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The Chair of North Tyneside Council, Cllr Wendy Lott, presented the shields for the Most Promising Under 12 Boy & Girl in Northumberland to Naomi Silva and Ryan Cockett at a Civic Reception in North Tyneside.  She praised both for their achievements and wished them great success in the future.

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Two recipients of NBA Volunteer Awards, who were unable to attend the end of season presentation evening, received their trophies during the recent Junior Presentation Event. Ian Little of Yehlex UK, who provided the trophies kindly came along to present them to NBA Junior Coordinator Richard Taylor and to Carolyn Jackson, long-standing member and administrator of Jesmond Dene BC.

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The first team entered the final weekend of the Senior County Championships proudly atop of Division 2 North but knowing they would have to play well to maintain their 3 point lead over Lanarkshire, especially as they had to play the 3rd and 4th placed teams in Cheshire 2 and Lancashire 2 respectively on the Saturday, whilst the Scots were only up against the bottom two sides Lancashire 3 and Cumbria. Second place would be good enough for promotion but sights were set on the title. With various people unavailable, Aphrodite Christodoulou was drafted in from the second team and Richie Eaton played for the first time this season.

Garrylee McMullen got on the scoreboard first, defeating ex-Newcastle University student Josh Au Yeung in two sets. Rich followed that up with his own straight sets win and Aphro did well to take her match in three sets 24-22, 17-21, 21-18. Despite both taking a set, Philip Pahatouridis and Catherine Thomas couldn’t add to the tally but they nevertheless led 3-2 going into the doubles.

The men’s were shared, with Ryan Jelley and Philip winning, to maintain the lead at 4-3 and an excellent three set win from Eleanor Laws and Catherine, 21-19 in the third, also saw the women’s shared, the lead now 5-4 with just one mixed for the match victory.

Both Ryan and Lucy Dixon, and Richie and Eleanor, took their opening sets before, in turn, being pegged back to one set all. The deciding sets were really tight but Ryan and Lucy just got over the line 21-19 whereas Richie and Eleanor just missed out by the same score.

6-5 then, the victory preserving their unbeaten run for the season and keeping Cheshire 2 behind them but Lanarkshire had meanwhile beaten Lancashire 3 9-2, to make them level on 37 points.

The afternoon started well against Lancashire 2 with both Philip and Garrylee winning in straight sets. Richie then took his singles comfortably, 21-9 in the third, and another win from Aphro in two tight sets 22-20, 21-19 meant a 4-1 lead after the singles.

Ryan and Phil won in two at top string but Garrylee and Richie lost out in 3 sets and with the top string ladies lost, Lancashire were still in it at 5-3. Ryan and Aphro had meanwhile lost their opening set but rallied strongly to take the second to 12 and, crucially, the decider 21-17. Another match win at 6-3 but both mixed vital in the race to get ahead of Lanarkshire for the title.

Ryan and Lucy took their opener but Philip and Eleanor lost theirs, only to come back and just edge their second set 21-19. Meanwhile, Ryan and Lucy maintained control to take their second set to 16 for 7-3 and 8-3 duly arrived as Philip and Eleanor held on well to take their third set 21-18. Jubilation was tempered though with the news that Lanarkshire had beaten bottom county Cumbria 10-1 to take the lead by two points. Lothian had also had a good day taking 17 points from their two fixtures to move into third place on 42, only 3 behind, so all still to play for in the final matches on Sunday morning.

This time Lanarkshire had the stiffer test against Cheshire 2, as too did Lothian against Lancashire 2, whilst North were to finish their campaign against seventh placed Lancashire 3. With Lucy and Aphro missing on Sunday, Rachel Frobisher and Lauren Young were drafted in, fresh from their exploits with the second team the previous day, having won the Division 4 North title.

Philip and Garrylee again won in straight sets in the singles and, with Catherine victorious at top string, coming from a set down to win 21-23, 21-16, 21-13, the lead stood at 3-1 with Lauren venturing onto a singles court for the first time for the county. Having been thrown in at the deep end she did the county proud winning 21-18, 21-13 to increase the lead still further.

