2019/20 Club Reports
The 2019/20 season was sadly curtailed but there was still lots of activity to report and celebrate. Read on to find out what each of the clubs got up to. Missing reports should hopefully be added in shortly.
The Aldenham Barber Cup team
The Aldenham Fives Club (The Heath) had another busy year with our ladder competition proving ever popular.
The ladder is played every six weeks and is particularly popular with four to five courts regularly filled. Each winner is awarded the Phil Marsh Trophy which they retain until the next ladder competition. These evenings are rounded off with a meal at the Akash Indian Restaurant which is always well attended by players and non-players alike!
The club play every Tuesday evening throughout the year (only Christmas and New Year preventing the full 52 sessions) and players from other clubs are very welcome to join us.
The Brigands fives club had a healthy start to the season, with good numbers turning up from the outset. We decided to hold one of our two club tournaments, the Silver Salver, in the first half of the season, giving a bit more breathing space for the other competition, the Bourne Trophy, in the second. This crafty plan worked brilliantly.
Sixteen intrepid Brigands entered the Salver, our elite competition, designed to find the best playing pair on the night. The final, between Alex Knight and Glen Robinson, versus, Alex Abrahams and Matthew Beard, turned out to be such an entertaining affair, that all the other players stayed to spectate and admire. This despite the allure of our very own club house, (The Stag), foaming jugs awaiting! Alex K and Glen came through 12-9, but the result was in doubt right to the end, with some incredible retrieving on both sides, and great powering drives, esp. from Glen and Abrahams. Presentation and great dinner after.
We had friendly matches against Aldenham, Windsor &Eton, and N Oxford, all at Eton. Sadly no Cranleigh this season, work in progress, hope reigns eternal.
Matches at home
We managed to hold our brace of matches against the school, home and away! The first hosted by Charterhouse, was a tight draw, with 5 courts fighting it out , one being a ladies court. Great dinner in the Peter May Pavilion. The second match was hosted by us, and 6 courts occupied. The Brigands may have snuck a narrow win, although the C’House 1 pair (Hector and Finn), played very well and will be forces to be reckoned with in the fives community, looking ahead. Dinner with students and John Troy, after at the Stag.
The Brigands Christmas Party was well attended, with wives /partners joining in the fun.
The Brigands end of season dinner has been postponed, of course, as has been the Richard Bourne Trophy, our handicap tournament. The latter leaves Danny Hewitt sitting in the hot seat as current holder, and we can only hope that a new champion takes over this mantel as soon as is humanly possible! (Mine,mine.)
The Brigands play friendly fives, of all standards, on Wednesday evenings at Charterhouse School. September to April, 7.00-9.00 p.m. All welcome.
Bunch of Fives
Bunch of Fives makes the bold claim to be the UK’s newest and at the same time oldest Fives club. We will now hide behind the buttress while scorn is hurled by octogenarians, nonagenarians and these days, possibly even centenarians. No matter, the key thing is that we are also very enthusiastic, as happens with so many ‘born-again’ practitioners of anything from religion to knitting.
In normal times we meet weekly at the pair of Eton Fives courts in Oxford University’s sports centre on Iffley Road. We are the garrulous ones in the café, checking that everyone one under 50 knows who Roger Bannister was and why the walls are decorated with the numbers 3.59.4. Before lockdown, we had just reached a total of 14 players from four Fives traditions – Eton, Rugby, Winchester and First Time I’ve Heard Of It. New recruits of any age and level are very warmly welcome – and It is brilliant, at exactly the time of writing, to get Gareth’s news of the long-awaited permission to resume play.
Club membership is free and gets you a weekly email including a Fives Fact, many culled from the rich stock of history and lore on the EFA website. We even discovered what we believe to be a new fact previously unknown to the EFA, about Pliny the Elder having the Roman equivalent of a Fives court at his villa near Vesuvius. This was encouraging because he was both an Elder and somewhat slow-moving (‘portly’ is the word used by the historian Dr Daisy Dunn who provided the info). So – with some lithe and nimble exceptions especially among our women players - we feel a bond.
The Bunch began last Summer when two of us were watching contemporaries at the annual Rusty Rackets tennis gala at Summertown’s magnificent public grass courts, and somehow the subject turned to Fives. Neither of us had played since school but we’d enjoyed it then; he because he was good at it; I because it was the easiest way to chalk up the requisite number of hours-per-week ‘doing’ sport – and unexpectedly fun.
Eavesdropping Racketeers took an interest and half-a-dozen of us were given a great boost by the hospitality of the North Oxford club at Summer Fields school. No one reading this needs to be told about Gareth's generous spirit, and his patient coaxing of our fumbling return to the game was shared by all the club members. Thank you warmly again!
We also owe sincere thanks to the staff at Iffley Road who greeted tentative inquiries about pensioners using the Fives courts with the observation that it was “a very unusual request”. So it proved; the Westway Revolution has yet to reach Oxford in terms of widespread public use and we never have problems getting a court. We always check with the university club, though, after coinciding once with an Eton match. Awestruck, we watched a completely different game from our own.
Prior to December, we were often witnessing our Wednesday evening sessions fill the entire three courts with an ever-increasing no. of new recruits. But since the New Year, numbers have tailed off significantly and prior to lockdown we were struggling to fill two courts and rarely could any of us find a game which matched our respective standards. Prior to January we had 26 pretty well full time players….since then the numbers have dwindled to 12.
