With the start of the new table tennis season less than a week away, it’s time to have a look at the make-up of Division One, and make some hazy predictions about the fortunes of each of the teams.
The shock of the close-season has been the withdrawal of Lodgers A from the division. All of the team will still be playing – although two players, Graham Lacey and Pete Evans, are registered for Division 2 teams (more about that later).
Last year’s top two teams, Penmaen A and Lodgers G have exactly the same line-up as before, and I am certain that they will go head-to-head for the pole position once again this season. Having drawn on points, Penmaen A got top spot by dint of their victories over Lodgers G, which gives the Lodgers’ team hope of going one better this time round.
Graves Park C occupied third slot last season, and the consistent firepower of Mick East, James Quinton and Martin Walters will surely see them retain this position for another year. However, like so many three-player teams, they remain vulnerable to holidays and illness, which could see them rely on players from Division 2 to help them out.
Graves Park A came in fifth last time round, but with the demise of Lodgers A, they should move up to fourth, with eighth-ranked Rob Smith leading them clear of the following pack.
Having predicted ‘no change’ in the final league table so far, what about the remainder of the division?
I thought Stickney did exceptionally well to gain sixth place last year, with Andrew Benjamin being only available for a small number of games having gone to university. Only three points separated them from Penmaen B, however, and with the same line-ups for both teams, I can see another mid-table battle to see who wins the bragging rights this time round.
Lodgers B lost Pete Truepenny to Lodgers C during the close season, but added Trev Blackbourn (ex-Lodgers A) to bolster their claim on a mid-table slot. Tim Day did exceptionally well to claim tenth place in the rankings, and with Vic Clements adding his considerable know-how, I can see the team closing the gap on Stickney and Penmaen B – but I can’t see them quite managing to overtake either of them, unless Graham Lacey makes some substitute appearances for them before joining them after Christmas as a fourth player.
This leaves Graves Park B, Wrangle A, and the two promoted teams, Penmaen D and Lodgers E. Graves Park B have added Alan Reetham to their squad, whilst Wrangle A are unchanged. Penmaen D players gained valuable experience of Division 1 when substituting for Penmaen C, whilst Lodgers E will fancy their chances of survival with Colin Bell and Ian Stones (another ex-Lodgers A player) in their squad. However, I understand that Ian may not be available to play until the new year – but the team can also call on Graham Lacey, because of the new rule 8.7, which allows players in Division 2 to play up to four matches in Division 1, but for more than one team if required. The full rule can be found elsewhere on this web site.
Lodgers A’s demise meant a reprieve for Wrangle A, one of the teams surprisingly due to be relegated with Penmaen C. However, will it be a happier year for them? The bottom half of the table is clouded with uncertainty, but I can see Lodgers E and Penmaen C surviving the dreaded relegation cut – leaving Graves Park B and Wrangle A to face the drop.
Next week: what is in store for the teams in Division 2?