Ryan and Philip started slowly at top string in the men’s doubles but came back strongly to take their second set 21-19 for one set all. Garrylee and Richie did a mirror image of that, winning their first and then being edged out 21-18 in the second. Both deciders were nip and tuck with all four knowing that a 6-1 lead was on the cards. It was not to be but only by the narrowest of margins, Ryan and Philip going down 23-21 to Northumberland ex-pat Andy Fowler and Joe Steele, and Garrylee and Richie also agonisingly close at 21-19.

The lead kept at 4-3 but their unbeaten record under pressure, let alone the points needed to best Lanarkshire. Rachel and Loz were competitive throughout but went down 22-20, 21-18 for 4-all that left much depending on Elle and Cat. They had taken their opener 21-18 but were just edged out when in sight of victory, 21-19 in the second. Stung by that reverse they quickly established a lead and ran out easy winners 21-10 in the third.

5-4 then and one mixed needed for an unbeaten season. Both pairs won their opening sets, Garrylee and Rachel with little to spare at 22-20 but they went on to take their second set 21-15 to clinch victory. Ryan and Eleanor had meanwhile been pegged back by Fowler and Emily Miller 21-17 in the second but Ryan was determined to get revenge for his men’s, and he and Elle rallied to take the deciding set by the same score. That made it 5 wins out of 6 for Ryan over the weekend.

The unbeaten season preserved with the final score 7-4 but the news that Lanarkshire had won by the same score meant that the title had gone north of the border. Lothian had lost to Lancashire 2 though, also by 7-4, so North finished second two points behind but 6 clear of Lothian in third. The result means promotion to Division 1 North, the highest they have been for a number of years.

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The final Saturday of the Senior County Championships saw the second team host league leaders Lancashire 4 and Durham 2 at the Tyneside Badminton Centre. With a number of players unavailable, and with Aphrodite Christodoulou playing for the first team, they were indebted to Emily Ogden and Newcastle University students Alex Berry and Lexie Howard for filling in. Being 8 points behind leaders Lancashire 4, hopes of winning Division 4 North were not high but a second-place finish would be sufficient for promotion and they were only 2 points behind second placed Cumbria.

Rex Lee soon had North on the scoreboard winning in two sets at top string and Dome Nganpairoj backed that up, just doing enough to win 22-20, 21-19. Jamie Tinnion soon made it 3-0 and that set the tone for the remainder of the match. Lancashire 4 were weakened by their higher teams having to call on some of their players, so much so that they were a lady down which gifted two points to North.

Rex and Yap Yi Xuan just edged their opening set and then took the second comfortably before Ian McGough and Kyle Smith also won in two sets. A straight set win from Rachel Frobisher and Lauren Young clinched the match and overhauling Lancashire was becoming a real possibility.

8-1 up going into the mixed and both needed to bridge the gap! Both pairs duly obliged with Kyle and Rachel, and Ian and Lauren, comfortable winners in two sets. Cumbria 2 meanwhile had also won against Durham 2, but only 8-3 and therefore it was neck and neck for the title with both on 30 points.

The afternoon started well with all 3 men victorious in the singles and, although Holly Robson got Durham on the scoreboard, Emily Ogden’s court coverage proved superior at second string and she triumphed 21-12, 21-19 to make the match lead 4-1. Cumbria meanwhile were 3-2 up against Lancashire after the singles so they were also ahead in the tile race, if only by one!

Ian and Kyle took their men’s in two and, after being pegged back to a set all, Rex and Yap re-established control to take their decider 21-12 to take the lead to 6-1. Cumbria having shared their men’s doubles, were ahead 4-3, the lead in the title race now two!

