Table tennis returns to Halifax once again as the Winter League commences this week.
39 teams in four divisions shall battle it out to reign supreme in what promises to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent years.
Following an unprecedented season, Greetland Social A head into the upcoming season looking to retain the title they won last year.
Greetland cruised to the title last year, remaining unbeaten in their 18 matches. Their side has a familiar feel to that of last year, but they have bolstered their ranks in the shape of the returning James Foster after he had a brief hiatus.
Yet their quest for a second title will undoubtedly be more challenging this time around, with numerous teams strengthening their squads this year.
None more so than last year’s runners up, Red Press, who have secured a major coup in acquiring the services of Cypriot superstar Nikolas Panagiotou.
Panagiotou, who left Cyprus to attend the University of Huddersfield, left Cyprus as the nation's number one Under 18 player and achieved a world ranking of 765 in 2012.
His arrival is one of numerous stellar acquisitions across numerous teams.
An influx of junior talent shall embrace the league’s top division. Whilst Alex Shaw and Jake Clarke impressed in their maiden year’s last season, they shall now be joined by Ben Fillingham and Fraser Riley.
Whilst Clarke has switched clubs, joining Grasshoppers for the upcoming season, Fillingham has joined forces with Halifax chamapion Martin Bowers at Panthers, a duo who will cause plenty of damage over the year.
Meanwhile, Riley, who recently made it into the top 90 of the English junior rankings, has joined Central, where he will play alongside Barry Snowden, Malcolm Fowler and fellow new signing Mushtaq Ahmed.
There’s also plenty of returning talent, too.
Having left the sport last year, Marcus Reynolds has made his return to table tennis, joining brother Joshua Reynolds at Tradesmen, whilst Darren Lindley has rejoined Warriors in what is a strong looking team alongside Ian Tweedale and Dave Wood.
YMEN have also captured the services of one of the league’s most consistent players over the years, Shamir Bose. Bose is a fine capture for YMEN, who will be keen to push on from last year’s mid table finish.
Division 1 mainstays Hermits shall prove to be a difficult challenge for most sides, whilst the two promoted sides, BT and Greetland Social B, enter the season having also improved their team, signing Justin Harris and Gilly Broadbent respectively.
Hotshots will look to secure a second consecutive promotion after clinching the Division 3 crown last year.
Playing under a new name, the junior quartet of Ollie and Jack Hill, Lewis Palmer and Keiran Bowe enter the season as favourites, but will come across a number of valid title contenders.
One of those shall be Central 2, who possess an abundance of Division 1 experience in the shape of Steve Thomas, Shaun Forbes and Eric Greenwood.
Central 3 also have high hopes with craft and guile aplenty, whilst Rams and Oakland Raiders will also challenge for honours.
In what promises to be a very tight Division, Leopards appear slight favourites going into the campaign. Junior Jake Challenger leads the line and is ably joined by Ronnie McNamara, Paul Musgrove and Paul Gray.
They will be tested by a number of the division’s stalwarts. Both Sowerby sides will challenge in the upper echelons of the division whilst Netamatix will also have hopes of doing well.
The six ladies teams will lock horns in their efforts to claim the league title. The ever improving league has been aided by the arrival of junior player Ellen Adams, who is a strong competition on the English junior circuit and will represent Ruby.
Meanwhile, Halifax Ladies Champion Chrissy Sykes shall lead the line for Amethyst, whilst Sophie Yung, who won last year’s sets award, plays for Emerald.