Report on the 50th annual championships of the Bury St Edmunds & District Table Tennis League
26/02/2017 - Bob Harman
Here are a few things that might jog or even infuse the memory with regard to the fun and games on an all-consuming and somewhat airless day in the KEGS Dome, where all and sundry, especially sundry, were trying to smack the cover off a poor defenceless little white ball, all in the cause of victory!
Championship results (winners and runners-up) are only a mere prod of a finger away on our wonderful website if you purely want a statistical slant on the ultimate outcome of the day’s frenetic action, who beat who etc etc. But before you head off to check how sundry got on, you want to enjoy this slightly different slant on the day.
Setting the scene?
Dateline: Saturday afternoon, the usual roadies/heavies got the show on the road, many thanks must go to the genial Mr ‘Jesse’ James, responsible along with Mrs James for supplying our revered Tournament Secretary Mark - and also for helping a few of us with moving and setting up tables etc in the Dome on the Saturday afternoon.
To the uninitiated, we might have looked like extras from a Dad’s Army episode out on an exercise drill…but I was told as a child ‘many hands make light work’, so I did try and persuade my mate Buddha to lend a hand or two or more, but he was busy watching some cricket on the telly while lunching in the nearby Indian restaurant...
So any new volunteers for the 51st set up in the Dome would be truly appreciated, your country needs you as Lord Kitchener once famously said!
Last but certainly not least, many thanks and a very raucous and prolonged round of applause must go to our annual tournament gurus Mark James and Phil Sinclair who did their usual fantastic job - all the effort they put in with regard to the organization in the weeks leading up, plus dealing with everything that is thrown at them when manning the control desk on the day itself, is very much appreciated by all the players present. Thanks guys!
The following observations are not necessarily in any order of appearance, relevance or importance:
Missing persons of the day?
Firstly, our missing team-mate Dom ‘Wrecking Ball’ Melero, who initially thought he could make the gig, then couldn’t, then realised he could, but sadly not in time as the final draw had been revised so he couldn’t...secondly, John Waters, a lifelong Canary who chose to join the annual Tractor Boys’ pilgrimage over to Carrow Road for the ensuing 1-1 draw, and thirdly Bury’s very own site Statto and top man Dave Unwin, out of action for most of the season through injury, and currently taking a new mortgage on to pay the chiropractor for his pains.
Best hairstyle of the day?
Might even have gone to Stowmarket’s rather colourful character Jason Annal but for the fact we couldn’t quite assess the exact state of his curly mop hidden under his colourful bandanna, which matched his intermittent colourful language. Winner by a fluttering purple hairstreak on the day had to be Stowie's Megan Bollen and her very alternative purple braided number, her tribute to the late great Prince perhaps?
The Dome’s best Dome of the day?
Any number of contenders among the alpha males for the shaven-headed Jason Statham trophy it seemed, and a very close shave this one, but after combing through the choices, Sean Gridley was deemed to be the winner – his bonce shone brightly like a star, a veritable beacon which provided much needed light to the darker areas of the Dome at both ends of the room.
Smile of the day?
Well, only one winner here, Megan again. Even the number of Holly McGerty's screams of ‘Good!’ after every winning point - and there were a lot of those - couldn’t match the number of smiles that light up Megan’s happy face at frequent points during the course of a long tournament day. I blame her dad, who has to be a stand up comic, or maybe even her photographer mum for saying ‘Cheese’ to her throughout her entire childhood. Some people favour a permanent tan, Megan sports a permanent smile, win or lose…we have all heard far too much about fake news of late but there’s nothing fake about Meg’s smile!
Nearly picture of the day?
If only Megan’s mum had been here to capture the moment…it would definitely have been David Aldous in the doubles, flying gracefully through the air with the greatest of ease (without a trapeze) after tripping mid-rally over Will Hall’s left foot. I've never seen Big D move so fast as he disappeared under the side surround into the next court at the speed of sound. No harm done fortunately to neither man nor beast, but poor Will did look in a state of shock as the floor shook beside him!
Busiest Umpire of the day?
Let’s face it and be honest, the less numerate among us would rather hide in the toilets when it’s our turn to umpire generally, but credit must go to any number of the volunteer umpires who didn’t wait until they lost a match to take their turn to umpire and keep things moving forward. Special mention here to Stowmarket’s Ian Bridgeman, who consistently did more than his share of calling the scores on the day.
Rally of the day?
The Church rally taking place in the KEGS school hall was a rather enjoyable experience, a parched David Aldous informed me, with the head honcho there kindly supplying David with a much-needed drink before the big guy headed out to the local petrol station on the trail of more supplies. Back in the Dome itself, the Ladies Final between Holly McGerty & Sonja Talbot contained more than one stupendous rally to match the vicar’s generosity.
Best serve of the day?
A few very handy but also iffy illegal ones spotted on the day, mostly used without malice aforethought I would like to think, however the best legal serve I would pick out that shone above all others belonged to the afore-mentioned Ian Bridgeman. Now Ian would be the first to admit that he is not the most naturally gifted player on the planet, more Steve Davis than Ronnie O’Sullivan on the table some might say, but I defy anyone to return his reverse forehand on the backhand side serve, which fortunately for us all Ian seems to save for the more crucial points only – the ball kinda drops down as it clears the net like it’s encased in lead, and no matter what you try to do to return it with interest, the leaden ball heads immediately south and lands with a thud on the table no more than an inch in front of your bat, leaving you scratching your head in total dismay and disbelief.
