It’s all hands on deck as the league gears up for the end of the season

By Katie Garner

Seated in the uncomfortably curved plastic blue chairs around the generic grey circular tables in the meeting room at Dagenham Leisure Centre, your league committee gathered to gossip about the ins and outs of the season so far and any developments that have arisen. Talk soon turned to the fixture tables and the results, as with most divisions only having a couple to no games left, the winners and forerunners are pretty much declared.

We kicked off by discussing the men’s doubles, where Wychelm are currently ranked 4th out of the five teams in division four, which include runaway winners United Shuttlers and thankful last place Emerson Eagles 3. With only a couple of games left to be played, it is unlikely that the standings will alter much. The mixed on the other hand reaps much better news, as we are currently sitting pretty in top spot of division two, with United Shuttlers  right on our tails. Since there are only four teams in this division, with most of the results split by cigarette papers, it really will be a nail-biting finish as the final two games are played in a manic race to get our hands on the trophy. The points are all very tight between us, United Shuttlers and Corinthians 2, with Emerson Eagles 1 bringing up the rear. With both us and Corinthians 2 due to play the Eagles, it’s time to crank up the pressure to nab ourselves the title.

Unfortunately, things aren’t looking so rosy over in the ladies pairs as we are currently sitting in bottom position in both divisions one and two. Harold Hill have pretty much tied up division one while division 2 is being secured by Emerson Eagles 1. We had a half successful run in the Challenge Cup this year as well, managing to defeat Redbridge in the quarter finals to get through to the next stage, however we were then knocked out in the semi finals by Emerson Eagles 2, who now face Ramgarhia in the grand finale, due to be played on the 14th May at Redbridge.

In other news, there was some discussion about changing the format of the ladies pairs, due to a complaint from Epping, as they didn’t feel there were enough games being played in one evening to warrant the longer commute for them to the match venue. It was suggested that instead, each club hosts one home match each and instead of playing two games per evening, you would instead play five. However, this would also mean a change in the best of three games to 21 format the ladies currently enjoy, and if we were honest, the alternatives just didn’t work us. Shortening the matches to one game to 31 just isn’t enough of a match, whilst only playing two games could result in an awkward draw scenario, but if the number of matches per night did change, then three games would simply take too long. Happily, the cons far outweighed the pros and the ladies pairs will be left at its current structure.

There was also talk about a point deduction system to be used when squads turn up for matches with two or less pairs instead of the required three. We contemplated using the same rulings as the Essex league, where you gain a point if you turn up with three pairs whilst if you arrive with only two, you are actually deducted a point, which ultimately means you lose two points before the games have even begun. However, this system isn’t exactly water tight, so as a committee we decided instead that any team who arrives at a match venue with less than three pairs on more than two occasions will get a points penalty that is decided by the committee.

Another topic on our hit list was how we went about doing the Challenge Cup handicaps. As of next year the handicaps will only be minus numbers, using zero as the starting point for deciding the handicaps of each club. This way, each team will still have to earn 21 points to win the match. With the current handicap system of plus and minus numbers, some teams only needed a mere nine points to win the games and this isn’t really fair in the grand scheme of things. Adjusting the handicaps to allow each duo to get a minimum of 21 points will be a much fairer system and should also see a larger variety of clubs hopefully through to the final stages. The idea of having scorers courtside was also discussed but this is more a personal preference thing for the players on court to choose what they would like to do.

The idea of a one day summer league style tournament was toyed with and ultimately rejected. The idea was that all players who don’t play in league matches but wished to gain more match experience and play sports fans from outside of their club could enter and then play in a one day competition sometime in June. However, with only five pairs committed to entering and little interest from the majority of the clubs this one looks like a bit of a sinker. From our perspective, almost all of our committed and regular players who would usually be interested in something like this, all play in our league games, so they wouldn’t actually qualify to enter. The idea will be floated again at the AGM in June and then again at the same time next year to see if interest is still waning or whether any more players can be rustled up.

Everyone is looking forward to the handicap tournament event in May with a reported 29 pairs entered to take part across the men’s doubles, ladies doubles and mixed. With the venue all booked and ready and forms due to flood in until the end of the month, there is still plenty of time for you to get stuck in. If you would like a form, then please speak to either myself or Frank so that we can get you one and ensure you are league registered.

As your representative at these league meetings, please do let me know if you have any issues or concerns you would like me to raise and I will do my best to resolve them for you. The league AGM is due to be held mid-June so I will pass along the date once I have it, and this meeting is open to all league registered players who wish to attend. We will also be having our Wychelm AGM at some point this month, so again I will confirm a date for you once I have it.