Let’s have a look at the two Australian youth teams competing in Seoul.
The Australian U25 Juniors
- Johnno Newman (NPC): To me, Johnno seems to just have come out of nowhere a few years ago. One of the keenest ‘young’ players on the Australian scene (although the oldest member of this team!), Johnno has been making runs at many of the biggest events recently. He is the perfect fit for this team, with infectious enthusiasm to go with solid decision making abilities. Johnno will be calling the shots for the team in Seoul.
- Liam Milne (Coach): Having given the NPC role a go last year in the World Juniors in Italy, this year I am here as the official Coach of both the Juniors and Girls teams. I’ve represented both NZ and Australia (the latter at Open level) and am here to bring a little bit of experience to these teams. As well as helping with opponents’ systems and answering bridge questions, I’m here to give the captains and players a bit of support at key moments and help with some of the leadership decisions.
- Nico Ranson: On his days off, Nico likes to get out amongst it – him and Chris climbed Bukhansan Mountain just out of Seoul as warmup for the opening ceremony tonight. As well as being a student of the game of bridge, Nico is a student of Physics in Sydney.
- Chris Rhodes: Like Nico, Chris is a student at the University of Sydney. Chris and Nico are currently undefeated in international matches: they were part of the triumphant team at the Australia versus New Zealand test match last year in Hamilton.
- Matt Smith: Perhaps the most ‘bridge obsessed’ of the team. At last count, Matt has read virtually every bridge book ever written. Matt’s system notes are a perpetually unfinished masterpiece. A perfectionist at heart, Matt is always trying to get Jamie to play ‘something new’. Luckily for the team, Jamie usually says no.
- Jamie Thompson: the most experienced player on our Junior team, Jamie is the only one of the boys to have represented Australia internationally before. Jamie is affectionately known as “Guns” for his muscular arms – probably developed from picking up thousands of bridge hands out of boards. Having won a gold medal in the U21 category in 2011, Jamie will be hoping to find a U26 gold medal waiting for him at the end of this event.
- John McMahon: one of the ‘boys from Wagga’, John’s chiselled features make him a firm favourite for the ‘heartthrob of the team’ award (his brother Charles would argue the point). Hopefully his strong chin will distract a few of the opponents at the table during the triple round robin in Seoul.
- Charles McMahon: the other half of the McMahon brother duo. The tinkerer of the partnership, Charles has a keen eye for good system. When Charles isn’t playing bridge, he’s letting you back into your house – he’s a locksmith by trade. Hopefully he can unlock some of the secrets of the game this event.
The Australian U25 Girls
- Christy Geromboux (NPC): Hailing from Canberra, Christy is the brains of the operation. She will have an easy job managing this group of young ladies, however! As well as picking the lineups for each match, Christy is the ABF representative on site and will be doing everything she can to help the Girls team achieve their goals.
- Ailsa Peacock: A first time Australian representative, Ailsa originally hails from Sydney, went to Perth, and is back in Sydney these days (when she’s not overseas playing bridge!). A voracious reader, Ailsa was once a croupier at the Star casino in Sydney. These days, she prefers to use her skills with cards playing bridge.
- Lakshmi Sunderasan: Along with Ailsa, Lakshmi was part of the winning NSW Interstate Youth Team last year. A keen tennis player, Lakshmi is in her eighth (!) year of study to become a doctor. Recently, Lakshmi had a lengthy placement in Grafton, but thankfully for Sydney’s bridge scene, she is back in the big smoke.
- Kirsty Fuller: With Ailsa and Lakshmi, Kirsty is the third side of a ‘triangle’ (three-way partnership) as well as the cousin of Renee (below). Originally a Western Australian, Kirsty lived and played in Manchester for some time. She was part of the silver medallist Girls team last year in the World Championships.
- Renee Cooper: A student of mathematics and engineering, Renee played every board at last year’s World Championship for the Girls. She also earned her first cap for the Australian Women’s Team in 2016, qualifying for the round of 16 in the World Bridge Games. If you hear someone saying “matey” at a bridge tournament, it is odds-on to be this young gun from Perth.
- Cesca McGrath: One of the babies of the Seoul team, Cesca was also on the Girls team in Italy last year. When she’s not practicing her 2/1 system with Renee, Cesca enjoys karoake – a particular favourite of hers is the Pussycat Dolls.