It’s possible that one reason for this was that in January we formally constituted the Club as a legal entity with its own Bank Account, and came to an Agreement with the Sports Centre on playing fees / membership fees for Fives only. Despite the very modest annual membership fee - of the Sports Centre that is – not CFC per se – this certainly coincided with the downturn in numbers.
(The point at which players then pay a nominal membership fee to join CFC of £20 pa….has not yet been triggered.)
For some time, we and the Sports Centre, have been ‘promised’ a permanent coach for Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings….but due to some restructuring of roles and commitments within the sports centre, together with the coaching qualifications of the two codes still to be formalised, it remains unfeasible to launch any recruitment campaign as none of the existing members have the time or desire to be on hand to support any new recruits – as naturally people want there own game rather than stepping out and sacrificing their one game a week to introduce new folk to the game. Of course, this is what a few of us have been doing for the last few years, but it is no longer tenable, and which was the reason why new coaches had been promised to be in situ by the start of this year.
The future, irrespective of lockdown, is gloomy...especially as we’ve lost quite a few established players over the year due to family or employment commitments, and are now losing a couple more after lockdown due to employment moves.
The situation is even more acute for Rugby as they only have two full-time players – as such a few of the Eton players have sometimes transferred to give Rugby a go.
Having said that, we did initiate a few specific matches….two players travelled to Berkhamsted...we were unable to persuade any more – and we had five fun fixtures at home against the Ipswichians, the University, Uppingham School, North Oxford and Berkhamsted. It’s certainly true that when we have a weekend fixture it does entice the good players to turn up, but it’s difficult to arrange fixtures for our beginners as more often than not, the gap in standard is significant.
Varsity Match teams
No report received yet
Thursday night action at Emanuel
It is wonderful to have our new club up and running and given the current situation one cannot help but feel a sense of frustration that we have been left in limbo. Nonetheless, I am confident that there remains enough interest to rise phoenix like from the ashes.
Our inaugural session took place on Thursday 7th of January and the Emanuel School Fives courts reverberated with the thwack of cork on leather and the grunts of those intrepid souls that were the pioneer players on this first club night. all performed to a very high standard; indeed, Fives royalty in the form of John Reynolds, commented on just how impressed he was by those on display.
We managed to fill all three courts and had a couple of spares to step in as and when, a feat we repeated once, though attendance has generally been good. We have had a mixture of returning and current players and I think it fair to say that we can offer a pretty competitive experience for those that wish.
I am also delighted that we have welcomed players venturing onto a Fives court for the first time, naturally something that I wish to continue. It is noteworthy that everyone has commented on the great atmosphere and sense of fun. There have been numerous occasions when play has had to be paused to allow for composure to be restored. It’s hard to cut when you are chuckling! There is usually a post-match debrief in the Roundhouse across the road from the school and this certainly helps to develop camaraderie amongst the players.
Having taken our first tentative step, I am naturally keen to pick up once again, realistically this may not be until September; so much will depend on Emanuel School allowing us to use the courts once again. Hopefully the loyal crew have been champing at the bit and like, professional footballers, have been training in isolation so that they will burst onto the courts once more in prime condition.
We had agreed to change the club nights to a Wednesday, times will remain the same (7:30 to 9:30 p.m.). By then I hope that we will be able to implement our club constitution and have set up our bank account to make life a little easier for the collection of the dreaded subs! On that note, if you are still to settle up….. you know what to do!
My thanks, of course, to everyone that has attended, particularly to Nick, Adrian and Geoff as they get the gold stars for best attendance. I am particularly grateful to the school for allowing us to use the courts and naturally to the EFA for supporting this initiative.
I look forward to seeing you back on court soon, somehow my week has just not been the same recently.
No report received yet
No report received yet
Newbury at the Turnbull Trophy
Despite a curtailed season and the departure of key St Bart's School personnel previously running fives, Newbury Fives Club further strengthened both its foundations and its ambitions this year. Newbury entered an adult and a junior side into November's EFA Trophy Qualifiers with the juniors brazenly outscoring their senior counterparts in their respective groups; albeit the latter were diplomatically lauded on the EFA website for playing 'an awful lot better' than their points tally (of one) suggested - the seniors will take what they can get. There was, compared to the previous season, an improved turnout of 4 pairs at December's Graham Turnbull Trophy with 4 St Bart's students combining with 3 alumni and the school coach to do the school proud and put in some tenacious performances in the plate competitions. What was really gratifying in these two competitive forays was the fact that the vast majority of the club/school players were only in their first or second years of the playing the game. So, there is huge potential here and this was equally demonstrated in the 3 friendly (but closely fought) fixtures the club played against Westway, Royal Holloway University and Shrewsbury School - the latter involving an inaugural hybrid school/club team which evidenced how the game at Newbury thrives on the mutual dependency of these two elements. The twenty hours of fives played over the few days at Christmas when the school was actually closed (as also happened the previous year) is indeed testament to the growing popularity of the game in the local community and supports (we hope) the wisdom of the club's decision to join Division 3 next season and thus attempt to do 'an awful lot better' than might be expected!