Alex and Lexie took their ladies in some comfort and meanwhile the top string ladies was proving to be the game of the day. Rachel and Loz took the opening set against Holly and Jessica Moore only to lose the second. The decider was close all the way with neither pair gaining control but, after many changes of lead, it was Durham who led crucially at the end to take it 21-19. The lead now 7-2 but Cumbria had meanwhile shared their ladies’ doubles to lead 5-4 so just one mixed was needed to guarantee the title.

Ian and Loz started well at second mixed taking their opening set 21-13 but Kyle and Rachel were just edged out 22-20. Back they came to take their second set easily to 10 to set up a decider. Ian and Loz had meanwhile put the issue beyond doubt, taking their second set, again by 21-13, which just left the cake to be iced which Kyle and Rachel duly did taking their deciding set 21-18 for a final score of 9-2. Cumbria had meanwhile taken both their mixed to win 7-4 but all to no avail leaving the second team champions of Division 4 North on 39 points and Cumbria 2 second on 37.

So what had seemed unlikely at the start of the day due to the 8 point deficit ended in promotion to Division 3 North. It will be a step up, the last time we made it we came straight back down, so the challenge is clear for next season.

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The County Junior Squads held their annual presentation “do” yesterday at TBC.  This was preceded by 90 minutes of fun games of badminton, table tennis and the new sport (to most of them) pickleball.  It was good to see many parents joining in too.

After two special volunteer presentations (reported elsewhere), Martin Fagan presented a number of certificates to players who had successfully completed the Junior Leaders course that he had ran recently.  Well done to those involved! 

County Chairman Dennis Gray, together with Richard Taylor, then presented certificates to players who had represented the county in matches through the season – there were some 60 in total, although they could not all be present.  This was followed by the presentation of the engraved cups and shields for the various junior restricted tournaments that were held early in the season.

Junior county colours were then presented as follows:-

Half Colours to Amy Ward, Charlotte Graham, Dominic Wilson-Baker, Ellen Davison, Finlay Smith, James Dodd, Lucy Dodd, Mark Walker, Matthew Short, Natalie Ho, and Tim Bodani.

Full Colours to Arif Alam, Melvin Cherian and Vikram Nayyar.

To round off the afternoon, Dennis presented the Bob Forster Salver for the “Most Promising Boy” to Melvin Cherian.  Unfortunately, it had been decided not to make an award for the girls for the season.

Very well done to them all!

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At the end of May, Northumberland’s Under 13 badminton team travelled to the Sportscotland National Sports Training Centre Inverclyde at Largs, on the Ayrshire coast, to compete in the annual Anglo-Scottish Tournament. This brings together eight teams from northern England and all over Scotland in an exciting weekend of badminton.

The Northumberland team was made up of a mix of more experienced players, and those who were travelling away to represent Northumberland for the very first time. The team was Ryan Cockett, Thomas Vicente, Matthew Jefferson, Jake Moir, Lucy Dodd, Reema Rajeev, Cookie Prapunwong and Sophie Cockett, and the team managers were Gillian Cockett and Herve Vicente. 

Northumberland started off with a hard round against the West of Scotland team and although they put in lots of effort, they lost 6-4. In this match, Ryan did well to win a close singles 7-3 in the third end; the strength and experience of Lucy showed as she recorded a very comfortable singles win 15-2, 15-2; Reema also did well and showed no nerves to record her first win in singles and then paired up with Cookie to also win her doubles match. Lucy and Sophie came very close in their doubles but lost 7-4 in the third end, while Ryan and Thomas had a good match in their doubles losing 15-13, 15-11.  An encouraging start.

Day one was always going to be tough for Northumberland as they were due to play most of the strongest teams, and they lost their remaining matches against Clyde 8-2, Yorkshire 8-2 and the winner of the overall competition, Lothian 9-1. All of the children played really well throughout against very strong opposition, including national players from both England and Scotland. In particular, Matthew did well to not be overawed and to put up a really good fight against the No.1 boy in Scotland.

