Whoever decided that the way to select St Andrews TTC’s Swots and Prospects team places for the forthcoming season was to hold a play-off tournament, could not have imagined the tension, the tears, the joy, the shocks and the drama that unfolded in Victory Memorial Hall on 18 August 2014. As the Swots is the more highly ranked team, the prize was securing one of the three coveted places in the Swots’ squad.
The five contenders, Collin Bleak, big Dave Goddard and Emma Bissett (the trio of Swots from last season) and the not so young pretenders, wee Dave Beveridge and Robert Brown (both from the Prospects), had been anticipating the night for weeks. But it didn’t go the way that most pundits expected.
Collin’s first match with Robert witnessed a thrilling narrow victory for Collin in five games. On the other table, Emma started with a surprisingly easy 3-0 triumph over wee Dave who had squandered a 10-5 lead in the second game. As the evening unfolded, Emma continued to confound the form book by demolishing all the crumbling men before her with a display of superbly controlled table tennis – and she duly bagged first place on the Swots’ team.
After both wee Dave and Robert had picked up wins against big Dave (another five game match for Robert) the drama really unfolded. Collin usually gets the better of wee Dave but he has developed an allergy to one of his ‘nothing’ serves. Mathematician Collin reckoned that serve cost him 12 points in the first two games but, by the time he’d worked out how to return it on the table, the match was lost 3-1.
The two remaining places in the Swots team would be decided by the final two matches. Collin took his wins to 2 with a fairly routine three game victory over big Dave who was now out of the reckoning. Robert was meanwhile battling with wee Dave (by now also on 2 wins) both knowing that they had a fighting chance of a top three finish. The permutations were complex. A win for wee Dave would land him and Collin in the Swots; a heavy loss would favour Robert and Collin. Robert took the first two games comfortably and led 9-3 in the third game. At this stage wee Dave was feeling sick but he wasn’t finished yet. Dredging up all of his remaining willpower (school motto, Perseverando) Dave fought back to take a marathon third game 18-16 and then the fourth 12-10 only to lose the match 10-12 in the fifth.
So what did it mean? Robert, Collin and wee Dave each finished with 2 wins, but on a count back of games won and lost in their encounters with each other, Dave had a 5:4 ratio, Robert 5:5 and Collin 4:5. It was that close. Sporting outcomes are often decided by the finest of margins. But Robert and Dave were not complaining as they secured spots alongside Emma on the Swots.
The final mention and thanks go to Elaine Forbes, who superbly organised and umpired the competition, and to Howard Lee who generously gave up his practice night to umpire on the second table.