A fine season on and off court
The North Oxford season started with an international flavour with the now annual visit of the Dutch Real Tennis team to play on the courts at Summer Fields followed by the long awaited and frankly long overdue first ever NOEFC tour of Grillon. A near full house of 17 (the obligatory late withdrawal from Spencer of course) spent a memorable weekend thanks to Nigel & Jeff on the courts and round the dining table, combining the club's two main interests in one fantastic trip. Once back in the UK, the focus turned to two tournaments - the new Mixed team trophy and the Richard Black Cup, both providing a chance to shine for North Oxford's female contingent, who have long been at the forefront of the club's success.
We were able to put out three full teams for the Mixed team trophy at Eton, with a couple of extra players to spare; a day that started with pride at this achievement moved through the disappointment of our possible title hopes disappearing thanks to a Karen Hird injury onto the enjoyment of various combinations of our players taking part in a joyfully chaotic plate competition and ending with the farcical and highly entertaining sight of a spare North Oxford player playing in the deciding pair in the plate final against a bona fide North Oxford pair, trying to lose and failing spectacularly, his partner oblivious to what was going on. The Black Cup team were unchanged from last year and back to defend the title. Having seen off the departure of Highgate's "golden generation" to finally get hold of the silverware in 2017 and 2018, it was a new look Highgate team, led by Emily Scoones, who returned with a bang this year to take on the NOEFC sextet of Karen Hird, Harry Asquith, Rachel Wood, Francesca Turnbull, Faye Kerr and Mandie Barnes. The final was an absolute classic, with Karen & Harry dominant in victory at first pair, Rachel & Mandie unable to cope with two of Highgate's impressive youngsters at third pair and Faye & Francesca coming within one point of a thrilling victory before finally going down in three games.
By this stage of the season, our Monday night sessions at Summer Fields were getting on a roll that was only halted by the coronavirus juggernaut in March. Since we started playing on Monday evenings nearly 25 years ago, large numbers of players have come and gone, the regular turnover and large player pool meaning that you rarely get the same set of players turning up twice and keeping those who regard themselves as part of the furniture very much on their toes. Numbers soared this year, with two courts never enough to meet demand; the warm indoor setting, back court camaraderie and squash court rugby fives for the more energetic/foolhardy meant that even when 16 or 17 players turned up, no-one failed to enjoy themselves. The mixture of players has been perfect this year, with teenage enthusiasm from Cassian Mcdonald, Will Bush and Tom Hoskins, a strong female presence from Rachel Wood, Faye Kerr, Mandie Barnes, Annie Calderbank, Amelia Hepburn, Eleanor Malone and Kirby Clayton, youthful vigour from Sam & Giles Mcloughlin, Steve & Mark Gore, Hugo Young (nice to have some professional expertise to raise standards!) and Jacob Ryde, enthusiastic new faces in Edward Aldous, Alan Pesskin and Erin Leatherbarrow and sage advice from the aforementioned furniture - Gareth Hoskins, Andy Bishop, Spencer Chapman, Stefan Nowinksi, Matt Chinery, Robert Thorogood, Pete Scholey, Nick Shaw, Chris Davies, Chris Lloyd, Ian Mitchell and Martin Fiennes. Andy even made it onto the court once or twice despite regular tweaks (or worse) to ankle, knee, finger and fetlock. The hiatus in Monday nights that began in mid-March has simply reinforced how important a part of so many people's lives they have become and we eagerly await their return, although when that happens we may need substantially more courts than Summer Fields can provide!
Away from Oxford, the competitive season was once again a great success. We again fielded a team in all three divisions without conceding a single penalty point, which is a considerable achievement. Bishop's Buccaneers in Division 3 were the worst affected by the premature end to the season, their charge to the title halted in its tracks with a run of games still to come in April and they had to settle for second place. The Division 2 side had a fine season, with loads of close matches, more of which were won than lost, finishing in second place behind only the all-conquering Old Salopians - the highlight of the Division 2 campaign probably being the 2-1 away win against the eventual champions with Karen Hird & a resurgent Robert Wilson (welcome back, Rob!) coming from behind to pinch the winning fifth game 14-12 with the rest of the team cheering them on and North Oxford supporters across the country (well me anyway) receiving regular text commentary of the thrilling closing stages. The Division 1 side also had a terrific season, finishing fifth out of nine and winning around 50% of pairs played with a team mainly consisting of players who had learned their Fives away from the major Fives schools; indeed the majority of the Division 1 team's appearances came from players who had learned their Fives at Ipswich, Wolverhampton, KES, Aldenham, Emanuel, Westway, Cranleigh, RGS High Wycombe, Lancing or indeed who learned to play as adults. There was only one appearance from team pro Seb Cooley as we relied much more on the younger players - Noah Caplin, Sam Mcloughlin, Nathan Turnbull, James Piggot, new signings Alex Abrahams and Cam Lyle and the outstanding Tom McCahon, who played all 14 matches, nearly all at first pair and with eight different partners, even managing to record a couple of vintage first pair wins against Berkhamsted and the Harrovians in tandem with the venerable club captain. There was solid support as always from veteran campaigners Gareth Hoskins, Pete Scholey, Graham Pulsford and Chris Austin but the team was less reliant on them than in previous years and all the better for it.
Tom was also at the forefront of our post-Christmas EFA trophy challenge as we once again came within a whisker of winning the tournament for the first time since 2009. This was the strongest North Oxford EFA Trophy squad for a long time and Tom, Alex Abrahams, Nathan Turnbull, Chris Lloyd, Karen Hird, Spencer Chapman and Steve Gore cruised through the qualifiers without breaking sweat. The addition of Phil Roper for finals day gave us real hope of winning and the semi-final against Eton College was duly won 3-0. The final against the Old Salopians was a cracker; Karen & Chris struggled to keep up against veterans Mike Hughes & Grant Williams, but Phil & Nathan produced a stunning performance at second pair to level at 1-1. The first pair match was of the highest quality as Tom & Alex took on Sam Mcloughlin & Will Sissons; the first two games were shared but ultimately the Salopian pair proved themselves stronger, winning in four. We'll be back next year!