Leftie of the day?
Very disappointing that Thurston’s Jeremy Corbyn entered but didn’t turn up to treat us to some of his tactical awareness and leadership qualities…but we heard that he was another over at Carrow Road for the day, apparently having a few drinks with his mate Norwich City Chairman Ed Balls, who dances Gangnam-style along the terraces whenever the Canaries eventually find the back of the net. Now I’m not sure about their political persuasions, but two lefties stood out for me today were Sonja Talbot and Paul McGerty, with Sonja just getting the nod as the most successful left-hander on the day - getting to the semi-final of the veterans’ singles a very solid effort and reflective of the tremendous season in the League that Sonja has enjoyed.
Luckiest net of the day/ensuing grimace of the day (that I saw anyway)?
Simply had to be Holly’s mother-of-all-nets at 10-10 in the fifth set against Phil Sinclair - the look of exasperation on Phil’s face as the ball skipped merrily along the net for what seemed a few seconds, before finally dropping on his side of the table - was a picture. Being the lady Holly is, she didn’t shriek ‘Good!’ this time and being the gentleman Phil is, he muttered something in his Northern brogue which sounded like ‘ruddy good shot that was’ albeit through gritted teeth…and proceeded to lose the next point and the match with his usual good grace!
Top Banana of the Day? As scarce as hen's teeth it seems, but 'PN' wins the day...
Sadly hardly a banana worthy of the name was spotted! We can reveal this exclusively because in order to keep a few juniors and any number of errant seniors occupied and out of trouble whilst off the table, a number of them were sent at midday on a covert operation to check various lunchboxes stashed under vacant seats in the steamy Dome, checking for a) top banana and b) anything unusual or suspicious.
We certainly did not want a repeat of the last lunchbox saga caused by Tim Jolly leaving his wallet and all things farmer within his monster lunchbox down under the cheap seats, which caused the Dome to be shut down for two days before the bulging lunchbox was deemed safe to open.
Now it transpired that the odd banana that was spotted (get it?) had already been peeled and devoured, however one exceedingly large lunchbox (initials on it CB, not TJ as many expected) was reported as being banana-free, no shock there, but oddly crammed full of dozens of discarded plasters alongside a gold crucifix, a Dr Who scarf and the remains of a half-chewed Subway 12" long monster sausage special. The mind boggles...so in the absence of any sighting of a real banana worthy of ‘TB’ status, I think our spies agreed, almost to a spy, that Sean’s two large boxed pasta salads were definitely voted not only the 'Poshest Nosh' but also the most nutritious meals clocked on the day and therefore worthy of the 'PN' title.
Player of the day?
Simply has to be Rougham’s top junior Holly McGerty, energizer bunny extraordinaire, who has done nothing but improve, and must surely make her presence felt strongly in div 1 next season, now that she is well and truly over her injured knee that kept her out of the sport for a few months. The accent was very much on youth winning through on the day, with rising star Luke Davies-Stokes, just turned 13 years old, landing the junior title beating Holly in a thrilling final. Following Holly’s equally thrilling win in the women’s singles against Sonja Talbot, it was left to young gun Will ‘The Flash’ Hall to land his first and probably not his last men’s singles title, hardly missing his devastating forehand as he swept aside the Ancient Mariner himself, Bob Harman, in straight sets.
Dad of the day? “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done”
A no-brainer this, simply has to be Rougham’s Paul McGerty - what else could you do if you were playing daughter numero uno in a competitive match at 2 sets all, with the whole hall watching you intently and to a man and woman urging Holly on? Of course, Paul did the right thing, he lost the final set as any self-respecting Dad would want to – ok I know, he’s a competitive guy, and maybe for just a fleeting moment he might have wanted to gain the upper hand, secure bragging rights for just one day, but no, right result, move swiftly on! The two Charlies, Dickens and his mate Darwin, would definitely have approved...
Visitor of the day?
Has to be Mick Palmer, former Bury champion times over, who came to lend his support to the many juniors he coaches locally. One of the most genuine guys you will ever meet, it’s always a pleasure to catch up with Mick, one of the toughest competitors many of us can ever remember tangling with. Mick has just about seen it all in a ping career spanning around five decades, but he did have a twinkle in his eye as he enjoyed watching the local youngsters bears the fruits of his endeavours, as they swept to success after success, before the sun set on a virtually hassle-free day enjoyed by all and sundry, especially sundry - sundry's a star don't you know!!
Thank you and goodnight...
W Hall bt B Harman 11-2,11-7,11-6
H McGerty bt S Talbot 11-5,13-15,11-4,7-11,11-8
B Harman bt N Howe 11-3,11-6,11-5
L Davies-Stokes bt H McGerty 8-11,11-5,7-11,11-7,11-8
Group Winner: L Davies-Stokes
Group Runner-up: I McGerty
H McGerty bt C Grimwood 11-7,12-10,11-9
Division Two Singles
H McGerty bt M O'Leary 11-3,11-6,11-5
Two Player Division Singles
R Kumar bt R McInery-Brash 11-8,11-7,11-8
M Bollen bt S Kenyon 21-18
B Harman/M James bt L Davies-Stokes/J Samson 11-1,11-8,11-5
S Talbot/S Kenyon bt I McGerty/H McGerty 11-8,11-7,11-6
M Chamberlain/S Kenyon bt P McGerty/H McGerty 11-9,11-6,10-12,9-11,11-2