The first match on day two was against Cumbria, and Northumberland were able to record their first win of the competition scoring 7-3. Many of the players did well to get their first victories – Jake had a good win in his singles 15-9, 15-8, and Matthew in his mixed doubles playing with Lucy, and then the two boys went on to win their boys doubles 15-14, 15-10.  Cookie also did well to comfortably win her singles and then teamed up with Lucy to also win her doubles.  The brother and sister partnership of Ryan and Sophie worked well together to win their mixed doubles and Sophie then paired up with Reema to win their girls doubles.

With increased confidence, Northumberland were then able to secure a comprehensive victory against Borders by winning all but one of their games.  Jake did well to win a tight singles match in two games and then pulled off a close victory in the boys doubles playing with Matthew to win 5-15, 15-11, 7-6. Thomas paired up with Ryan and Cookie to win in both doubles and mixed doubles. The youngest member of the team, Sophie, age 9, won her first singles match of the weekend, and then teamed up with Lucy to win their doubles. Reema and Cookie fought well to win a tight doubles match 13-15, 15-9, 7-5.

The final match of the weekend was against a strong team from the Scottish Highlands who had both good girls and good boys and came third overall. Northumberland were only able to win 3 games against them, and lost the match 7-3 but battled well to get some very respectable scores. Ryan did well to win his singles 15-12, 15-8, and Lucy showed her strength to comfortably win her singles and then go on to win her girls doubles playing with Cookie 15-11, 15-7.

After a long weekend of very high quality badminton, the Northumberland team finished 6th out of 8 teams, which was a creditable performance by the team, many of whom are relatively inexperienced at playing at this higher level.

The weekend was finished off by the traditional post-competition visit to the ice cream shop in Largs and the team even found the energy to go on the bumper cars before starting their journey back home.

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Two local players, Lucy Dodd and Will Smith, have achieved excellent personal successes in the last month in their respective tournaments.

Lucy Dodd

Following her success at the Under 13 English National Badminton Championships where she obtained a bronze medal in the girls doubles event, with partner Angie Ahu from Yorkshire, Lucy had a successful weekend at the Under 13 Glasgow Youth International Tournament.

She was part of the “Fire Dragons” team that won the Under 13 team event. This team included boys from Cumbria, Yorkshire and Berkshire plus Lucy, her regular doubles partner Angie Zhu from Yorkshire and another girl from Berkshire. They beat teams from Scotland, Milton Keynes and Germany in their group and another Milton Keynes team in the final.

In the main competition on the weekend, Lucy won bronze in both the singles and girls doubles. In the singles she comfortably beat the Scotland no. 2 in the last 16 and the no. 3 seed from Germany in the quarter final, 21-11 in the 3rd end. In the semi-finals, she played Siofra Flynn from Ireland who was too strong for Lucy and went on to win the event.

In the girls doubles, Lucy and Angie won their group and played the no. 1 seeds and eventual winners, Lucy Brierley and Sophie Chong (runners up in Under 13 Nationals) in the semi-final. They were leading 20-18 in the first end, but couldn’t close it out and lost 22-20 and the second end drifted away from them.

Will Smith

Will has been invited to be part of the GB para-badminton training squad and will attend the GB Badminton Training Group which includes 6 training camps throughout the year and will be given access to coaching and physiotherapy at tournaments.

In the men’s singles event in Dubai, Will beat a Ukrainian player who reached the final of the European Para-badminton Championships in 2018 which was a huge achievement. He managed to get out of his group but lost in the last 16 against a very good Chinese player. In the doubles, he managed to win a bronze medal with his new doubles partner, Bobby Griffin, beating the European finalists.

Will’s current World Rankings are 19th in Men’s Doubles and 21st in Men’s Singles. He is hoping to make the Team GB squad for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo and his next tournament is in June 2019 in Ireland.

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The 2019 Northumberland Badminton Association Presentation Evening took place on Saturday 18th May at The Northumberland Club with over 100 attendees from various clubs across the county.

As usual, the NBA Volunteer Awards (donated by Ian Little from Yehlex) were awarded, with three nominees receiving these awards for their dedication and commitment to their respective clubs or the County Association over a number of years as well as the first recipient of the new Walter Arkley award being presented.