For many involved, however, the delights of a North Oxford season are not measured by on court successes and failures but by the enjoyment to be had throughout the year - more pub lunches, curries and sticky toffee puddings than a serious sporting outfit should perhaps be consuming, trips to places off the beaten track such as Charterhouse, Bryanston, Aldenham and Cambridge. The premature end to the season meant that many of those things didn't happen this year and the 2020 summer tour - an eight day marathon involving a game on every single playable court in the country - will have to wait until 2021.
No report received yet
Back to Fives; Richard Black Cup winners; Mixed Team champions; U25 finalists
The focus for the past few years has largely revolved around sowing into the longevity and diversity of The Old Cholmeleian Fives Club and we’ve been delighted to see its first fruits this season. Many highlights have come in the team tournaments where, on several occasions, we successfully combined current school players and leavers or male and female players together en route to securing the inaugural Mixed Team Tournament, the Richard Black Cup, and the Turnbull Trophy (where we entered eight pairs). We were also finalists in the Richard Barber Cup and made it to the semi-finals of the Alan Barber for the first time in a few years. We were honoured and really happy that this was recognised in our Team of the Year nomination in this season’s awards.
The club hosted the EFA’s pilot Back to Fives event in January, which saw 17 returners don gloves again and rekindle their love for the game. It was particularly exciting to see so many return to court both on a social and competitive level and to have another opportunity to build the community in the club by bringing together old and new faces.
On an individual front, Jonny Ho, Marjolaine Bricoe and Emily Scoones have all made it through to the Kinnaird and Ladies’ semi finals respectively. Marjolaine continues her streak in repeating last year’s success winning the Ladies’ U25s, Universities and Mixed Universities cups. We are hugely proud of them as they were all nominated for End of Season awards, especially Jonny who was crowned Player of the Year.
We were sad not to round off the season and get the chance to celebrate with the usual end of season events calendar such as the Hucks Cup and the next chapter of the OC alternative sporting challenge; previous instances have included darts and table tennis. However, we are very much looking forward to gracing the courts again soon.
Jonny Ho & Emily Scoones
Old Citizens in Switzerland
Highlights to this truncated season have included:
a trip to Hamburg to play on a ground-breaking temporary court erected in an art gallery. (This was an amazing court made out of plywood and plaster board, enjoyed by scores of locals and visiting Brits, including Seb Cooley and Karen Hird - both of whom have German mothers.),
a hugely enjoyable six-day trip with our Swiss friends (featuring a freezing mountain-top trip, the annual local cattle market and some excellent fives; many thanks to Dieter Buchi and family for their extraordinary hospitality),
a trip to Durham to take part in the City of Durham’s second birthday celebrations (thanks to Julie McIntyre for being a great host),
hosting a charming team from Nigeria in December, who picked up the version of fives we play very quickly despite the (for them) bone-chilling weather,
a five-pair Old Versus Young match just before Christmas (very proud to muster 20 schoolboys and Old Citizens more than 30 years after we lost our home courts),
a second half-blue for Nick Choustikov (the club’s 18th half-blue) for playing in a Varsity match which featured two other Citizens in the Pepper/Penguin match: respectively Edwin Gosnell and Jivan Navani. Oxonians Sam Packer and Jacob Greenhouse took part in the former Varsity clash that day,
victory in the Andrew Aitken Cup (AKA the Westminster Cup, which starts the season for the Old Westminsters) for John Reynolds, (inflicting a rare defeat on Hugo Young, something I've not shut up about),
the oldest league player. Ever. In the autumn, David Cooper, just days after celebrating his 80th birthday, and playing with club guest Emily O’Mally, won a Division Three match against Lancing.
However, the Covid19 crisis forced us to cancel our annual weekend - this year accidentally timed to be a forerunner to the new World Fives Day on May 5 – so no Adams Cup, match against the Swiss or annual dinner.
No report received yet
No report received yet
Alan Barber Cup final action; Northern Tournament winner Tom Dunbar; Oskar Denby, Qassi Gaba and Andrew Taylor in the Oxford Varsity match team
It was always going to be a challenging season trying to defend the Barber Cup and establish a Division 2 team. Overall we put up a spirited defence of the Barber Cup and it was particularly pleasing to win first pair in the final against the Old Olavians with Tom Dunbar and Rahul Wijeratne combining effectively. We again performed creditably in Division 1 finishing third and it was good to see younger OHs and boys still at School competing well at this level. Particular thanks go this year to Manuel de Souza-Girao and Ian Hutchinson for ensuring a decent start to our Division 2 venture. It has had two major benefits: firstly the reappearance of a number of older OHs on a regular basis and secondly a great opportunity for boys at School to play competitive Fives.
One other notable highlight was the appearance of four OHs for Oxford in the Varsity match.
It would be an oversight not to mention the improvement to the changing room, run out areas and spectator experience at Harrow. While further work is needed in certain areas to protect spectators from the elements the changes so far have been significant and a big step forward.
