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2016 Club Champions found
The club’s 2016 Club Championship wound up last week, after three weeks of competition that saw some pretty intense matches, and quite a few interesting results.
Due to some unfortunate timing we didn’t really have a proper finals night, with both the men’s and ladies A grades decided before last Wednesday night, but there were still a heap of good games on the last night with all the other finals decided, and a group of stayers kept the barman occupied for quite a few hours after the last game.
John McDonnell missed the finals last year, but he’s back winning again, although he’s got a couple of years yet to catch up to Stratty.
On the way to the final John disposed of Sam Harrison, Pete Blacklow and Chris O’Reilly.
Pete Bryant was second seed, and he beat Paul Cousins and Rob Beale before facing Nick Marshall in the semi-final.
Any thoughts of a free ride into the final for Pete quickly disappeared as Nick turned up with a 100mph game, and no matter how much Pete upped the pace (and he spent quite some time on the T with Nick scurrying all around the court), Nick responded with extra pace of his own, and after a spectacular battle it was Nick through to the final.
He brought the same intensity to that game, and took it to five sets but couldn’t quite find those last vital points and John happily took his chance on match point in the fifth to wrap up another title.
Mick Hooper had to get past Sam Harrison to make the B grade final, while on the other side of the draw Jon Bond beat James McCloy and Ben Kruger to book an appointment with Mick.
That final also didn’t disappoint, going to five sets with Mick putting those relentless shots down the left hand wall, but Bondy getting most of them back - but not quite enough, and Mick will get his name on the B grade cup.
Illustrating the depth the club currently enjoys, Adam Clement (D1) was top seed in the C grade, but he was never going to get things his own way, a in the semi-finals he met Pat Summerfield, who’s A game has returned after a ‘holiday break’.
Pat won that one in four, and faced Jock O’Connor in the final, after Jock knocked over Jordan Hooper and Craig Campbell to get there.
Jock decided to bring his own A game along, and after a brilliant contest emerged with the C grade honours in four sets.
Ron Carlson beat Lucas Hooper to make the D grade final, and met Jimmy Hunn, who took out Andy Morrison in their semi, but in the final Ron’s more structured game provided the necessary edge and the D grade cup will have his name on it this year.
Phil Andrew did best in a depleted E grade, beating Lucas in the final.
The ladies grade was much anticipated, with defending champ Cath Blacklow expecting tough opposition all the way through, with Kirsty Clay taking the top seeding.
Kirsty beat Suzanne Nijjar, and then Rebecca Abernethy in a strenuous five-set semi-final.
Rebecca played Di Ness in the quarter-final, but Di had the incredible bad luck to turn the wrong way on her ankle and retired with a bad injury; hopefully she’ll be back soonest!
Cath beat Chrissy Stratford, and then had a semi-final clash with Jess McCloy, but unfortunately Jess was operating at about 40 per cent and eventually retired ill.
Cath and Kirsty fought out a hard-hitting final, with Cath eventually holding on to her crown in a four-set arm-wrestle.
Adam Clement and Sam Harrison in action at the 2016 Mid Canterbury Squash Championships. Sam went on to take out the C grade title.
Stratfords dominate on the courts
Auckland A-grader Craig Stratford returned to the club on Saturday night where his stellar career all began to claim the major honours in the Celtic Squash Club’s annual Ray McBeth Memorial tournament (2016).
After disposing of Celtic’s Peter Bryant (who was in a national title-winning team with Craig at Ashburton College some years ago) and defending champ Corey Hastie on the way, Craig met Sam Shearer in the championship final.
B2 graded Sam threw everything he could muster at Craig, but the relentless defence which was so quickly turned into attack eventually left the Ashburton player with nowhere to go, and the match was over in three sets, giving Craig a title he last claimed two years ago, and before that about 20 years ago!
The game of the tournament was actually the third and fourth playoff, between out own John McDonnell and Corey Hastie, who of course was another to start his career on our courts.
Both ranked B2, they put on a simply superb show of top squash, shadowing each other around the court and producing some outstanding retrieving, boasting and cracking drives, in a long five-setter that kept the packed gallery absorbed for each and every shot.
John was eventually the victor in a stunning match that went right down to the wire.