Carolyn Jackson received the first volunteer award for her commitment and dedication to Jesmond Dene Badminton Club, acting as Club Secretary for just under 20 years. Carolyn helped to find a new venue for the club when La Sagesse School was shutdown, including the eventual move to the Tyneside Badminton Centre which needed some good steering to transition as many players as possible. She has taken on the thankless task of completing the Badminton England club and player affiliations year after year, sorted out all GDPR associated with the club and has been the main conduit for information shared around the club during her time as secretary.

The second volunteer award went to Richard Taylor for his commitment to the development of junior badminton across Northumberland. Richard was originally nominated in the earlier years of these awards by his daughter Sarah, but at the time there were considered to be more worthy nominations. However, 10 years on, Richard has spent countless hours organising match dates, junior squads, junior teams, Badminton England junior circuit tournaments, squad clothing, bag packs, raffles and charity walks among various other things. He has worked with Claire Lapworth from Durham to organise what is now an annual junior cup competition between Northumberland and Durham, an event that is played with lots of children and matches in a friendly atmosphere. In addition he has given up a lot of free time to go away with teams to events such as the ICT, which also takes a lot of organisation and administration. Richard has been on the NBA Management Committee for a number of years now and heads up the business committee. He was instrumental in submitting a bid to set up what is now the NBA Futures Squad and also a further bid to obtain a £2,000 grant from Sport Newcastle in 2018 to engage more girls across Newcastle City Centre, introduce them to badminton then feed them into local clubs and squads. He also provides the NBA Treasurer, Julie Brown, with help in managing part of the junior finances.

The final volunteer award of the evening was presented to Ian Ferguson for long standing service to Northumberland Badminton Association. Ian has pretty much done everything over the years as he was County Secretary for Northumberland in the days before email and mobile phones, he took over the Northumberland Junior Club in the mid-1980s and turned it into Lloyds Junior Club, he ran a number of handicap tournaments over the years and, in 1996, he took over the League Secretary role, managing the leagues with pencil and paper and only gave it up when the leagues were computerised. Ian is held in high regard by all as he spent numerous years on the NBA Management Committee. He has been President and Chairman amongst other roles within the Association, he was on the committee well into his 80’s and also did many things for Lloyds Badminton Club. Ian did win an English Badminton Award 12 years ago for his longstanding service to English Badminton. However, to show the County’s appreciation of his efforts and his endless contributions to badminton across Northumberland, he received the third NBA Volunteer Award in 2019.

In addition to the three volunteer awards, Margaret Perry was the first recipient of the Walter Arkley Award which is in memory of longstanding volunteer, Walter Arkley, who passed away in 2017 and was very passionate about badminton in Northumberland. The award is presented in line with Walter’s passion of junior development and support. Margaret received this award for her lifelong outstanding contribution to junior badminton in Northumberland. She has been instrumental in introducing the sport to thousands of children across the county and has spent endless hours coaching and introducing children to badminton. Margaret set up a junior club in the 1990s at DSS Badminton Club and also worked in Primary Schools across Newcastle for Northumberland Badminton Association. She ran the County Junior Squad coaching and teams for over 15 years as well as accompanying several groups of juniors on trips such as Largs and the ICT. Margaret has run numerous tournaments and festivals for the County and also for schools in Newcastle. She has coached with great success in a large number of schools and had particular success at Benfield School, where she worked as a Development Officer and Coach for 15 years. Benfield Boys made the National Schools final several times and a number of her Benfield School players have gone on to represent the County. One particular success has been Philip Pahatouridis who was Northumberland County Men’s Singles Champion, at the age of 17, and is a regular member of the Senior County First Team. Margaret also set up Benfield Bears, administering and coaching the club, organising teams for matches and ferrying them around to matches. Her achievements were recognised in 2011 when she was presented with a volunteer award but she has now reached a stage in her life where she has decided to retire from all the badminton coaching and organisation.