Graves Cup finalists, plate finalists and dinner; Northern Tournament success
I suppose we were lucky to fit in as much as we did in the season that was abruptly curtailed. The bare statistics show the OIs played 10 matches, treading the midline of wins and losses, participated in six representative tournaments and six non-team competitions. We came 6th in Division 2 of the league (roughly in line with expectations) and were represented by twenty eight players in all, including five guests, although Charlotte and Tash Gregory should probably be counted as OIs by descent. Eight players turned out four or more times and twelve just once (you’ll never get fit at that rate chaps). It was something of a historic year with neither John Caudle nor Simon Woolfries playing in the league side. Simon also missed out on possibly adding his fourth 60+ title in a row in the unplayed Veterans tournament.
A couple of wins at the start of the season against the Jesters and Cambridge Chroniclers had Tim Gregory suggesting that perhaps 2019-20 would be our promotion year but when he added that it could be a double with Ipswich Town FC going up we realised he was kidding. The Old Olavians’ satnav, unfortunately, managed to find a way round the blockage on the A12, enabling them to spring a surprise 3-0 whitewash on us in the Alan Barber first round. It was a poor substitute for the Suffolk Cup that had to make way for the tie. Charlotta Cooley sported OO colours for the occasion, in contrast to most of the season when she proved the most prominent Old Ipswichian, wearing the OI shirt on eleven occasions. (She also managed to win the London and Kinnaird Festivals, make the last sixteen in the Midland and Kinnaird and was probably only prevented from sealing another Ladies and Mixed title by the coronavirus. If only Cam Lyle had been available for the Barber – Howard would probably have had to take his sweater off. No matter, pleasingly that was the only time in the season when we suffered an all court defeat, which is something. Despite never winning at first pair in the league games we always picked up second or third, except against North Oxford 2 when it was both, again. Always nice. Going for the hat-trick next year.
It was marvellous to have Cam Lyle around, now working in London, and particularly pairing up with Isaac Wagland early in the season against the Etonians. Tim Gregory may have pulled a fast one here (suspected inside information!) but having withdrawn on the basis that ‘the OEs always struggle to raise a side – so it’s not really worth playing’ - we found ourselves facing three former Schools’ winners plus other members of recent Oxford University’s all-conquering sides. That we only lost 1-2 was miraculous and down to a tremendous effort from Pete Forrest and Sam Basu at third pair. Cam and Isaac raised their level, as we know they can, to give Cobb and Piggott a tight game in the third, which was splendid to watch and if only Charlotta had had Gregory as partner instead of the aged Boughton, she would undoubtedly have found the six points needed to have made it 2-1. Cam and Isaac’s third game performance was probably the best fives in Ipswichian colours during the season. More of these younger players in harness please. Cam may have had a raw deal, being thrown in on the hard springs of first pair every time he played, allowing others to enjoy the soft upholstery of the lower pairs but he didn’t complain and more practice at the higher level will undoubtedly benefit his game. Bunyan attempted to top the percentage wins chart by not being available after victory in the first match (hope the leg’s healing well Nick) but he was bettered by Ralph (Scuttler) Morgan who notched a 100% record from his three games. In fact Ralph and Tim Gregory (3 wins from 4) were the only two to win more than one of their league outings. Tom Fletcher was a mainstay of the league side once again but statistically suffered from always leading the charge at first pair. Mark Graves with three wins from four outings (sadly only one in the league) showed he remains a top class player and when he and Steve Burnell were available the team had a much more solid look.
The inaugural mixed team competition provided the chance for all three Gregorys to team up. It also allowed Nadia Mason to make her only appearance of the season – putting in a stellar performance in the Plate final, according to the organiser, guesting for an amalgamated side. A storming performance from the OI team saw them reach the final having lost just one set. That this was a rather unusual and unsettling experience for the OIs proved correct as Highgate A, who we had beaten in the group game, proved a tad too good and a 1-2 defeat left us runners-up.
At the Midland Championships Gareth Hoskins, playing with his (now Edwardian) son Tom, kindly allowed Tony Stubbs and Peter Boughton to join Steve Burnell and Isaac Weaver in the quarter-finals. However it was Steve and Isaac who nearly upset the form book going down 12-15, 13-14 to H Wiseman and J Lawrence.
Tim Gregory masterminded a successful foray in the EFA Trophy with the OIs making the last four for the second time in three years. Steve Burnell & Simon Woolfries at third pair and Charlotta Cooley & Simon Cass at second took maximum points off everyone apart from North Oxford and give us a pitch at the Old Salopians in the semi-final. Although Cam Lyle and Steve Burnell pulled back impressively in that encounter, forcing their opponents to capitulate, first and third pairs went down, allowing the OSs through to beat North Oxford in the final.
Cam Lyle and Isaac Weaver had a good run in the Graham Turnbull Trophy, making the quarter-final before falling to those Olavians again, Howard and Prajeeth. It was certainly the best Ipswichian showing in the competition for a while. Charlotta Cooley, playing with Luke Free, also impressed, making the last sixteen before bumping into eventual winners Jonny Ho and George Everitt. It was the first time Luke has played at that level so a great effort.
