Bill’s having a (pickle) ball in retirement

Brisbane Pickleball President Mark Jagger and eighty-year-old player Bill Waller.

By Tania Phillips

Eighty-year-old former Pharmacist Bill Waller believes Pickleball saved his life and gave him something to focus on in retirement.

“I love Pickleball I’ve been playing it now for five years at least,” Bill said.

“My daughter-in-law came back from overseas, she’d been over to America – I was a crazy keen squash and played a lot of table tennis. That all affected my knees a bit and I had to have two knee replacements about 15 years ago. It slowed me down. But my daughter-in-law came home and said that there is this great game she saw in the United States called Pickleball so we looked it up in Australia. There was a person down on the Gold Coast who was playing it.

“We looked into that and through her we found Mark, and he was looking after the Brisbane side of things.

“He was one of the very first people involved – that was back in 2018-19 and he taught me how to play.”

He said his wife Helen, who had never been into any racket sports, found it easy enough to learn how to play and of course the more you play the better you get.

“We’ve been playing for a while and entered a few seniors’ tournaments, it’s been good fun,” Bill said.

“Limited success though.”

Bill now plays about three or four times a week.

“I play at the indoor courts at Cooparoo, Albion where they play the Futsal and at the Nissan Centre where the basketball and netball girls play we have four courts we can get hold of. I prefer to play indoor because at the heat,” he said.

“I play at the Uni as well – UQ – they’ve got two outdoor courts which are purpose built specifically for Pickleball.

“We love it I do it as often as I can, it’s interesting though once upon a time you would come along, turn up and have a game but now you have a special app you book in through because it’s getting popular.

“It was the thing that saved me I reckon. I’m a pharmacist and I retired in 2014. As pharmacists we work every day of the week or nearly so I needed something of interest to get me going and this saved my life I think. It’s something I’m really interested in. I played squash a lot and this takes two or three hours a day and if I can get into play it two or three times a week it really was a great help to me.

“I like it, it’s not as hard as squash but a bit better than table tennis.

“Helen and I take our paddles away with us on holidays whenever we go overseas. We have a son who lives in London and we often visit him and we play games in London. We went to Naples, Florida for a holidays and played there because that’s one of the headquarters of it in the United States.

“We don’t play to any great level but it’s competitive which is important. We started off a bit giggly-piggly but I really like the competitive side of it now. It’s good when you can compete against someone who isn’t too young. These days we have teenagers coming in on the sport and they are just brilliant. Because the court is relatively small they can get to everything. All the little trick shots you can put on older people – you can’t do it to the young ones. But it’s a great challenge to have them and they are very respectful, I haven’t come across any agro in the sport and that’s always nice.

“It’s given us a big group of friends, after Pickleball we’ll go and have lunch. Some of the younger people in it (50s and 60s) organise social events, movie nights and we go to dinner. People I’d never come across and never would have come across. On retirement you tend to hibernate and we certainly didn’t.

“I used to tell my friends about it and they’d giggle at the name but now their running and tennis is taking a bit of a toll and they need to slow down. It is starting to get a bit popular so they are interested. But they are well behind me and will have to catch up a bit,” he laughed.

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