It is customary when assessing possible promotion contenders in the Braintree Table Tennis League to look at teams newly relegated, just as Sible Hedingham bounced back from division two last year and Rayne G would probably have followed suit had it not been for Tim Gowers’ unavailability towards the end of the season.
This year it may not be so simple. Relegated Felsted RBL A lost Gareth Joice after gaining promotion in 2014 and had to treat division one as something of a learning curve last season.
Ashley Butler will indeed have learned much from his time in the big time and will more than hold his own in division two while his father Ian can expect a return at least equal to his 75 per cent two years ago.
But in the absence of anyone of Joice’s standard they have decided to promote the third member of the Butler family, 15-year-old Nicholas, who is effectively being thrown in at the deep end after only one full season’s experience in division three, rather as Ashley was two years ago.
Nicholas showed promise in division three last year and his team will hope he will learn to swim as competently as Ashley did.
A promotion, however, is likely to be several steps too far.
In which case the logical move is to look to the team who finished in second place in division two, and here we are on more fertile ground.
Black Notley B had a solid season and will be stronger after swapping Victor Chan, who won 64 per cent last season, for Sean Clift, who finished behind only Ken Lewis, Dave Marsh and Richard Jennings on 81 per cent. Chan will be concentrating his activities on the Batts club at Harlow though may turn out occasionally for Rayne.
Last year’s third-placed team Liberal C will be weakened after losing Martin Wells, who is moving to Australia, as will fourth-placed Notley E (now C), who have lost David Razzell and possibly Bryan Speller.
Looking at the relegated team in division three will be even more fruitless as there isn’t one. Notley have had to drop a team from division two, having lost virtually the whole of their C team, which has allowed Hedingham Lions to remain at the higher level.
Rayne G, the nearly men of last season, will undoubtedly be up there again, led as before by Tony Stredder, top of last year’s averages, and Charles Wilkinson, who was ninth.
But keep an eye on Notley E, where Hannah Pitt, daughter of Adrian, is returning to the game after a short break and will join Helen Barnett and Jill Canning in the first all-female team in the league for many years.