Richard Elliott missed a game for the first time in nearly 10 years but Higham Band still started with a whitewash in the Kettering and District Table Tennis League.
The Premier Division campaign opener saw Elliott absent for his first Kettering League match in almost a decade as he recovers from a recent hernia operation.
So Northants Men’s County champion and County number one Andy Trott was called up in his place and, as expected, he recorded a comfortable hat-trick.
Mark Nannery and Andy Harrison also recorded hat-tricks as Higham started the season with a resounding 10-0 victory over last season’s first division champions Thrapston SAS.
Stan Galkowski performed best for SAS, losing in the decider to Harrison after being 2-0 ahead, as well taking Trott to two deuce games.
Thrapston Eagles were also promoted to the top flight last season, but like their SAS team-mates, they found themselves on the wrong end of a 10-0 whitewash.
Aiden Smith carded a straight games hat-trick, and Lee O’Boyle and Henry Arthur dropped just one end each, both to Graham Ellson.
Kettering A have lost the services of Steve Silk who has transferred to Westfield A, but with the evergreen John Fuller in their side, they can be sure of a sustained title challenge again this season.
Against Braybrooke, Chris Gibbons was the only player to take an end from him and with Mike Hawes gaining two key victories late in the fifth end over Michael Edwards and Chris Gibbons respectively, Kettering ran out 6-4 victors. Gerald Henson won twice for Braybrooke, and with Gibbons and Edwards both seeing off Carl Leeson the match was only decided when Fuller and Leeson teamed up to take the doubles against Gibbons and Henson.
The reliable Kevin Bird was another player to hit a hat-trick in the first week of the season and his performance proved to be the foundation of an 8-2 victory for Westfield A over Burton Baptist B. Sam Wildman and Roumen Stefanov both recorded doubles for Westfield with Jacek Koltuniuk providing the main resistance with two victories for the church based side, including an 11-9 fifth end win over Stefanov.
Results: Higham Band 10 (Trott 3, Harrison 3, Nannery 3, Nannery/Harrison) Thrapston SAS 0, Corby Town A 10 (Smith 3, O’Boyle 3, Arthur 3, Smith/O’Boyle) Thrapston Eagles 0, Kettering Town A 6 (Fuller 3, Hawes 2, Fuller/Leeson) Braybrooke 4 (Henson 2, Gibbons, Edwards), Burton Baptist B 2 (Koltuniuk 2) Westfield A 8 (Bird 3, Wildman 2, Stefanov 2, Bird/Stefanov).
On paper the first division looks extremely competitive this season and the opening match of the certainly confirmed this.
Visitors Rothborough Arrows taking the doubles to complete a 6-4 win over Harborough Diamonds.
Julian Marlow’s treble included a 14-12 5th end win over Liam Burnham, while Steve Crooks double for Diamonds included a 12-10 5th end win over Helen Watts.
Newly-promoted Thrapston Falcons were involved in a marathon match with Harborough Rangers, eventually finishing at 11.10pm. Mike Brocklebank and James Allington both recorded trebles for Rangers but all their games needed at least 4 ends.
Anthony Marray came closest to beating them going down to both in tight fifth ends.
Marray and Beth Tyler both one once and combined to take the doubles but Rangers left for the long journey home 7-3 winners.
Thrapston Kites started the season with a 7-3 win over promoted Corby C thanks to trebles from Peter Briggs and Paul Goodman who also combined to add the doubles.
Geoff Judd came back from two ends to one down against Kyle Murie, Ryan Cassidy and Alex Dickson only to lose in the 5th end on each occasion.
Results: Harborough Diamonds 4 (Crook 2, Burnham, Coombs) Rothborough Arrows 6 (Marlow 3, H Watts 2, Marlow/H Watts), Thrapston Falcons 3 (Marray, Beth Tyler, Marray/Beth Tyler) Harborough Rangers 7 (Brocklebank 3, J Allington 3, V Allington), Thrapston Kites 7 (Briggs 3, Goodman 3, Briggs/Goodman) Corby C 3 (Cassidy, Murie, Dickson).
It was a Wednesday start for all the matches in Division Two, with some new names and old favourites, plus returning players.
This was the case at Burton with Suzy Mills returning after a 15-year absence to renew old acquaintances with the Kettering B players. And it was a winning start when she beat Ann Woolston in straight ends. The star though was hat-trick hero James Young, although Woolston was the only one who took him to 5 ends. Jim Chatburn and Dennis Millman bagged a pair each and snatched the doubles to ensure the 6-4 victory.
It was a busy night at Montsaye with three matches, and when Gladiators played Dakotas it was a harsh lesson for the new boys as only one game went beyond 3 ends. The experience and skill of Cathy Fleming, Gareth Lewis and Pete Rowbotham claimed a whitewash.
The main feature of Comets match against Corby D was the number of nets and edges, particularly for Stewart Abraham. However Ivor Jones’ spectacular return onto the very edge of the corner against Abraham redressed the balance somewhat. David Simmons’ guile gave him a treble and half of Comets final tally but Abraham and Tom Cardwell won their remaining games. Pete Sturges’ stiff resistance did force a victory against Keith McLaren and was the difference in the 6-4 score line.
The Montsaye star was Sean Smith who, with Lauren Ainsworth, got their season’s off to a great start with maximums, when Exocets took on Thrapston Hawks. Smith only needed 12 ends to win all 4, including the doubles with Ainsworth. Alfie Wright for Hawks was the busiest player, after losing in 5 to Ainsworth he then beat Martin Bradford, also by the narrowest of margins. Joe Kent chipped in with a victory but the 8-2 win was comprehensive.
Mark Pearson won all of Imps’ 4 points at Islip, although none of them easy. Otherwise Paul Blantern, Mike Burrows and Beth Tyler – playing in 2 matches – each won doubles. Ron Palfrey pushed Burrows hard and partnered Pearson in a close doubles against the Harriers men.
Results: Burton Baptist E 4 (Young 3, Mills) Kettering B 6 (Chatburn 2, Millman 2, Woolston, Chatburn/Millman), Rothborough C 6 (Simmons 3, Jones, Sturges, Simmons/Sturges) Corby D 4 (Abraham 2, Cardwell 2), Rothborough E 8 (L Ainsworth 3, Smith 3, Bradford, Ainsworth/Smith) Thrapston Hawks 2 (Kent, Wright), Rothborough G 0 Rothborough D 10 (Fleming 3, Lewis 3, Rowbotham 3, Fleming/Lewis), Thrapston Harriers 6 (Blantern 2, Burrows 2, Tyler 2) Harborough Imps 4 (Pearson 3, Palfrey/Pearson).