Champions celebrate at annual awards night

Martyn Garnett
Martyn Garnett

WILLINGDON cricketers celebrated the club’s best ever season at their annual dinner and awards night.

All three teams finished in the top three of their respective leagues with the first eleven emerging as East Sussex League division one champions by a comfortable margin.

It was a particularly momentous year for skipper Stefan Ashford who, as well as leading his team to their title triumph, became a father for the first time.

“We were the best team in the league by far,” said chairman Dick Holste, who next year celebrates his own quarter century milestone in the Willingdon CC chair.

Addressing players and guests at Willingdon Golf Club last Saturday, the chairman said that sadly the club’s facilities would not allow them to be promoted into the Sussex League. But he added, “I am sure this side will retain the East Sussex League title next year.”

The second eleven under Darren Pierce had finished third in division six after winning their first seven games of the season.

Added Holste, “Normally that would mean promotion but I believe Uckfield have resigned from the Premier League due to cost and travelling time and are to rejoin the East Sussex League in division three. We will know more about being promoted after the league’s annual meeting.”

A late burst in division 12 had taken the thirds, comprising “youth, experience and old farts” to third place and promotion. Mark Shimmons, who had captained the side on many occasions, was currently in Australia representing England over-60s.

“It was great for the thirds to have an international cricketer guiding them,” enthused Holste. They rose to the occasion and with a late spurt gained promotion.”

Holste thanked officials and committee members for their support . He had a special word for Merv Yates who had joined the club in 1986 with him and had served it in various roles, not least as treasurer for the last 20 years. Merv was now stepping down from that position to concentrate on his groundsman role.

As always, the main entertainment of the evening was provided by former England hockey international Roger Dakin who was making his eighth major speech in six days, his most recent having been at the Crowne Plaza in London where he addressed the winding-up event on its 100th anniversary of the Ghosts Hockey Club, an international touring side which was founded on 11/11/1911.

Dakin, without doubt one of the funniest speakers on the national after-dinner circuit, was again on great form.

But he did strike a serious note when he recalled how, when he attended his first Willingdon CC dinner 18 years’ ago, the club were really struggling, even to field a second eleven.

“Now you have three highly successful sides and I congratulate the committee on doing such a fantastic job in keeping the club going and building it up to what it is today,” he said. “This club is always a pleasure to come to and is always great fun.”

Award winners were as follows:

Batting Cup: Martyn Garnett; Bowling Cup: Duncan Ford; Catching Cup: Stefan Ashford; Fielding Cup: Martyn Garnett; Robin Hanley trophy, Gareth Wall; Mike Cragg Trophy (champagne moment), Mick Wheeler; President’s Cup: Jamie Bremer; John Thompson Memorial Cup: Jack Hepburn.

Players of the Year First team Duncan Ford 2nd team: Simon Fuller; 3rd team: George Pantry Sunday team: Gareth Wall.

Chairman’s award, Stefan Ashford.