The 2015/16 Halifax Winter League season finally starts next week, and promises to be one of the most exciting, unpredictable campaigns in recent years.
A frantic summer has seen a siege of new players enter the league from various divisions around the area, with the end result being three divisions that look set to be hugely competitive over the next six months.
Division 1 has seen the most upheaval, with new teams, new players and individuals changing their allegiance.
Defending champions Greetland Social Templars have been one of the busier teams, replacing the outgoing Sam Clayton and James Foster with the additions of Huddersfield League star Damian Galka and Marcus Reynolds. But despite having a strong team at their disposal, Greetland have a serious challenge ahead of them if they are to claim a third consecutive league title.
Halifax Champion Clayton and Foster became the first recruits of new club Mavericks, and will be joined by young hotshots Fraser Riley and Jake Clarke along with Ross McFadyen, a team that will no doubt be a formidable threat for the title.
Elsewhere, Warriors and Hermits have bolstered their ranks, with Warriors adding Nick Ryder and Russell Senior, two of Huddersfield’s best players, to their team, whilst Hermits have drafted in Mark Whiteley and Phil Mann, who also plays in the top division of Bradford League.
Another of Huddersfield’s top performers, Krzysztof Sobkiewicz, shall represent last year’s runners up, Red Press, whilst Stefan Arak also joins them after debuting in this year’s Summer League.
As for YMEN, their recruitment has also been impressive, adding Geoff Dunne and Halifax old boy Gabriel Wilding. The same can be said for Greetland Social B, who have made the most impressive signing of the season in Cypriot Nikolas Panagiotou, who has previously represented his country across the globe, whilst also adding Rafal Aleksandrzak to their line-up.
Ben Fillingham and Martin Bowers shall continue to lead the line for Panthers, ably supported by Alan Veal and Dave Bowers, whilst Hotshots finally get their crack at the big time after convincingly claiming promotion from Division 2 last year. The quartet of Lewis Palmer, Ollie Hill, Jonny Heslop and Cameron Sandhu have already caused a stir in the Closed Championships, and will no doubt mix things up again this season.
Last but by no means least, despite their name, is Misfits. Captained by former Hotshot member Steve Marshall, he is joined by Matthew Stephens, Josh Reynolds, Jonathan Crossley and Michael Bush as they search to consolidate their position in the league.
Just like Division 1, the second division looks significantly stronger, first and foremost with the arrival of BT following their relegation from Division 1. Competition is rife, with Oakland Raiders likely to challenge again following the inclusion of Robert Wright to their squad, whilst Central 1 shall once again compete, with Steve Thomas, Eric Greenwood and Shaun Forbes having invaluable experience in the top division to help them in their quest to return to the top flight.
Keighley Nomads are another team looking strong, with Hughie Chambers joining their already formidable outfit, with Rams another team likely to be in the mix come the end of the season.
Newly promoted Leopards enter the unknown, with all four players having little to no experience at this level. But in Ronnie McNamara, Jake Challenger and Richard Musgrove, they have three capable players at this level. The plight of Tribal will also be interesting to watch, with promising youngster Nicholas Miller in their ranks. Other youngsters to watch out for are Aman and Rayhan Khan, who shall play with Dave Blackburn for Central.
Division 3 shall see the stalwarts of the Halifax League compete once again as a mixture of experience and youth mix.
A quartet of females comprise the Supercharged team, a further testament to the wonderful development of the Ladies League over the years, and their progression will be interesting to watch.
Team MJM, captained by John Wasilewski, will fancy their chances, whilst Sowerby are also likely to put plenty of pressure on at the top of the league. Meanwhile, the addition of a new Old Town squad, Hoods, shall see a batch of new players enjoy competitive table tennis against some tough competitors, including youngsters Matthew Broadbent and Joseph Siddle of Team MJC.
Finally, the Ladies League shall comprise of five strong teams, all keen to enjoy and improve their game. The league is not only unique in the fact it is females only, but will also feature a doubles competition to split their siege of singles matches.