14-09-2014 - Weekly News Report

Every year the destination of the Braintree Table Tennis League title depends on a number of imponderables.

But this year there are even more ifs, buts and possibles than usual and with the right set of circumstances any one of four teams could emerge successful.

Champions Liberal A have the pedigree, but as with last season there is concern how long Peter Hayden can continue to play with a chronic wrist injury.

He is considering playing occasionally with a hard bat, where the wrist movement is easier.  But he had that in mind last year as well and managed to stay the course with only the occasional slip-up.

He, brother Ian, Scott Dowsett and Simon Webber won the title comfortably last season but would not have done so if men’s singles champion Paul Davison had started playing regularly earlier for Netts Argyle.

And their chances of taking the title this year will probably depend on how often he turns out alongside Kevin Gowlett, who went through the season unbeaten.  If they are in tandem more often than not, then they, Patrick Gilbert, Nikki Davison and John Cleasby should ease towards the title.

If neither Davison (masculine) nor Hayden (junior) plays regularly then Rayne A, second last year, could be the team to benefit. 

In addition to their usual line-up of Jon Hill, Steve Pennell and Ian Whiteside, they have signed Paul Lucas, men’s singles runner-up to the all-conquering Steve Dettmar in 1997 and 1998.

The imponderables here are both how frequently he turns out and what the passing years have done to his fast all-attacking game.

And the final set of imponderables surrounds Netts B, formerly Netts Phoenix, champions in 2013.

They took the title then with regular appearances from Tony Reardon and Maria Boulton and occasional help from Kevin Gray to add to the nucleus of James Hicks and Graham Farmer.

The trio made far fewer trips from the Cambridge area last season and results suffered as a result.

Whether Netts B will challenge for the title probably depends again on how often they appear.

Most other teams will be aiming for mid-table respectability, with the exception of Felsted RBL A, who are there to enjoy the experience.

Promoted last year, they have lost the services of Gareth Joice, their chief points scorer. 

If 16-year-old Ashley Butler continues improving at the rate of last year, he will cause a few problems but the team are approaching the season with unfettered realism.

Just as what goes up must come down, Sible Hedingham look likely to prove Newton’s theory in reverse.

They were only narrowly relegated from division one and start strong favourites to win division two.

Last year’s runners-up Liberal C could run them close, but the strongest challenge may come from Black Notley B, who have Gordon Fairchild, dropping down from division one, Dave Parker and the fast improving Victor Chan.

As at the top, so at the bottom.  White Lions bounced up immediately after being relegated last season while Rayne G did the reverse.

Lions have not only changed their name to Hedingham Lions – reflecting the fact that they no longer play at the pub that gave them their name – but they have recruited Nick Readhead from Notley. 

That may have added a few sinews but will probably not save them from relegation, especially as last year’s second from bottom team Nomads have signed Ken Lewis, a player with a high average in division one not so long ago.

The last time Rayne G were in division three, in 2012-13, they won it by a convincing 35 points.  Something similar could happen this season.

Felsted B look the best of the rest, but assuming Tony Stredder, Charles Wilkinson and Tim Gowers play in most of the matches, Rayne G should be untouchable.

Author: via Braintree Table Tennis League
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