After their relegation from the Premier Division, Team 1's team line-up was up in the air just a matter of a couple of weeks ago. Greig McDonell was dropping down to Division 4 to play with daughter, Hannah; David Melrose wasn't playing at all and Colin Green was undecided. The only certainty in the team was Iain Johnstone who had taken a break from TT last season. Persuaded to not try and protect his rating, however, Greig came back into the fold and dragged David along with him. Colin also registered to make a 4 man team for this season. Wednesday night saw their Division 1 opener against North Merchiston 3 at Ladywood. With Ken Benjamin's predictions of a good season for Team 1 ringing in their ears Greig showed how much rubbish Ken talks by losing his first match of the season 11-9 in the fifth to the ever improving 15 year old Amelia Norbury - it looked like being a long night. Fortunately for Team 1, Iain who was in excellent form and David, despite trying to concoct a way of losing to Graham Booth, both went through the night undefeated as the 1st Team started their campaign with a 9-1 win.
In Division 3, a new look Team 4 of Julian Taylor, Tony Brentnall & Sonny Taylor made the long trip to Inverkeithing to take on Fife 3. Tony's last match for the club was some 20 months ago and it's great to have him back. Sonny started his season well with a crucial 13-11 win in the fifth end of Match 2 on the night and at 3-0 up it looked like plain sailing for the visitors, however, two 5th end losses in the next three matches meant Penicuik went into the doubles at 4-2 up. Looking a bit like strangers (they are - this was their first ever doubles match), Tony and Julian looked in trouble at 2-0 down but they roared back to pick up the win in 5 ends. Another fifth end win in match 8 secured both points for Team 4 and Sonny rounded the night off with yet another deciding end win in match 10 - a 7-3 win for the visitors but this truly was one of those matches which could have gone the other way and swung on just a few crucial points - 7 of the 10 matches on the night went to deciding fifth ends.
Team 5 started their Division 4 campaign with Craig Johnson swanning off to Japan (work supposedly). Who would have thought going to Japan would actually be quicker than waiting on the League providing us with more than 3 new TT balls per team for this season! There will be no excuse if he gets back empty handed, So in Craig's absence and given that John Bald is yet again missing the start of the season contemplating what it's all about in some sunny part of Europe, George from Team 7 played up with Millie & Stuart Bennett. Despite a couple of his teammates suggesting that George shouldn't try too hard (team 7 v team 5 match will be fun) George was having none of it and proceeded to win his 3 singles - maybe he should have played the doubles as well, which was lost by Millie & Stuart. 5-3 up with two matches to be played - step forward Millie who played some excellent attacking TT to win in 3 straight sets to secure the 2 points for the home side. Stuart also played his part - unlucky to lose his first match in 5 ends, he held his nerve in match 5 to win a tight five ender which helped secure the overall win by 6 games to 4.
And finally in Week 1, Team 7 (the only side to be unchanged from last season) took on North Merchiston 6 at home. With Team Captain George trying to keep his eye on proceedings from the other side of the hall, Phil Daly, Kristian Skotzen & Hannah McDonell tried to improve on their 7-3 loss from last season. This proved to be another tight match. Surely the experience of Phil would see off 12 year old Aidan Davis. At 2-0 down Phil looked bewildered and was seeking some advice from his nominated coach (honest - we obeyed this new rule) - the words "keep it away from his forehand" were shouted loudly across the hall. We'll need to check but there's maybe some doubt as to whether Phil realised he was playing another left-hander! 1-0 to NM. From 2-0 up, the youngest player on show at the Club, 11 year old Hannah then lost to Tim Hely 12-10 in the fifth - she was a little upset by the loss, only cheered up when she asked old dad how he'd got on against Amelia - a smile seemed to reappear on her face! No worries though, Kristian has been looking amazing over the off-season - a 3-0 loss to Kai Hely - what was happening - 3-0 down and up against it. Phil recovered to win match 4 before a mammoth encounter between Kristian and Tim - 11-4, 7-11, 11-7, 2-11 - a topsy turvy four ends were followed by a 19-17 win for Tim in the deciding end - that's got to hurt! Add to that Hannah's second 5th end loss of the night and suddenly the team were 5-1 down and virtually out. The doubles saw Hannah & Kristian go into another fifth end - surely Penicuik would win one of these tight games? Eh maybe not - an 11-9 defeat and the match was over as a contest. Perhaps as a result of the game being over, all three players seemed to then relax and play their best TT of the night - straight sets wins for Hannah and Phil and a five end win for Kristian over NM's best player on the night, Aidan. A 6-4 loss which could so very easily have gone the other way.
That Team 7 Report is to appease George (last season's most improved Penicuik player - well done to him by the way) who continually moans about not getting enough column inches in these weekly reports. Just a pity George wasn't playing - back to normal next week no doubt!
And so to our first Player of the Week Award for the new Season. David, Iain & George were all undefeated. David played and won the doubles as well - in fairness neither Iain nor George played so we can't really use that as the deciding factor. George was playing up and so the pressure was off him really so he's out of the running! David was awarded the man of the match award by North Merchiston but we don't pay attention to what other Club's think - there could only be one winner this week - after a year out Iain proved his worth to the Club with a terrific first night back. His win against Eddie Scott contained some brilliant rallies and was crucial to keeping the momentum going in Team 1's favour - well done Iain.
And finally how we've missed our regular Controversy of the Week section over the summer!! We're not going to start the season with anything too heavy - just a very brief look at one of the new rules brought into play this season:
"Only a fellow member of a player’s team for that fixture or nominated non-playing captain/coach may offer playing advice to a player once a fixture has commenced. Any such advice must be limited to one minute between games......"
League play is a team game - let's take Team 7's match this week as an example (see George - even more column inches!) - they enjoyed having team huddles last season in between ends - it shows a great team spirt - young Hannah wouldn't say a thing in the huddle but would stand and listen and feel part of the discussion, whether it was advice or just general encouragement. This rule now seems to prevent that from happening. Or maybe the whole team (and others) can stand in a huddle so long as only one person is doing the talking? Like many clubs these days we end up playing on two tables to get finished on time - that results in two teammates being on one table (playing and umpiring) leaving another on their own. Youngsters especially often need some encouragement or help in between games. It's not possible to identify at the beginning of a match in these circumstances who is going to be available. We do wonder what the rationale behind this rule is? Not many people we have spoken to think it makes sense. And then there's the more interesting question of enforceability? Are any teams really going to be bothered if at the change of the first end David goes and has a word with Greig about moving his feet more than an inch and then at the end of the second he's given up trying to educate on such pointless matters and Iain tries to tell him something else?? Who cares? Why is it an issue? And if any team were to object or raise it as an issue what is the punishment? We're looking forward to the first time this raises it's head this year - last week no one cared - maybe no one in the hall actually knew about the rule!! Let's hope it stays that way!
Ah it's good to be back - all 7 teams in action next week - maybe our first controversial moment on the table will happen then.....