On Saturday 25th January, Abbeygate Premier Badminton Club hosted their 13th ‘Ray Learney’ Junior Team Challenge in Bury St Edmunds. A healthy entry of nine teams from junior badminton clubs around the county included: Abbeygate, Bosmere, Debenham Juniors, “Little Shots” St Phillips Newmarket, Stowmarket and YMCA. The fifty-five young badminton players competed in many fiercely fought matches culminating in 81 games during which saw Abbeygate ‘Red Team’ defeat Stowmarket ‘Blue Team’ in the final by 2-1 games.
Each match consisted of three doubles games U12, U14 and U16. For some of the players, this was their first taste of inter-club competition and with the addition of an onsite restringing service provided by Topspin Tennis, they were able to gain valuable experience in readiness for future competitions. Throughout the tournament, there was a great atmosphere generated by the players and supporters. It was positive to see many players grow in confidence and some games were won by very tight margins of only one or two points. Players also took part in the annual fun ‘One Minute Team Challenge’ with Ipswich YMCA achieving the highest score.
A new award, “The Players’ Player” was introduced this year, in memory of Abbeygate Badminton Club's longstanding member and respected coach Paul Brinkley, who undertook many roles in the club and county over the years. Players were asked to nominate players in the opposing teams who demonstrated good sportsmanship and effort. Connie Adderson from Stowmarket Badminton Club was the first successful recipient and was presented with the award by Sue Brinkley. Money was raised during the event for St Nicholas Hospice. Esther Learney presented the 'Ray Learney' shield and medals to the Abbeygate ‘Red Team’ players Christine Chua, Caira Pourithodiyil, Josh Learney, Matthew Bartly, Ned Jones and James Fordham.