The 2017 European Racketlon Championships (25th August to 3rd September) represents a seriously ambitious effort from Racketlon Federation Austria to run the singles, doubles and teams Racketlon events for open and age group categories in the space of 10 days, across two venues in Vienna. Ambitious events call for ambitious participants and UK Racketlon loves a challenge and so we have selected four open age squads, an U16s and U21s junior squads and O45s and O55s vets squads who will all challenge for points and of course prizes in Vienna. With Warren Gatland* (or in fact anyone Welsh) kept well away from the selection meetings, we have been able to select the best available players (including Scots…). So, without much further preamble, here are our squads for the 2017 European Championships.
The 2016 Team GB Racketlon Squads
Great Britain 1 – Elite – Best: 3rd 2004 Worlds – Euro 2015: 4th
Hannah Boden (11 caps), Luke Barnes (11), Dan Busby (6), Barbara Capper (13), Leon Griffiths (16), Ray Jordan (17), Calum Reid (Debut) & Duncan Stahl (17)
Great Britain 1 (or England 1 as they were back then), had their best showing when the 2004 World Teams were in Vienna with their only podium to date. With this exciting squad selection they will be keen to go deeper into the events than both that 3rd place and the 4th place at the 2015 European Championships in Prague. The team blends the best of our youth, with Hannah Boden and Leon Griffiths, who were both runners up at the English Open and our experienced senior players in the shape of Luke, Barbara, Ray and Duncan, while the selectors were delighted to finally call on Calum Reid after Scotland were absorbed into the Union (again) at the FIR AGM last November.
Great Britain 2 – Amateur – Best: Champions 2016 & 2013 Worlds – Euro 2015: 2nd
Jack Bishop (6), Will Coley (6), Jordan Dainty (Debut), Alex Du Noyer (6), Mark Harris (7) & Lauren Whiteman (7)
In Denmark last July, the GB 2 side dealt with the pressure of being top seeds to seal an excellent victory, adding to their victory in the same category in 2013 and going one further than they had 9 months earlier in Prague. A core of the 2015 & 2016 sides remains, with Will, Alex, Mark and Lauren having all played a role in these tournaments (Alex also present back in 2013). Coming into the side are Jack Bishop and Jordan Dainty, ensuring the side will have a nice balance to it, obviously with their record they will be a side everyone will be gunning for, but with the vast Racketlon experience at their disposal, they will ready for what the rest of European Racketlon can throw at them.
Great Britain 3 – Amateur – Best: 6th Euro 2015 – Euro 2015: 6th
David Bennett (4), Johnny Bispham (6), Luke Griffiths (6), Ed Harvey (6) & Jo Shelley (7)
A sensible if somewhat tardy (last week) decision from RFA to allow players in the Vets and junior squads to also play for Amateur teams (previously they could only play in the Elite side) led to something of a reshuffle. However, that reshuffle means that the GB 3s are able to call upon two more young stars of the UK Racketlon scene, with David Bennett and Luke Griffiths (both double U16 World Champions) into their squad. With experience brought by Johnny, Ed and Jo, this well balanced side is able to offer a serious threat to any side that is off their game!
Great Britain 4 – Amateur – Best: 6th 2016 Worlds – Euro 2015: N/A
Shirley Barre (4), Joel Durston (3), James Langworthy (Debut), Simon Lau (Debut), Jon Spinks (3) & James Pope (6)
There were plenty of great results out of the 2016 World Championships, but GB 4 produced the first big result and sat at his computer in Cambridge, being all over excited about some event the following week he has never mentioned, your humble scribe might have over-egged their pudding a little. However, “Our Heroes”, produced a storming set of results to secure a 6th place finish in the Amateur draw in Copenhagen. Shirley and Joel return from that side and they are joined by Jon and James P who have prior experience from the 2015 Euros and the 2014 Worlds. They are joined by two debutants in the shape of Simon Lau and James Langworthy, both of whom will be bringing different qualities to the side.
