Water removal system , 'Super Sopper', galvanised iron/ electroplated zinc/ polyurethane foam, invented by Gordon Withnall, developed and manufactured by Kuranda Manufacturing, Taree, Australia, 2001
This Super Sopper is an example of a simple technical innovation made by an Australian inventor that has been successful in Australia and internationally. Super Soppers in a range of sizes have become part of the sporting culture of Australia and many other countries. Their use means that outdoor games can be played after soaking rain that would otherwise have made grounds and courts unusable. Owners of sporting venues soon make back the purchase price via extra admission fees and TV coverage that result from increased playing time. Cricket fans know that if it rains overnight, the Super Sopper will be out in the morning so the test match can continue!
The technology of the Super Sopper is simple. A foam pad fitted to a perforated metal drum soaks up water and squeezes it into an internal storage tank. The water can then be carried away and emptied into a drain. The advantage of this system is that it uses a perforated roller in combination with a storage tank to carry water away.
Angelique Hutchison, Curator, 2001
This Super Sopper was manufactured by Kuranda Manufacturing in Taree, NSW, 2001.
The Super Sopper was invented by Gordon Withnall in Padstow, Sydney in 1974. Gordon was born in 1919 and began inventing at the age of 7. By 2001 he had produced 26 inventions, of which 24 made it to market and made money. His other inventions included an automatic poultry feeder and the first rotary lawnmower with a grass catcher.
This 'Minnow' model is similar to, but slightly smaller than, the first model developed by Gordon with the assistance of his son Len Withnall. It is the smallest model in the range of Super Soppers designed and produced by Kuranda Manufacturing.
Gordon's inspiration for the invention of the Super Sopper came during a game of golf at Liverpool Golf Course. When the ball landed in a puddle his friend suggested that he invent a machine to remove the puddles. By the time they had reached the next green, Gordon had thought out the basic idea for the machine. The next day, he recruited his son Len to help make the machine. Within three days of coming up with the idea, they had created the first Super Sopper.
The technology of the Super Sopper is simple. A foam pad fitted to a perforated metal drum soaks up water and squeezes it into an internal storage tank. The water can then be carried away and emptied into a drain. The innovative part of the system was to use the perforated roller and storage tank to carry water away. Gordon obtained an Australian patent for the device but decided that an international patent was too expensive. Consequently in later years there were some imitation machines manufactured in other countries.
In 1974, the machine featured on the ABC TV show called 'The Inventors'. This publicity stimulated initial sales of the machine to schools, councils, tennis courts and cricket clubs. From then on, marketing for the machine was most successful by word of mouth.
In 1979 the Secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Ground Trust, Ian Johnson, approached Gordon to make a larger machine for use on the cricket ground. Gordon met with the challenge and developed the first 'Whale', a motorised machine with two-metre long rollers. The successful demonstration of the 'Whale' at the MCG stimulated purchases by football clubs and racecourses all over Australia. At the same time Harry Brind, curator of The Oval in London, arranged a demonstration of the 'Whale' Super Sopper at the MCG. He was so impressed that he ordered one to take back to England. This first export sale soon led to Lords and Canterbury cricket grounds each buying a Whale. Cricket playing countries saw how effective the machines were and soon there was at least one 'Whale' at every ground. For many years one of the largest markets for Super Soppers was in Japan, where six hundred a year were sold.
In 1995, Gordon sold his land at Padstow and his son Len moved the business to Taree. By the end of the century most sales and marketing were performed through the Internet. The biggest selling model was the 'Sandpiper', the model closest in size to the original invented in 1974. Over 120 'Whale' Super Soppers had been sold in more than 10 different countries. The company continued its philosophy of making quality products that last.
This machine has not been used. A non-motorised model, it was designed to remove water from the surface of tennis courts, golf greens, football fields and other playing surfaces.
It was displayed at the 17th Australian Turfgrass Conference Trade Exhibition, Exhibition Halls 5 and 6, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Drive, Darling Harbour on 20-21st June 2001. It was displayed at the Kuranda Manufacturing stand along with other Super Sopper models and was offered to the Museum as a donation at the completion of the exhibition.