Well, what can I say? Sunday 7th June was a bit of a whirlwind and I’m chuffed to bits to say that Team Derby won the very first National Badminton League title!
It’s been a real privilege to play with genuine stars of the game today and it’s all turned out rather well. We managed to finish second in the league, which meant we qualified for Finals Day at K2 Crawley, and lined up against the University of Nottingham in the semi-finals.
My mixed doubles partner, Martin Campbell, and I managed to seal a 3-1 win to make it to the final against another local rival, Loughborough Sport. It’s been fantastic pulling together as a team and with one last collective push we were able to force another victory and take the very first NBL title. Get in!
I have to say I think we deserved it, though. It’s a great team to have been involved with and I’ve seen how hard everybody has worked to make it work. I’m particularly happy for the guys who ran the team, not least our Head Coach, Donna Kellogg, my doubles partner at the Athens Olympics. I know her well and talking to her over the season I’ve come to appreciate the effort she’s put in.
As a player, it’s easy to miss a lot of what goes on behind the scenes – the organising, the PR work and the attention to detail – but I understand that more and more all the time. There’s never been a national league before and there have been so many format changes, but Donna and her staff have had to commit to the process and have shown us players an incredible amount of belief.
I think I can speak for all of us and say that their help and support has made a massive difference. And the Orange Army fans have been amazing too – noisy lot!
The new format has speeded things up a lot, and sometimes it’s been a bit confusing, but it’s definitely fun and a real positive for the sport. It can feel a little like a show or an exhibition but I think that will pass as the NBL grows. Everyone is convinced it will and there’s talk of trying to attract more of the world’s very best players for next season. I just hopes that it grows at a sensible, organic pace and doesn’t get ahead of itself.
As for me, I’m pretty pleased with my overall performances in the circumstances. No excuses, but I’ve hardly played in recent years and haven’t had the time to put in the practice hours. That said, to win two out of seven is alright by me, especially in the really important match against Nottingham in the semi-final.
But I’m not quite sure yet about returning next year. I’ve said I won’t join another team out of loyalty to Donna, so it’s Derby all the way, but I’m wondering if a super-sub role is on the cards. Playing the odd cameo might suit me these days.
We’ll see what comes out in the wash but is has been a real pleasure to take part in the first NBL season and to have been involved with such a good bunch at Team Derby. It was a new experience in many ways, but in others it felt like I was rolling back the years!