Club. However, newspaper articles say CJ Dennis was the Captain of the local football team (Sunday Times (NSW), 3 August 1913, page 19, ‘The Book of Den’); Secretary of the Cricket Club 1912 (Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 20 September 1912) and in ‘C.J. Dennis’ written by Geoffrey Hutton, published in 1976, it quotes C.J. Dennis as being ‘secretary of everything’ in the small world of Toolangi.



[i] Trove: Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian (1900-1942), 20 September 1901, page 5, ‘Toolangi’.

[ii] Trove: Healesville Guardian, 29 November 1912, page 2, ‘Toolangi’.

[iii] Trove: Yea Chronicle, 5 February 1913, page 3, ‘A Trip to Toolangi’.

[iv] Trove: The Argus, 21 January 1926.

[v] Minutes of meeting, 10 November 1950, Toolangi Tennis Club Minute Book 1950-1970, CJ Dennis Hall Archives.

[vi] Minutes of meetings, Toolangi Tennis Club Minute Book 1950-1970, CJ Dennis Hall Archives.

[vii] Minutes of meetings, Toolangi Tennis Club Minute Book 1950-1970, CJ Dennis Hall Archives.

[viii] Minutes of meetings, Toolangi Tennis Club Minute Book 1950-1970, CJ Dennis Hall Archives.

[ix] Minutes of meetings, Toolangi Tennis Club Minute Book 1980-1983, K Cameron.

[x] Circular to Parents and Junior Members, September 1966, Minute Book 1950-1970, CJ Dennis Hall Archives.

[xi] Interview with Kathleen Cameron, Toolangi Tennis Club President, 1993-2003.

[xii] Minutes of meetings, CJ Dennis Hall & Tennis Club Sub-Committee.

Steve Meacher Muddy Creek East 1864 veg notes
Steve Meacher Muddy Creek East 1864 veg notes
Steve Meacher Muddy Creek East 1864 veg notes
Steve Meacher Muddy Creek East 1864 veg notes