The Doric Insurance sponsored Guernsey Table Tennis Senior Leagues are all set for the 2015/16 season to commence this week, with 3 of the initial 4 divisions due to take their bow.
The biggest change this season comes within Division 2 and is the reason for there being 4 divisions initially. With a high amount of 12 teams submitted into this Division by the clubs, the Association has taken the decision to try something different and the league will be split into 2 separate divisions following the completion of a single round of matches. The top 6 teams from these matches will remain as Division 2 and the lower 6 teams will form the 3rd Division for the remainder of the season. It is hoped that this will keep both leagues extremely competitive for the latter stages of the season.
With all this being said, the former 4th Division kicked off last week under the new guise of Division 5, leaving the remaining 3 to start this week.
The biggest change in the game for all players is the introduction of the new plastic table tennis balls, which will be used for all competitive action locally this season. Previously a celluloid ball has been used in all forms of table tennis, however the International Table Tennis Federation took the decision to make the change to plastic balls from July 2014. Whilst not compulsory in 2014, it is now deemed to be the accepted ball for use and will be used in all English Table tennis events this season, including the British League, where Guernsey compete under the name of sponsor Ravenscroft. The transition to the plastic ball is essential for the Island, particularly the elite Senior and junior players who will be competing off island at events that use them. The balls have been used over the summer by local players and the differences appear to be subtle.
Division 1 has an increased presence this season as the inclusion of an additional Whistlers team allows for a 6 strong team division.
This season sees the return of 2 elite Island players and the loss of another. Whilst 2015 Island Games representative Alex Robinson is heading to University, the Association welcomes the return of the top female player in the CI, Alice Loveridge and former Green trophy player Olly Langlois.
Loveridge heads up a never before seen top flight team that includes the 3 strongest female players on the Island. The experienced Dawn Morgan joins Loveridge and at the other end of the scale, you have the youthful Chloe Le Tissier, fresh off her debut 1st Division season last time out.
Langlois on the other hand joins the reigning Island Men’s Singles champion Joshua Butler as part of Lions B. The formidable pair are joined by the sole junior making the step up from the 2nd Division, Ryan Bichard. The debutant increased his standard considerably last season and won over 75% of his matches in addition to picking up the league title.
Another strong Lions team is led by 7 time Island Men’s Singles champion Phil Ogier. Last season’s league winner is joined by Jez Powell and Ben Foss. The team is strong throughout the order and will surely be heading towards a title push.
The final Lions team is made up of Paul Hainsworth, Liam Robilliard and Andre De Carteret. Whilst the former pair have plenty of Division 1 experience to their name, De Carteret will be starting just his 2nd campaign in the top flight. He continues to improve and will be looking to pick up some more scalps in addition to the ones he earned last time out.
The biggest club change was made by the reigning CI Top 12 champion, Garry Dodd, who will compete in Whistlers A alongside Mark Pipet and Phil Hunkin. Dodd will be highly motivated to cement his place at the top of the Division and Island and he kicked off his season last week with a comprehensive run towards the St Pauls Open Handicap Singles crown.
The final 1st division outfit is headed up by twins Joshua and Lawrence Stacey. Joining them is the returning James Rabey, who competing in the 1st Division 2 seasons ago.
Overall, the top division looks to be balanced fairly well and should lead to competitive matches throughout.
The 2nd Division has a few strong teams on paper that will be challenging for the honours. Lions D is made up of Martin Sarre, Andy Gill and Ian Le Page and Lions E consists of Tim Le Page, Carl Le Tissier and Luke Le Tissier. Whistlers have the strong team of Kay Chivers, Keith Opie and Stuart Sarre, whilst the traditionally strong St Pauls A team of Maurice James, Chas Elliott and Trevor Bourgaize remains in place. Another team to keep an eye on is the youthful Lions F side. Jamie Ferbrache leads the way alongside the ever improving junior pairing of Luke Bichard and Dan Collenette.The 4th and 5th Divisions are made up of 6 and 8 teams respectively. Both appear to be fairly well matched and it will be intriguing to see how they play out.