In the ladies grade, our own Rebecca Abernethy put up a brave showing against Craig’s daughter Simone, who is currently B2 and headed for further glory under Craig’s coaching, but the young Auckland star wasn’t giving anything away at all, and maintained her ruthless approach in each of the three games it took to wrap up the title.
One day Rebecca will be able to watch a world champion on the telly and say “I played a final against her”.
Simone also contested the men’s C grade, and took the special plate, losing only to Sam Harrison and Paul Cousins, who are pretty strong blokes.
Kyla Murphy and Charlotte Smith made their way to the plate final, where Charlotte eventually took out a tight battle.
Rakaia’s Matt Speedy took out the B grade from Ashburton’s Garry Mayne, who had set the grade wide open by knocking out top seed Braden Kenny in the first round.
Garry brought his best game to the final, but it wasn’t enough to topple Matt, who hits the ball as hard as anyone around.
Braden went on to take the plate from Celtic’s Billy Nolan, while Dean Harrison beat Stephen Brown to take the special plate.
That game was played down at Collegiate late on Saturday afternoon, and both players found it necessary to indulge in a little liquid fortification in between games to keep themselves going.
Mitch Sim from Methven was too good for Ashburton’s Nick Swift in the C grade final, while Ed Harrison and Adam Clement fought a titanic battle in the D grade final, with Adam very very pleased to finally taking the honours there.
Veteran Ian Dolden surprised a few onlookers just by making it through to the E grade final, where he met 16-year-old Jarod Hopwood from Ashburton.
Doldie pushed the young fella, more than 50 years his junior, to the limit in what was an exciting five-setter, but couldn’t quite get over the line, despite playing as well as he has for years; sometimes he even played straight!
About nine hours later Doldie, who was our major sponsor with his Home Kills, left the premises, with a bit of assistance necessary from our taxi driver, Stratty Snr.
Liam Schikker from the Mayfield club only dropped one game on his way to the final in the F grade, and Campbell Bedward could do nothing to stop his advance.
Liam proved his dominance was no fluke and took the match in straight sets.
The tournament was deemed a great success, and an excellent precursor to the Mid Canterbury Squash Championships, to be held at the Collegiate courts on August 5-6.
Thanks to sponsors Doldie, Pete Blacklow, Pat Summerfield, Outdoor Adventure Sports, Mt Hutt Skifield, Paper Plus, and especially Craig, who arrived carrying a big box of goodies which boosted the prize list up fantastically.
We applied to the Trust for a bit of sponsorship - we’ve purchased our goodies from the lovely people at the Flash Ash every week for nearly 40 years and only hit them up once in that time - but they said that they were restructuring so they couldn’t help us out. So - what do they do with the money??? Oh well, from now on the best price at the supermarkets is what we’ll be paying.
The usual team put the tournament together, that’s Chrissie, Ed, Mick, Gary, Jenni, with help from Charlotte and Jordie, and everyone else who did stuff to help - brilliant work yet again!
An excellent, yet laid-back tournament, just what Ray McBeth himself would have approved of.
Squash Demo Night a winner
The club held a successful demo night on Wednesday, despite disappointingly low numbers turning out.
Craig Stratford, an Auckland A-grader who began his career on these courts, was in attendance, along with daughter Simone, who is rocketing through the national rankings and is currently a B2, played a demo match with Ashburton’s Lee Barker, currently the best player around Mid Canterbury, holding the Rakaia, Methven and Ashburton titles so far this season.
They put on a superb show for the crowd, with Lee managing to pick up some of Craig’s best front-of-court shots, and some amazing rallies resulted, with some shots coming out that were never in any playbook anywhere.
Craig and Simone then demonstrated some training techniques, with Lee helping out which was a great thing, and some of our club members found out the hard way that some things aren’t quite as easy as they might look.
There’d be a few sore calf and hammy muscles today I think.
A Q&A session followed, and Craig related some excellent stories from the past, both good and bad experiences on the court, while we received a bit of an insight into what it takes to get right to the top.
Our friends Outdoor Adventure Sports were on hand with some quality products, and for those who attended it was a highly entertaining and educational evening, thanks to Craig and Simone!
Winter League 2016: Will resume after Club Champs!
Celtic Div III team defends title! Champions again . . .
And Celtic takes Division 1!!!