Mollie Sandner Cup celebrates 80 years of tennis action10/03/2023
On Friday 3 March, the Intermediate Girls from Catherine McAuley College won the Mollie Sandner Cup in perfect conditions, winning all games to claim the trophy. 2023 marks the 80th time this prestigious cup has been awarded.
This annual tennis competition for girls under sixteen was started by Mrs Mollie Sandner in 1944 when she noticed her own daughters struggled to find organised sporting competitions. Mrs Sandner, a former nursing sister and later mayoress of the City of Bendigo when her husband Eugene Sandner was mayor, established the competition to encourage girls in sport.
St Mary’s College was one of three foundation schools in the competition, along with Bendigo Girls High (predecessor of Flora Hill High, now Bendigo South East College) and Bendigo High School (now Bendigo Senior Secondary College). Shortly after, Girton College (now Girton Grammar School), the School of Mines and East Loddon P-12 College joined in the competition followed by more schools in later years.
The Mollie Sandner Cup has always been keenly contested and St Mary’s College enjoyed success many times, the first time in 1947. The winners were treated to afternoon tea at Favaloro’s Café or at the Ironbark Tennis Club, provided by Mrs Sandner. This tradition continued in various forms until recent years.
Students from St Mary’s College and later Catholic College Bendigo followed in their mother’s footsteps to win the cup. Many sisters also competed, either on the same team or several years apart. It was an honour and a privilege to be selected to compete in the Mollie Sandner Cup.
Tennis was an important aspect of life at St Mary’s College from the earliest days and offered one of the few competitive sports available to girls. For the boarders in particular, tennis played a large role in their social and recreational activities. They used the courts at the school – St Michaels (where the Marian Centre is now) and at St Kilian’s Primary School. Later, students would walk to the courts at Ironbark.
St Mary’s College won the cup nineteen times between 1947 and 1983 with two impressive winning streaks – 1964 to 1970 and 1972 to 1978. CCB won the cup five times and Catherine McAuley College has kept the tradition alive by winning four times since 2018.
The cup is now played as part of the School Sport Victoria tennis competition and is still supported by the Sandner family. Mollie’s son Alec, who also served a term as mayor of Bendigo, endeavours to present the cup personally, as did his mother. He travelled to Bendigo last Friday to award the cup and acknowledge 80 wonderful years of tennis competition for girls in the region.