End of an era as Mal and Wayne hang up the racquets after 42 years

Mal and Wayne Cornish.
Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH
Mal and Wayne Cornish. Photo: MAX STAINKAMPH

When the Cornish family purchased the Orange Squash Courts in 1976, they knew it would be a family venture. 

Already running a dry cleaning business, Russ and Gloria and their sons Mal and Wayne knew they would need to rely on each other to stay sane, each working 80 or more hours a week, even after they moved on from dry cleaning and moved solely into squash. 

But little would Mal and Wayne know, 42 years later as they officially close the doors on the Orange Squash Courts they feel they’ve added 10,000 members to their family. 

“Every single person that came through that door, we tried to treat them as equal and all as family,” Mal Cornish said. 

““We’ve always tried to to the best we can by everyone who comes through that door,” brother Wayne adds. 

“You can’t put a price on the friendships we’ve made.” 

Younger brother Wayne met his wife at the courts, and the brothers recount friendships that seem as old as time and more solid than the walls of the squash centre around them, which has been standing since 1959. 

They recount long nights – way past when the courts were closed – where they would lean over the counter lending an ear to those struggling with money, marriage and life. 

Mal has been held up at knifepoint, worked through countless nights making trophies, and restrung thousands upon thousands upon thousands of racquets.  

But four decades after father Russ brought the courts despite not playing squash himself, it’s all coming to an end, with the courts sold to be developed as units and Mal and Wayne to retire to spend time with family.  

“Working here, my wife and kids have hardly ever seen me … you’re home for tea, the kids go to bed and I come back to work, we’re lucky we’ve both got good wives, if you didn’t have that you wouldn’t be down here at two o’clock in the morning.”

“They were understanding and supportive,” Wayne added. 

The two fondly remember their parents spending endless time at the courts, encouraging and helping anyone and everyone they could. 

“C graders got as much respect and support as an open player, didn’t matter the standard of a player or their ability, Dad didn’t play favourites,” Wayne said, also mentioning their parents went with him to New Zealand to watch him compete internationally. 

Wayne beginning to play at age 12 was the catalyst for the family to jump headfirst into the sport. 

“My involvement got Dad in [to squash] and brought this and he continued to support anyone who wanted to have a crack,” he said. 

And the brothers’ thoughts on moving on? 

I’m gonna miss all the people that come through this place.

Wayne Cornish

“I’m in two minds about it, I’m excited by retirement but on the other side I’m gonna miss all the people that come through this place,” Wayne said, looking around the foyer, pausing.

“We’re going to miss it.” 

Wayne was also a quality player, representing Australia in six tests against New Zealand and playing at the top level in Sydney for years, competing in 30 State Opens and playing alongside and against people ranked in the top 20 worldwide. 

He said they were fortunate to live through the ‘golden age’ of squash, with the 25 years from 1970 to 1995 a thriving time for the sport – Orange would host tournaments of hundreds of people, and some 500 people, seniors and juniors, would play each week at the squash courts.

Mal and Wayne have witnessed incredible change to their sport, from racquets and ball standardisation to spectator experiences with glass courts – they have seen it all. 

They’ve given some 50 students of the game over the years a chance to earn some coin taking care of the courts, with one writing a letter to Mal recently thanking him for taking him onboard. 

“It means everything to me, absolutely everything,” Mal said. 

CLOSING DOWN: Mal and Wayne at the front counter.

CLOSING DOWN: Mal and Wayne at the front counter.

However, they’ve also witnessed its decline. 

In their heyday, there would be 70 juniors at the court on a Saturday, with schools also taking part. 

This year, they’ve had no juniors, and the schools long since stopped sending students to play squash, with Mal saying he wished schools did more to get students involved with squash.

However, there has still been a healthy contingent of senior players who have continued to play socially and over weekends who will need to find a home. 

While there are squash courts at Kinross Wolaroi, they belong to the school and are unlikely to be available, leaving the closest courts at Blayney. 

While many players are yet to decide if they’ll join the Blayney competition, many will finish the sport, signalling the end of a near-60 year era of squash in Orange. 

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