Stafford Wins the North of England
Everyone in the North knows some crucial facts:
1) Southerners are soft
2) Gravy is a requirement with most meals
3) Manchester is wet, it is always at least drizzling
So, for the third year running, the Northern Club in Manchester hosted its third Racketlon tournament (and its third different tournament), and once again the sun shone, there was barely a cloud in the sky and I returned home with additions to my healthy t-shirt sun tan. As Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad. The Northern is a wonderful venue to play Racketlon in the summer, although sadly for this humble scribe, recent wet weather limited us to the tiger turf courts caging his inner Jo-Wilfred Tsonga waiting to be unleashed on the grass.
So, to the tournament. The Men’s A draw saw the debut of George Stafford, with the pre-tournament talk being of just how good his squash was, but would that be enough of a weapon? The A draw also contained veterans Keith Lesser & Phil Todd and the experienced Luke Barnes, these 4 making up the seedings and these 4 serenely moved onto the semi-finals. Keith did for Todd whilst Stafford saw off Barnes in the battle of the Loughborough Alumni, in a match featuring some squash rallies to leave the spectators breathless! Barnes then took third place with victory over Todd, before the final engagement between Lesser and newbie Stafford. However the superior Badminton and Squash of Stafford saw the newbie take the North of England Men’s title. Certainly, Stafford is certain to hand out a bloody nose or two if/when he is unleashed on further British and World Tour events.
A 6 lady round robin would determine the Ladies title, with the very skilful Barbara Capper in group A, with Jo Shelley (3rd at the Yorkshire Open) and Katherine Barcley seen without an epic limp that saw her make FIR website fame at the Welsh Open. Group B contained the smiling death that is Hannah Boden, who despite her few years is proving a real challenge on the Racketlon court with Jackie Barnes and Cathy Atfield. At the end of the group stages, Jo Shelley took 3rd place from Jackie Barnes, before a repeat of the British Open final was staged between young Boden and Barbara Capper. Once again Barbara proved too strong for Hannah, but the margin is not huge and certainly Hannah is one to keep an eye on through this year.
Elsewhere, the Men’s B was won by Joe Steele, defeating Will Booth in the final, Will having recovered from a 21-0 Table Tennis defeat in his semi final with Joe Howard to make it through to the final. Also worth a mention purely for his commitment to the sport, is Dylan Leigh. Dylan jumped off a plane in the early hours of Sunday morning returning from holiday in Kos. He dropped the family back home in Newport, grabbed his rackets and darted up to Manchester, were (to the cost of this scribe) he then showed no signs of tiredness to win his first match of the day, dumping his opponent on his backside twice in the tennis. Tom Huggon took the Men’s C title defeating Jonathan Spinks in the final, the C draw filled out with a host of newbies to the sport after a recent taster session at Bradford University. Gary Lane took the Over 45’s title, defeating Steve Gillot in the final, whilst Bruce Shepherd took the Over 55’s title, winning the 4 man box league, John Duckworth outpointing John McCredie to take 2nd.
A second Northern tournament of 2014 and another bump crop of entries, proving that Racketlon is growing in the North, this is testament in part to the hard work of recent tournament directors, Malcolm Boden (Yorkshire Open) and Phil Todd. This bodes well for the future of the sport to develop in the chunk of the country where it is in its infancy.