RIP Judith Fitzgerald: “She left dinosaur-sized footprints on world squash”
By PAUL VEAR – Squash Victoria
It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of Judith Louise FitzGerald (nee Tissot), who was not only a champion player on court, but a champion and beautiful person off it as well.
Born on the 9th January 1930, Judith was a versatile champion of three racket sports, being a star player at badminton, a very highly regarded and talented tennis player representing her State and coming under the watchful eye of Australian Davis Cup Captain/Coach Harry Hopman, and then in 1947, for the first time, ventured onto a squash court, and as they say in the classics, the rest is history.
Judith won her first Australian Women’s Squash Championship in 1952, then flittered off to England and Europe in 1953 with her friend Kay Neville Smith, hoping to see the Coronation.
While in England, both players competed in tennis tournaments, and Judith also reached the semi-finals of the British Squash Championships.
Following her return to Australia in 1955, Judith captured the 1956, 57 and 58 Victorian and Australian Amateur titles, looking destined to perhaps become the world’s best.
Judith married Edward Graham FitzGerald on 12th February 1957, and then went on to have six children, Kylie, Mark, Damien, Anthony, Louise and Sarah. This certainly curtailed her on-court playing exploits but led her into extremely successful coaching and squash venue careers.
Judith’s coaching career commenced in 1965, and she became a world renowned coach which saw her produce two world champions (Sarah Fitz-Gerald and Carol Owens) who won seven world championships between them, plus numerous state and national junior and senior champions with her top male protégé being the highly skilled and unbelievably talented Geoff Wilcock.
Judith was also the Manager of the highly successful Mordialloc Squash Centre from 1972 to 1992, plus a much sought after state and national team manager and coach.
During this author’s investigative research on squash, I have discovered that Judith was not only an outstanding sportswoman, winning numerous awards in three sports, but does hold another record not well known to this point in time.
On the night of her 1952 Australian title victory, Judith and three other Victorian players, who shall remain nameless, decided to stop off in Albury during their long drive back to Melbourne. Instead of a warm motel bed, they ended up spending the night in the cells of the Albury Police station, with Judith becoming the first and only Australian squash champion to do so. Our litigation laws preclude me from speaking any further on this matter.
Judith strongly supported Betty Meagher with the establishment of the Victorian and Australian Women’s Squash Associations, both being formed in 1952.
In 2002 Judith was inducted into the Squash and Racquetball Victoria Hall of Fame, and in 2015, was elevated to Legend status. In 2007, Squash Australia presented her with their Distinguished Service Award.
Judith FitzGerald was a beautiful, lovely lady remembered with great fondness and will be forever etched into the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved her. She left an incredible legacy and dinosaur-sized footprints on the landscape of World Squash.
General Manager, Squash and Racquetball Victoria
Daughter Sarah, a five-times world champion, wrote on Facebook: “You touched the hearts of all those you coached over the years at Mordialloc, Southland, Parkdale, SquashTone etc etc and managed in Vic/Aust Teams or talked squash with.
“Thanks mum for teaching me squash. I’m so proud to have reached the pinnacle of my sport and given you the opportunity to brag about me to EVERYONE you could. We love you and miss the Matriarch of the Fitzy family already. XXX”
The Squash Mad team send our sincere condolences to Sarah, her family and friends.
Pictures courtesy of Squash and Racquetball Victoria