Great Britain U16 – U16s – Best: Champions 2016 (Worlds), 2015 (Euros) & 2014 (Worlds) – Euro 2015: Champions
David Bennett (4), Will Gregson (Debut), Luke Griffiths (6), & Ross Wilson (Debut)
It is difficult to know what to write here, at one level it is hard to resist bigging up the achievements of the GB U16s over recent seasons, and on the other, there is no desire to heap undue pressure on the youngest members of the GB squads. One thing we can be certain of, is that these four youngsters bring tremendous talent with them. David and Luke remain from the 2016 World Champions squad and they are joined by two further talents of the UK Tour. Will Gregson has won the most junior events of anyone to have ever played the UK Tour, with a few more years to add to his pile of medals and trophies, meanwhile Ross Wilson knows how to win, having won the Men’s D at the 2016 Racket Masters and 2017 English Open on the world tour, he stepped up to the Men’s C at the 2017 British Championships and promptly won that too!
Great Britain U21s – Best: 2nd 2016 Worlds & 2015 Euros – Euro 2015: 2nd
Hannah Boden (11), Piers Boden (4), Leon Griffiths (16) & Luke Griffiths (6)
The GB U21s represent the nearly men & women of UK Racketlon, they have always finished on the podium, with five third place finished (2010-2014) and a brace of second places in the recent years. Their alumni include the 2016 British National Squash Champion, Sarah-Jane Perry as well as a number of current UK Racketlon regulars such as Luke Barnes and Alistair Prades. The squad this year has reached the inevitably of the two power families of UK Racketlon coming together to form a squad all of their own, the Griffiths and Bodens. These youngsters are starting to display their scary potential, competing with the best in the world and winning and we look forward to their performances this year in Vienna.
Great Britain O45s – Best: Champions 2013 Worlds – Euro 2015: 2nd
Dianne Baker (1), Barbara Capper (13), Paul Doney (Debut), Shawn Doney (Debut), Jon Foulds (9), Richard Middleton (10) & Mark Steeden (4)
For the past four seasons, the GB O45s have provided consistent podium performances and once again call on the services of Barbara and Mark who were in Copenhagen and re-acquaint themselves with one of the most formidable men in the O45s, Richard Middleton. Jon Foulds comes into his first Vets squad, having previously won his caps between 2006 and 2011 for the first team. Dianne Baker is also present, bringing her own personal take on the Ultravox classic to the squad. Finally, the Doney brothers, similarly to Calum Reid, are now eligible for the GB sides and bring their experience and talent along with them, Paul, having recently won the Men’s B at the British Championships.
Men’s O55s – Best: Champions 2015 Euros & 2013 Worlds – Euro 2015: Champions
Steve Gillott (Debut), Rakesh Gupta (17), Steve Kneller (5), Martyn Langston (Debut) & Bruce Shepherd (7)
Another highly consistent squad for GB, as our O55s team have always made the podium and will line up as defending champions in Vienna. The highly experienced campaigners of Rakesh, Steve and Bruce are joined by two debutants with Steve Gillott and Martyn Langston coming into the squad. Martyn has been one of the top performers on the UK Tour since he arrived late last year with two Men’s B titles and two O55’s titles, including the British O55s National title in 2017.
Our congratulations to all the players who have been selected for our 2017 Squads. Six weeks (Juniors and Vets) and seven weeks (open squads) until the action starts and we here at UK Racketlon will bring you all the news, previews and reports through our usual channels on the website, Facebook page and Twitter. Finally, UK Racketlon would like to thank our selectors, Dan Busby, Barbara Capper, Ray Jordan and Duncan Stahl. To select these squads they have to work out a potential pool of players, see them in action, find out their availability and then work out the best way to fit players into each squad to ensure there is a good balance. All this being fit in around their own Racketlon playing and their daily lives.
*Before anyone comments that we drew the Lions series, remember that was with a sub-optimal team. If for example, we had taken proper locks, instead of Alun Wyn Jones, we would have actually beaten the All Blacks…..