MORE than 50 years ago, Noel Scudds picked up a table tennis bat for the first time.
It was 1965 and the 16-year-old had just started an apprenticeship in the paint shop at the Ipswich Workshops.
Every lunch break he and his workmates would have a hit on the ping pong tables to pass the time, but 52 years later, the now 68-year-old is a master of the sport.
He's a mentor for up-and-comers like Michael Anderson and well-known face at the Spinners Ipswich Table Tennis Association where he and other enthusiasts meet three time a week to perfect their hit.
Mr Scudds and the club are in training for their first 24-hour ping-pong-a-thon later this month to raise money to help prevent human trafficking and exploitation of young people in South East Asia.
"Those days we used to get about three quarters of an hour for lunch so we would bang around and muck around all the time. The was a fella theatre who I came to know very well and he asked me to go up to the club and to be taught to play properly," Mr Scudds said.
"I was a left hander and I was taught that was no good and to put the bat in the other hand so I put the bat in the other hand and that's how I've played ever since."
He hasn't always been a master of the sport, swapping the bat for the soccer ball for close to 20 years.
"When you get married things change and my other obsession was soccer and the training interfered with table tennis so I only played until I was 26 then I stopped. My wife Margaret never stopped me playing in the first place but it was too much with being married and with soccer," he said.
"I stopped soccer when I was 45 and started back at table tennis about four years ago. I have a little robot in the shed that spits the balls out at me to practice with."
He said there were plenty of health benefits to playing table tennis and it was a sport he used to keep his mind and reflexes sharp.
"I don't mind losing one bit as long as I am putting 100% in. That happens every time in A-Garde, I get a belting nearly every night but I keep going back," he said.
"A lot of people call it ping pong, but that's just a nickname for the ping and the pong when it hits the table. Amateurs play ping pong, we play table tennis. Playing table tennis is a sure way of preventing dementia because your brain has to keep going. It's 80% mind and 20% your hands, you have to keep thinking what you're doing all the time."
He's a mentor for players like Michael Anderson who turned to the club for a social and fun workout.
"The first night I played, I played Noel and I watched him hobble over to the table and I though this will be a kind game for me against this gentle old man and he absolutely crushed me," Mr Anderson.
"I think I got two points because he made a mistake or something. I get a bit stroppy because I can't beat him yet and I never have.
"It's a great club, it's really diverse and I love playing there. Joe is 86 and he'll still take games off people. We have one lady and she beats most of the guys."
Mr Anderson said there was always room for new members to join the club and they did not have to be an expert to have a hit.
"Being competitive it an advantage but it's a bit unusual which I like about it. The thrill of playing ping pong with your friends and smashing the ball 10 feet back from the table can be really exciting," he said.
"There's a lot of sportsmanship, we want people to come and get better, not come and get beaten."
October 20-21 from 7pm to 7pm
West Moreton Darts Association, 66 Riverview Rd, Riverview
Players play for three hour blocks to help reach the fundraising goal of $500,000 to prevent human trafficking and exploitation of young people in South East Asia.
See pingpongathon.com for details.
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