OK, so some of you might be wondering why you have to wait until two weeks
into the season for a preview. Fair enough. The reason is that there have
been a number of changes since last season and I felt that it might be
better to gauge the early running before whetting your appetite for the
weeks and months to come. We’ve had the aperitif. Now onto the main meal.
But before we look forward, we must look back.
Those of you with less senile minds than my own may remember that two D1
teams finished safe, as did three D2 teams. Mid table security rather than
mediocrity let’s call it. And those of you who follow these things will no
doubt recall that our D1 teams were the imaginatively named 1a and 1b,
whereas our D2 teams went by the slightly more prosaic titles of Seniors,
Juniors and Upstarts.
Well, all change. Actually not quite all. Some change. This season 1a and 1b
remain in situ trying to eke out results in D1. The Seniors also remain in
D2. Still slightly confused by talk of point a rally scoring and still
hitting reverse angles like it’s a normal thing to do. But the Juniors have
suddenly grown up and morphed into the… Mavericks! I know. Exciting isn’t
it. And basically an excuse to take a Top Gun theme throughout the season.
We’re replacing the wide screen TV with a piano for a fortnightly rendition
of ‘Great Balls of Fire’. Meanwhile the Upstarts have mysteriously
disappeared from D2 and re-emerged, blinking and new in D3. Why oh why have
they suffered this fate, I hear you asking. After all the work they put in
to stay in the division last year? Surely some mischief is at play? Well,
actually no, they elected to go down. It wasn’t an easy decision but as a
club we felt a D3 team suited our range of players better this year. Time
will tell if it was the right decision…
Let’s look in a bit more detail at the squads.
1a are mostly unchanged from last year. Tim King has shifted across to 1b
but Sam Pothecary, Dan Colquhoun, Will Gardner and Paul Bolden remain as 1a
stalwarts, this season ably supported by Pete East and Chris Wildman plus
others who will no doubt make the step up from D2 at various points. Much
the same could be said of 1b who add Tim King to Phil Taylor, Steve Sieff,
James Pearson, Rob Parry, Simon Ross and Neil Hinds. Although the personnel
look the same, injuries, age and form will all play their part in
determining whether the performances match up to or exceed last season’s.
Realistically both teams would hope to be clear of relegation but it would
be a surprise if either was pushing the top teams in the division,
especially given the strength of the current champions AGS.
In D2 both squads look capable of pushing for the title. The MAVERICKS –
sorry for the capitalisation. The new name is just so exciting – boast Andy
Piper, Tom Ormiston, Tim Leslie-Smith, Ben Boulter (new captain), Ben
Harrison and Will Piper, with other names waiting for their chance to
impress and the faint chance of Simon Clark making a return from his knee
issues before the end of the season. The Seniors are missing Aubrey Waddy
(also knee) but can call on familiar names in the shape of Tim Paul, Simon
Brown, Rob Ballingall, Richard Eaton-Hart, Pete Smith and continuing captain
It’s hard to predict how the Upstarts will fare because so little is known
about the strength of D3. Experienced Wayne Scott, Paul Bartington, Simon
Ackers and Andy Kay all remain, as does captain Richard Harvey, but this
year the squad welcome Rishi Chandra, still marginally playing ahead of his
son, Kate Ballingall and superstar in the making Tom Walter.
Right, preview over. On to the reports!