With the 2016/17 Clacton and District League season now at its half-way stage, there's strong competition for honours in all three Divisions.
Current leaders Nomads Panthers are aiming to take a fifth consecutive Division One crown and, although they remain favourites, second-placed Windsor Condors - only eight points behind - are mounting a significant challenge. As the fortune of the fixture list would have it, the two teams are scheduled to meet in the final week of the season in what could be a mouth-watering winner-takes-all encounter.
Windsor Eagles, led by top player Gary Cattermole and with the ever-consistent Phil Smith and the returning John Pattrick in fine form, are currently in third place.
But there's little to separate them from three other teams - Brotherhood B, strengthened this season by Andy Warner and John Cleasby, Walton A, for whom Gavin Price has been in impressive form, and Walton B where Colin Dearman and Jason Gale have given solid support to regulars Paul Meikle and Derek Willis.
Brotherhood C and Nomads Lions are both able to call on top players to secure points - Alan Burgess and Kevin Gowlett for Brotherhood, and Paul Hume and Adam Cuthbert for the Lions
- and both sit comfortably mid-table. Windsor Hawks, without Felipe Rodriguez this year, cannot expect to hit last year's heights but Andy Vincent's good form guarantees them a position of safety.
John Harvey has enjoyed a good first half-season for Windsor Kestrels who have enough overall fire-power to keep clear of the relegation places. Which means the two promoted sides, Lawford and Windsor Owls, are likely to face the drop - and, considering last year they were separated by just three points at the top of Division Two, they could well become involved in another private battle, this time to avoid the ignominy of finishing with the wooden spoon.
The top of Division Two is as congested as a Department Store in the New Year sales with only ten points separating the top five teams, four of them from the Brotherhood Club.
Brotherhood H are the current leaders and, in Stewart Murray, Graham Parkes and Grant Sharpe, they have three seasoned campaigners who will ensure the team is there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
Newcomer Kris Stefanov of Brotherhood I has established himself as the outstanding player in the Division but his side's success has been a genuine team effort. Mark Ratcliffe, making a welcome return to local table tennis, and juniors Scott Campbell and Woody Fitzpatrick in their first season at this level, have all contributed valuable points.
Brotherhood F have been boosted this year by new signing Lawrence Torr and the improved form of Lee Allen. And they, together with Nomads Tigers and relegated Brotherhood D, both solid all-round sides, will feel they are in with a shout of a top-two place come the end of April.
Nomads Bobcats, the surprise team of the season thanks to the excellent form of Jason Lloyd and Ethan Lloyd, sit comfortably in sixth place ahead of Windsor Harriers, a traditional mid-table team, and Windsor Buzzards, now well-established in their second season at this level.
Of the bottom five teams, the presence of Rivhu Khan and John Long in the Walton C line-up should ensure they don't suffer relegation worries.
But Brotherhood E and Nomads Jaguars, although cushioned from the relegation places by nine and eleven points respectively, will surely spend the second-half season looking over their shoulders to see whether Windsor Magpies can make up ground.
Alas for the plucky Nomads Pumas, it looks as though their sojourn in Division Two will be a brief one.
Division Three has seen two class teams draw away at the top in what's becoming a two-way shoot-out for the title. Walton D, who include excellent youngsters Jared Chelski and Daniel Young, currently hold a six-point half-way lead over the older heads and legs of Mike Hillier, Doug Green and Mike Wellum, the back-bone of Nomads Wildcats.
Three Windsor teams are involved in the fight to establish who's the best of the rest. The Penguins, with Debra Found, Jackie Bunce and Alan Charman to the fore, are currently in third place ahead of the Swallows, captained for a thirteenth consecutive season by the indomitable Iris Howlett, and the Kites who, with Chris Simson prominent, are enjoying their best-ever League season.
Robbie Strutt and Jordan Webb have been impressive for Windsor Ospreys, as have Dave Harris and Liam Harris for Nomads Lynx. Both teams sit satisfyingly mid-table, ahead of Nomads Caracals who, when Chris Jones and Denise Thompson are available, are a match for any team in the Division.
Nomads Leopards, headed by Dave Wright and Tom Collins, are proving hardy battlers whilst Arthur Wells-Garrett's first foray into competitive League table tennis has helped Nomads Ocelots into a position of respectability.
Brotherhood G's team problems have not helped their League position but Paul Metcalf has once again shown he can hold his own at this level. And although the new Brotherhood J side look favourites to finish bottom, they have shown encouraging improvement during the first half-season.
* The first of the League's Tournaments, the Handicapped Singles, takes place Saturday 4th February at Windsor's St James Hall. Full details will shortly be sent to all players.