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Recently, 3 school teams from Gosforth, Ponteland and Cramlington competed in Milton Keynes in the National Finals of the National Schools Badminton Championships.  Here is how they fared:

Coach Phil Hall wrote about the performance of the Ponteland boys  who played extremely well, and had they won two of the matches they only just lost 2-3, could have finished a few places higher.

The Ponteland High KS3 boys team of Ollie Edmondson, Jack Tilbury, Hugh Twelves and Jamie Grant competed at the highest level on Sunday 5th May in the National Finals of the National Schools Badminton Championships at Badminton England’s  headquarters in Milton Keynes. After winning both area and regional rounds they all put in excellent performances against four other schools to finish 8th out of the 9 regional winners.

In the first morning match, wins from Ollie Edmondson and then the Hugh Twelves/Jamie Grant combination provided an excellent start, however three losses followed including one at 21 – 20. This meant a 3 – 2 loss to Newbridge High School, the only other HS left in the competition.

Next up was The Webber Independent School for Badminton who won the event last year and were the eventual winners this time. This resulted in a 5 nil loss but the team competed well particularly in the three doubles matches.

In the afternoon (7/8/9 play off’s) the first match was against Wilson’s School. From 2 nil down, the team came back to win 3 – 2 due to Jack winning singles, followed by Ollie/Jamie then Jack/Hugh in doubles.

The final match was versus Chulmleigh Community College from Devon. Here the team were oncemore 2 nil down, brought it back to 2 – 2 but lost the fifth. Within the 3 – 2 loss, 3 games went to 21 – 20 which typified the day, tight gruelling matches,  long rallies, overall an excellent level of badminton.

Over the day all of the boys won some, lost some, puts loads of effort in and never folded. They are a credit to the school and everyone who has helped them reach this level. Hopefully they all stick together for the school and the county over the next few years.

The KS3 Girls team from Cramlington Learning Village ended up in 9th place (out of 9 teams).  This was a young, inexperienced team, but coach Tony Fowler commented “a wonderful experience for our girls. We came 9th out of 9, but we mixed it with the best and gave our best without any heads going down”.  The girls will have learnt a lot from these Finals.

The highest placed team was the KS4 Boys team from Gosforth Academy.  They finished up in 6th place (out of 9 teams).  The PE teacher who accompanied the boys, wrote that the boys played well to achieve a higher placing than last year, “but there’s still a big gap between us and the top teams”.

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Northumberland’s promising junior Lucy Dodd from Ponteland made her second trip to the English National Badminton Championships recently – and came back with a bronze medal. The first event was mixed doubles, which was played in knock-out format.  Lucy played with Oliver Wu from Surrey; the first time that they had played together.  They had good wins in the first two rounds, 21-11 21-11 and 21-8 21-9, respectively, with both pairs including seeds from the girls singles.  In the quarter finals they came up against the no.3 seeds Grace Sachdeva and Sonish Hathi, an experienced pair, and pushed them hard before losing 21-15 21-19.

The next event was the girls’ singles with initial matches played in groups of three.  Lucy had a tough draw, being included in a group with her doubles partner, Angie Zhu from Yorkshire one of the seeds, against whom she has had a number of close wins and losses in the past. After comfortably winning her first group singles, Lucy had a long, hard match against Angie, losing the first end 21-16, before recovering to win the second end 21-19.  Angie proved too good on the day, winning the final end 21-11 and ultimately went on to the semi-finals where she lost to the eventual winner, Yorkshire’s Grace Sachdeva.

Last up was girls’ doubles, with Lucy and Angie confirming their number 3 seeding by comfortably wining all 3 matches in their group to get to the semi-finals.  Here they played the number 2 seeds and eventual winners, Grace Sachdeva and Sia Pandit (both from Yorkshire).  Unfortunately the opposition were too strong, with Lucy and Angie losing 21-6 21-14, but taking a well-deserved bronze medal for their efforts. 

Very well done to Lucy!

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