Swifts Junior Badminton Club from Surrey became the undisputed court kings of the inaugural National Junior League season after claiming a remarkable clean sweep of national title wins in Milton Keynes.
The league drew to an end as 20 teams represented 17 local divisions to battle it out in front of a packed audience to watch the Premier Club top the podium in U12 and U16 age groups on Saturday before the U14 team extended that winning feeling into Sunday.
As one of six established junior clubs in the draw alongside teams formed in schools and community trust, Swifts’ quality across all age groups was not unexpected but the manner of their title winning performances was.
The Under 12s win, led by 100% records for Lila Dundas and Dominic Nabasa, was sparked by a perfect record in the group stages in which they dropped just one game in 25 across the five team fixture format.
A 5-0 win over the lively, vibrant and facepainted Wycombe Wizards and a 4-1 victory against Chew Valley Juniors from Avon set the tone for a title charge. But it took a nervy 3-2 win over the Wizards in the champions play-off to win the title.
The Wycombe Wizards, coached by Surrey Smashers’ Abigail Holden, claimed the runners up spot whilst Chew Valley Juniors claimed third.
The bronze for Chew Valley was a remarkable milestone on a journey which has seen the club re-born and now registering over 100 members, some of whom have only been playing badminton for 18 months, whilst the team spirit from Wycombe best captured the spirit of the National Junior League.
For Swifts, the U16 team shared the U12 winning mentality with Imogen Galvin and Chris Chong particularly impressive.
The U16 group stage saw an intriguing mix of teams formed in junior clubs whilst three represented the community trusts from three football clubs – Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City – formed as part of the much heralded Premier League 4 Sport project.
Again it was the established junior clubs who emerged as title contenders with Swifts outsting eventual runners up, Kesteven Superzone, 4-1 in the champion play-off despite the stirling efforts of Marco Agapito and Courtney Sharples which ended in silver.
Third went to Uphill Badminton Club who edged a 3-2 bronze medal match against the impressive Wolves Community Trust side whose quality, especially that of Harshina Muthukrishnan, defied that of a squad not versed in regular, competitive badminton.
With U12 and U16 titles already heading to Surrey, the pressure was on the Swifts U14 side to match their team mates and they did not disappoint, despite the best efforts of near rivals Corsham Junior Club.
Swifts completed the hat-trick of title wins after taking a 100% group stage record into the play off for top spot. Their group stage record was matched by Group A winners, Corsham Junior Club who only conceded one game from 14 in the group rounds but were on the wrong end of the a 4-1 scoreline against Swifts in the shoot out for the title.
St Ursulas Badminton Club, buoyed by strong performances by Hannah Warren and William Mullaney, had pushed Swifts close in the group stage and were rewarded by a bronze medal.
Reflecting on their remarkable hat-trick, Swifts team manager Phil Chapman said: “It has been an unbelievable weekend for the club. We had hopes of maybe winning one title but to win all three is fantastic. We are so proud of all our players.
“They have been getting used to the rules at club nights and we have been to watch Surrey Smashers play in the NBL so they do know a bit about the format and that helped.
“Now we hope to come back next year and try and defend the titles.”
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