As the new season approaches in the Hastings & District Table Tennis League, the league has attracted 36 entries, spread evenly over three divisions, as last year.
One significant change is that the league now has a central venue in Hastings Academy, the former Hillcrest School, in Rye Road, which will be the new home for Saints and Tigers. Uncertainty over the future of their venue has led to the Hollington club effectively splitting in two, with four teams relocating as Hollington Academy and four teams remaining at the Community Centre.
Table tennis globally is in the midst of a switch from celluloid balls to plastic balls for competition purposes. The Hastings League has decided to stick with celluloid balls for the 2015/16 season in what will probably be the last year before the plastic ball becomes mandatory at league level. The Eastbourne League has also made the same decision.
On the playing front, the close season has been relatively stable, with most First Division squads unchanged from last season.
It is difficult to envisage any team breaking into last year’s top three; champions Bexhill A have added Ryan Warner to their squad after his outstanding season in Division 2 and their challenge will be led by Rob Warner and Lewis Mayhew.
Last season for Mayhew was blighted by injury and illness, but he has been looking sharp and fit in pre-season.
Paul Barry’s Hollington Academy A will again be contenders, especially so if Nathan Darby is able to play a significant number of games.
Watts Cup holders Saints A can never be discounted with Ritchie Venner and Dave Butler in their squad and they will be looking to improve on their third place.
John Wilson has joined Bexhill C from Tackleway A, which could make them ‘best of the rest’.
Promoted Tackleway C will be looking to survive at the expense of Tigers A or Tackleway B in what could be an interesting struggle. Division 1 will miss Owen Hatter who steps down from Tackleway C and is replaced by Kevin McEwan.