The Ipswich Tournament for the Graves Cup has provided the high point of the Ipswichian fives calendar for forty one years. The brainchild of master tactician John Caudle it retains an unfailing ability to mix players of all sorts and ages in a seriously social weekend that challenges not just fives ability but equanimity and alcohol tolerance as well, for those so inclined. Eighteen pairs this year was an excellent turnout, with just under forty attending the dinner. How Nigel Cox and Peter Boughton with 143 years between them managed to talk their way into the last eight is still a mystery, even to them. Whilst the gallery of past greats who have graced the tournament is impressive, several of the current top players have seemingly not had the courage to face the port challenge (it’s not compulsory, honest). This year there were some great games, none better than Gareth Hoskins and Will Kelly’s semi-final against Tim Gregory and Will Woods, with Tim and Will earning the right to face Seb Cooley and 13 year old Owen Free, who had overcome Karen Hird and Oli Watts in another tight semi-final. Despite a strong start by Tim and Will in the final, Seb and Owen proved worthy winners. Steve Burnell and Alex Williams beat Charlotta Cooley and Andrew Whitehead for the Stubbs (roasted plastic) Plate.
Steve Burnell and Charlotta Cooley spearheaded a respectable performance in the Richard Barber Cup with Isaac Weaver on fine form leading the pupil element. Losing tight games in the group meant we missed the semis and having made the Plate final we were frustrated to lose 1-2 to St Olave’s 2. There were promising performances from the U15 pupils Sankaman Malaravan and Rohit Bhagwat but they weren’t quite able to carry Stubbsy over the line. We look forward to having them playing in OI colours before long.
Steve Burnell and Tim Gregory had good wins in their group at the Northern Tournament, making the play-off for the last eight but finding Cox and Worth a bit too good. Tony Stubbs and Peter Boughton made the Festival quarter-final, falling to some (ever so young) Olavians.
Steve and Tim took a respectable number of points off Ed and Al Taylor in the first round of the Kinnaird and just missed a semi-final place in the Pepperpot Plate, losing 7-8 in the quarter-final decider. Tim switched to playing with daughter Natasha in the Festival and reached the quarter-finals, as did Isaac Weaver. The resultant Ipswichian head to head in the quarter-final losers Plate final went to the Gregorys 15-14.
Lockdown gives time to contemplate life without fives and so to be doubly grateful to all those that manage the game and administer the matches and tournaments that give us so much enjoyment. Many thanks to all who play their part in the life of our wonderful game.
*Editor's Note: The season ended with Peter Boughton being awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement award
Summers Cup players and winners; U21 runners-up
Regrettably, this was another difficult year and the outlook for 2020/21 doesn’t look too promising - notwithstanding anything else that might impact the season! Unfortunately, the team’s quality and depth have still not recovered from the loss of several key players to University over the last couple of years, ongoing injuries and the arrival of small children. Unfortunately the latter illness looks likely to impact the 20/21 season as well. However, if we can struggle through this year, the return of our University cohort and the predicted drop in fertility rates in NW7 should lead to a resurgence in the club’s fortunes the year after. Given two of the new arrivals have already “landed on”, we may be the Chris Froome of the Fives world if the start of the season is delayed.
In terms of league results, we were solidly mid-table in both Division 1 and Division 2 before the season stopped but the thinness of our ranks meant we disappointingly picked up penalty points in both divisions, albeit significantly fewer than last year.
We should mention the club’s two stars of the season – Oli Sander and Jitesh Patel - who continue to represent the club across both divisions, often doing so through injury and having to go out of their way to juggle work and home arrangements to make themselves available. The club is also hugely grateful for Andrew Rennie’s continued support both as a key player and as the vital and enthusiastic link between the club and current pupils. Whilst the flow of pupil recruits has been slower than usual in the last couple of years, compounding our other availability issues, Andrew’s sterling work means we expect to see an increased number competing for the club in the next 12 months. Testimony to Andrew’s efforts has been the continued and growing success of the Summers Cup. This was the third year the tournament, where a schoolboy is partnered with an OM player, has been held at the school. With 10 pairs competing, the tournament is a fantastic vehicle for introducing schoolboys and girls of all ages, and their parents, to the club. Finally, our Royal Holloway imports, Will Seath and Ollie Avery, continue to improve the squad and will soon be finishing University and, hopefully, staying in London and be able to play for us more regularly.
There were some individual highlights. Sunil Tailor wasn’t quite able to reach the semi-final of the Kinnaird again this year but did manage to reach the quarters. Andrew Rennie and Charles Plummer were extremely unfortunate to lose a gripping five-setter against the seventh seeds, Caplin and Young, losing the last two games by just two points. Vishal Bhimjiyani reached the semis of the London with Ed Taylor. Hal Gibson-Leitao continues to improve, this year reaching the final of the Universities championships, narrowly losing 2-1. Hal also partnered Charles Plummer in the U21 competition, in which they narrowly lost a thrilling five set final.
Apart from minimising penalty points in the League, the key focus for this year is to keep trying to re-establish regular club nights to ensure we are providing fives for anyone who wants it and to re-introduce a social element to the game which has almost disappeared at league fixtures. We hope that regular club nights will afford the opportunity to play, practice, and come together socially as a club which is what our current crop of players are looking for.
Alan Barber and Richard Barber Cup champions
No report received yet
Presidents past and present; EFA Trophy winners
The Salopians have had another strong season both as a club and individually. We have had a lot of success as a club in the last couple of years and that has been coupled with the improvement of our playing membership. Many in the club have equalled or bettered their competition bests and while we are not quite there in winning individual competitions, we have more players consistently getting further in tournaments.
