This year sees 48 teams compete in the Colchester & District Table Tennis League, which is a slight drop on last year’s 53-team league structure. Rowhedge and Tollgate enter the largest number of teams, with 8 each between them.
Tollgate A begin their campaign as favourites in the Premier Division for the 2016/17 season after winning the division last season. The reigning Men’s Singles champion, Jake Collins, has not been registered for any club which gives Andy Warner (Tollgate A) the chance to top the individual averages table (excluding players who play a handful of games). Warner will have Colin Stallwood, Greg Green, Steve Pennell and Trevor Lloyd joining him in their quest to retain the title. With no Gt Horkesley team competing in the top tier, Tollgate’s nearest challengers look likely to be Rowhedge A. Ex-Men’s Singles winner, Rik James, is the probable spearhead on paper for the Rowhedge team. Richard Hutchinson (Rowhedge A) has moved over from Gt Horkesley to provide strong support for their challenge of the title, with Gary Cattermole, Paul Broxton and Mark Wicker teaming up to add fuel to the team.
Last season’s Division One winners, Lawford A, will hope not to follow other teams in previous seasons by being relegated straight after gaining promotion come March. Their team is comprised of Rob Wood, Mike Emmerson and Keith Norman. Both St James’ teams have a huge pool of players to choose from, which could help them later in the season when tiredness and fatigue starts to kick in. One notable player for St James B is Sam Hume. After defending his Junior Boy’s Singles title last season, and achieving a win percentage of 87.23% (41/47 games won), Hume will be a very strong player in a division full of talent. Rowhedge B have a mixture of ages in their team, with Gracie Edwards making the step up from Division One in the hope of having a successful season. Walton A will be looking to have a more positive campaign than what they did last season and have gained Gary Young from Rowhedge to give them the foundations to build a good team together. Tollgate B might spring a surprise at the end of the season with another strong group of players to choose from. Defending Ladies’ Singles champion, Jane Li, will hope she continues to improve and has high quality players around her to do so (Charlie Fulcher, Marcia Ma, Mel Rampton to name but a few). The last remaining team in the division, Pegasus A, will attempt to shake things up a bit and have a successful season themselves.
In Division One, there is no clear favourites for the title. Walton B will be hoping to go one better than last season’s 3rd position, just missing out on promotion by 7 points. They are fielding a large team (10 players) to give them the best chance possible of climbing up to the top tier. Derek Willis was their standout player (80.56%) last season so could be key if they want to challenge for promotion again. Gt Horkesley A (previously ‘B’) finished the 2015/16 season mid-table, but with Matt Rogers continuously improving and having gained a new player (Richard Kemp), they could be a title contender come the end of the season.
Lawford B achieved promotion from Division Two after the league structure was adjusted. John Colvin, Peter Armes and Matt Webb are the players for Lawford trying to remain in the division which is full of talented players. Tollgate D is another new team in Division One after gaining promotion, but is made up of different players to the team that played for the same one last season. Father and son, Paul and Mike Tracey, have made the jump from Dedham to Tollgate and will be looking to form a strong partnership as the season goes on. Both Rowhedge teams (C & D) are similar to the teams they put out last time around, but with a few new additions to give them more support. Neil Huatan (Rowhedge C) has stepped down from the Premier Division and will be a tough opponent for anyone playing against him. Rowhedge D have “signed” Abhishek Peshkar who will be unknown to most players. However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was a very good player after joining a Division One team in his first season of the CDTTL. St James C stick with the same team as last time and will be hoping to have a more comfortable season this year. Andy Vincent remains their key player. Tollgate C are another team who are title contenders with Annabelle Rodriguez, Dave Fidderman, Neil Freeman and Sandie Isaacs all hoping to compete in the highest division of the league from next season. Tollesbury A have changed their team slightly and hope with more consistency, they will be able to stay in the division. Bryan Speller and Gareth Davies have teamed up with Tom Lewis.
Division Two looks to be the most unpredictable division in the entire league. Any team could gain promotion, meaning any team could also be relegated. Pegasus B were close to promotion last season and will be fighting till the very end to achieve it this time around. They have also acquired Duncan Elloy, who has experience in the Premier Division and Division One. Toby Turner, still a very strong player, adds experience to a promising team. Tollesbury B have kept the majority of players in their team that helped them in their promotion push last season with the additional of Paul Freeman from Division One. They will be looking to challenge for a successive season.
Rowhedge G consists of players coming up from Division Three, including a few young players. Jared Chelski continues to impress and it will be interesting to see how he fares in a higher division. Another team who could be near the top come the end of the season is Lawford C. Ian Sherwood, Andrea Alleyne and Paul Hewitt will be tough to beat throughout the season. Tollgate E have added to their team from last season, but it may be that some of their players play for other Tollgate teams in higher divisions. Dedham A have a strong quartet at their disposal. St James D and Gt Horkesley B haven’t changed their teams from last season and this consistency could prove pivotal to their success. Rowhedge E and Rowhedge F are the remaining two teams to make up Division Two.
The majority of teams in Division Three have only three players registered to them. The young players of Tollgate G will be looking to get off to a good start after gaining promotion from Division Four. Olly Fifield (Gilberd A) played a few games for Gilberd A last season and after being kept in the ‘A’ team, don’t be surprised to see him near the top of the averages chart once he gains more experience. Gt Horkesley C will be aiming to bounce back from relegation and have a very experienced trio (Ian Carter, Hazel Hume and Roger Warren) to do so. Pegasus C & D have a strong group of players between them and either of them could challenge for promotion at the end of the season. Pegasus E will be hoping to gain a few more points than 2015/16 so they find this season more comfortable than their last. Dedham B finished one place above Pegasus last season so will also be trying to follow Pegasus E’s footsteps in gaining more points. Gt Horkesley D have an ex-Ladies Singles and Doubles champion, Janet Faiers, to help them with their promotion push. St James E have 10 players to call upon in their team, whilst Tollgate F will hope to gain valuable experience in another strong division.
Division Four has always been a very unpredictable league due to new players joining clubs, up-and-coming youngsters trying their hand at competitive matches for the first time, and the number of players being registered for each of the teams. No one knows who their opponents will be as this can, and probably will, change from week to week.
Dedham C will be one of the favourites to go up after being relegated from Division Three last season. Denise Thompson, Chris Jones and Jennie Clarke have been playing together for a number of years and would have built up a strong team capable of being very successful. Rachel Saunders will also be supporting them this season. CRGS A are one of the teams that slightly changes every season. This is because of students leaving the school once they’ve finished, so they could be ones to keep an eye on as the season develops. Gilberd B are in a very similar situation and could potentially challenge for promotion to Division Three.
Simon Gilhooly will be the key player of Gt Horkesley E’s team after achieving the team’s highest winning average of last season. Lawford D have one of the biggest teams in the league with 14 players registered for them. It’s highly likely some of them will be playing for other Lawford teams in the league, but gives them a few more options when choosing three players for each game. Pegasus F & G each have 3 players registered to their teams so consistency may prove to be vital here again. Rowhedge H will be looking to improve on last season’s 5th place, and with a few new players at their disposal, they will believe promotion is a realistic goal. Tollesbury B finished mid-table last season, and similar to Rowhedge H, will be hoping to use their pool of players effectively to challenge for promotion. Finally, Tollgate H complete the division where you should always expect the unexpected.
Tom Lewis - CDTTL Press Officer