We celebrate, this year, the first time we have ever defended the division 1 or division 2 title. So, in true fashion we decided to do them both in one go! A feat that we believe is the first time in Eton Fives history. We also won the EFA competition for the first time since 2014 and 9th time overall.
For us this shows that we have a vibrant club with lots of active playing members who have demonstrated consistently their ability on the court. Something we are very proud of.
This season also marks the end of an era. Richard Barber has stepped down as President of the club. His name has a long history in Eton Fives and he has held senior positions in our club for literally decades and navigated us through many ups and downs. It is time that he merely enjoys the game of fives and allows someone else to take over the stewardship of the club.
We had a celebratory dinner in his honour – and while nothing we could have done would have reflected all he has done for our club it was a great evening with many generations of Salopian fives players present.
That evening was also to welcome our new President – Mike Hughes. Another stalwart of the Salopian Fives club and we wish him luck on his presidency. The picture below shows the incoming President presenting our departing President with a token of our gratitude.
We have been working hard to maintain contact with recent leavers from school and university, and we are very pleased to see a number of recent leavers play for the Salopians both in the league and the victorious EFA trophy team. We are delighted that we have been able to get them playing for us – the future is looking very bright.
Onto much less important news - this season marks the end of my tenure as Club Secretary and Sam Welti is taking over. I wish him the very best in breathing fresh enthusiasm to the club and build on the successes of this season.
We hope you are all keeping safe and we very much look forward when we can get back on court with you all.
Old Westminsters at Eton; Andrew Aitken Cup; London tournament winners; A familiar sight in 2019/20
The Old Westminster Eton Fives Club had a very high bar to surmount this season, fresh from winning the Eton Fives Association’s Team of the Year Award for the first time in the club’s history. After the success of the team as a whole last season—culminating in a well-deserved OW trip to Grillon, France—and both division teams now comfortably sitting mid-table, this year has so far been characterised by individual successes and attainment.
The Old Westminsters were once again represented in the Ladies Championship by Elana Osen, who is due to play her fourth semi-final in the competition when play resumes, but our two standout stars this year were Riki Houlden and Hugo Young. After multiple appearances in slam tournament finals, knocking at the door of greatness, this season Riki managed to topple the fives world’s Goliath by besting a heretofore unbeaten pair (who had 8 years and 24 slam tournament titles to their name) to win the London Tournament. Indeed, there seemed to be no trophy safe from the Old Westminster onslaught, with Hugo (almost single-handedly, insofar as is possible in a doubles game…) scooping up wins at the Men’s and Mixed University Championships, the Men’s U21s and U25s, the Midlands Tournament, and even reaching the semi-final of the Northern tournament by beating a pair of former champions. He followed this with an impressive run to the quarter finals of the Kinnaird before being knocked out by our own Riki Houlden, who reached the semi-finals, to be played after the season resumes. Both Riki and Hugo’s achievements were deservedly recognised with nominations for EFA end-of-season awards in the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year categories, respectively. Hugo's resounding victory in his category was testament to his meteoric rise this season and bodes well for the future of the club.
Rich Ambler models the new Wulfrunian team kit
Socially, throughout the season and over the preceding Summer, our Thursday nights have been well attended by the usual suspects with courts occupied most weeks with very pleasurable and competitive games.
Sadly, we couldn't repeat our heroics of reaching another Barber Cup semi-final this year. Our first match came against the Old Etonians, who we had beaten on our own courts last year, but this year we had to go to Eton. The Etonians were fielding a considerably stronger line-up this year and their recent Schools Champions across both pairs proved too strong and consistent for a strong Wulfrunian contingent of Chris Austin, Sid Simmons, Dave Jones and Greg Hammond.
The EFA Trophy came at the wrong time for a lot of us and we mustered 3 willing EFA Trophy stalwarts (Phil Bullock, Rich Ambler and Dan McKernan) to venture down to Eton for the all-day qualifiers. Gareth worked his magic and combined our efforts with that of the Old Aldenhamians, a similarly friendly bunch of Fives-playing folk, to create a team whose name was quite creative, but I can't remember it....? A great day was had by all, with plenty of laughter and fun (nothing to do with the Fives - just the legendary Ambler's wardrobe malfunction. If you haven't seen the picture - please see above!). Qualification just eluded the hybrid team, but they're all looking forward to what will happen next year.
My sincerest thanks must go to all players for their continued commitment to our club nights and long day trips out for fixtures. Special thanks again this year to Mark Yates and Greg Hammond on their continued work on the organisational side of the club.
As always.....can't wait for next season whenever that may be.
University Champions; Varsity Match teams
The Oxford University Eton Fives Club Men’s team have enjoyed yet another fantastic season, with the side consisting of several returning Blues members and a number of fledgelings that have flourished throughout the year. The Club certainly seems to be thriving, with several distinguishing achievements dotted throughout the season as testament. Particular commendation is due to Hugo Young for his stand-out performances, accumulating more than a handful of trophies throughout the season. That said, credit is due to all players in OUEFC’s Men’s team for the commitment shown this year.
The highlight was incontrovertibly the Varsity Match. The day at Eton witnessed both teams put in commendable performances, with the men in dark blue overcoming their well-established rivals. Oxford were privileged in that that many of its players were more familiar with the sport, with most having played Eton Fives throughout their school career. Nevertheless, this represented the last opportunity for several Oxford players to represent the side, a fact that will no doubt have implications for Varsity matches in the coming years. Both teams competed hard, but the Cambridge team’s victory was thwarted by the composure and consistency of the strong Oxford side. High quality fives from Oxford led to victories for the first, second, third, fourth and sixth pairs. Overall, the performance was a culmination of a fantastic season filled with determination and passion for the game. Credit to Cambridge is due, however, for putting in strong performances, especially considering the dearth of experience some of the team members had heading into this prestigious fixture.
Overall, Oxford University Eton Fives Club finds itself in an excellent position, with both the Men’s and Women’s sides enjoying success in a wide variety of competitions. However, it has become increasingly patent that to maintain this success, Oxford ought to adopt a more Cambridge-like approach to player recruiting, and it will be interesting to see how the team responds to the challenges ahead in order to carry its momentum into the new season.
Stuart Kirby from Derby Moor Fives club (rugby code) deserves some high praise for his commitment to bringing down players for regular sessions with us, and David Exley from the school itself is starting to make some headway with plans to bring the sport into the regular rota.
Plans for the coming year include continued restoration of the courts, setting up a few games with the school, and perhaps finding some other local games.
Exciting things happening up in Repton folks, the courts are in use!
Having recently taken over from Tom Tsang up here, we’ve moved from a monthly, to fortnightly session. With the attendance of various groups from the school we are starting to generate some good atmosphere on our Wednesday evenings.
Overall, things are certainly looking up for the club, but we could always do with some more players. Having lived in Nottingham for the better part of five years, I know there isn’t a lot of availability to play in the Midlands - so if you know anyone who used to enjoy a game then please, please, please put them in touch and let them know we are playing up here.
The year started with high hopes; the 2018-19 season saw the club grow in both number and activity, and we hoped that the new members would push the club to a “critical mass” where we could grow more quickly, and this did prove to be the case. The regular attendance doubled to roughly 12-16 almost every Tuesday night, and the standard of play improved and enthusiasm grew, to a point where players with single-digit experience felt they could enter tournaments, no matter the odds stacked against them.
The universities’ tournament saw a record five RHUL pairs, and although few were holding their breath for a Hollywood-esque trophy run, we were happy with our performances and everyone who played thoroughly enjoyed the day. The next few months saw more progress on the performance front, with more players pledging themselves to the Windsor and Eton division 3 team.
The weeks after Christmas saw Max Dobson (Old Bryanstonian) step down from the social secretary position, with Ben Whelan (new) taking up the reigns with gusto, with numbers continuing to grow after the holidays, in eager anticipation of the impending Northern Tournament. RHUL entered 6 pairs, despite a number of members being unavailable, (or incapacitated, such as Ollie Avery breaking his leg two weeks prior to the weekend). Again, good times were had by all, but we were disappointed to see that our traditional Friday night haunt, Monty’s bar, was full.
Overall, this has been an excellent season for us as a club, and we hope that this can be continued next season. Unfortunately, RHUL has not seen much attention from female players over the last couple of years, but hopefully, this is due to change. Matilde Bianchi joined us this year having played at Zuoz, and next year will be taking the newly made position of Women’s Captain. This will be part of an entirely new committee, with myself and Ollie leaving the university at long last. It will be a challenge to let go of the club to which we have devoted much time and energy, but we are confident that it is in good hands and want to thank everybody who has made this final year with the club everything we could have hoped.
This year saw fully fledged division 3 and division 2 teams taking to the courts with enthusiasm and excitement.
For Division 3, having had a bit of a re-start with some new faces and Westway-originated adult learners of fives, they had a refreshed team and unusually had to turn down offers to play when numbers were *too good*! What a nice problem to have!
Completing six of the seasons matches before the early stop due to lockdown. With three wins in the bag which we were very proud of from some hard-fought matches.
Outside of the league, Team Westway entered the first mixed team competition and the EFA Trophy. With members also competing in the individual tournaments and more uptake for some of the extracurricular fives we're set to have an even stronger season if 2020 allows.
With Team Westway Div 2 finishing on -1 points for the 2019-20 season, one could be forgiven for thinking this season was our annus horriblis. Yet, behind the numbers lay some hard fought and entertaining encounters.
In November we lost 2-1 to North Oxford. Martin and Tim won their match in a five game epic. Against St Olave’s we came just short, this despite Tom and Chris’ impressive straight games victory. Bert and Tim were involved in a war of attrition against Eton. They fought until the lights went out to take their match, up 2-1 and 9-8 in the fourth. At Millhill School Adam and Marc showed real grit taking points against a top pair.
The club’s negative points tally was not a result of penalties for financial fair play or doping, but rather our inability to field a full team on two occasions. With a little more strength in depth, we can hope for a more positive season to come.
Windsor & Eton
Still on a high from winning division three for the first time in quite a few years, we overcame the loss of players through injury, drunken rugby tackles, motor bike accidents and even one player leaving the country to avoid playing another five setter against his wife. The season got off to a great start with a win over North Oxford 3 and continued well until the forced early end with WEFC winning four out of the six games played. Our new regular first pair of Jeff Lawrence and Stephen Thatcher played well together but with mixed results. Ollie Avery and Ben Whelan both played well and were unbeaten in their matches, Ollie only losing 51 points in 9 games. Our club nights have been boosted by the increased numbers of Royal Holloway players and a ‘Well Done’ to Will and Ollie for all the hard work in building up the RH team. Let's hope it continues next season under new management!