Mallee Bearings have had an outstanding season remaining undefeated over fifteen rounds and two finals. Their opponents, Exposed Apparel trio of Matt Ljubic, Nicholas Dorman and Jackson Murphy after a slow start to the season had played very good table tennis over the past two months and going in to the grand final, whilst starting underdogs, were considered to be a chance if they could grab one of the two doubles.
– Mallee Bearings 6 (Joel Thomas 3, Mark Ljubic 1) d Exposed Signage/Apparel 3 (Matt Ljubic 2, Nicholas Dorman 1)
Mallee Bearings skipper Thomas’s dominance was evident given he was involved in five of the six rubbers won by his team. His team mates Mark Ljubic and Ed Hung also played their roles with Ljubic accounting for the dangerous Jackson Murphy in the first singles of the night. Murphy was out of the blocks early winning the first game continuing his good form from the preliminary final a week before however Ljubic was able to wrest control and win 8-11 11-5 11-9 11-5.
The next two singles went as expected with Matt Ljubic defeating Ed Hung in straight sets to level the match and then Joel Thomas gave his team the lead when he defeated Nicholas Dorman in a four set tussle. Dorman took the second game by forcing errors from the normally unflappable Thomas and the third was close, however Thomas was able to maintain control to go on and win in a top class four setter.
The first doubles was huge and a brilliant match, for Mallee Bearings Joel Thomas and Mark Ljubic were off to a flyer winning the first game easily before the match changed tact, Matt Ljubic and Nicholas Dorman took the next two games and the match was really hotting up. If the young Exposed pair could win the doubles the thought was the grand final would go down to the wire. As they had done throughout the season Mallee Bearings were able to dig deep and level the match at two rubbers all when Thomas and Ljubic senior dominated the fourth game. The fifth was a nail biter, late in the match Thomas and Ljubic held a small advantage before the younger pair levelled at ten all and then held a match point however were denied. Again, Ljubic and Dorman held a match point and again the experienced Thomas and Ljubic held on and in an enthralling match they took the fifth 14-12 a match where the spectators showed their appreciation. It had been oh so close for the youthful Exposed pair and now Mallee Bearings now took a 3-1 lead.
The next match featured father and son Mark and Matt Ljubic and the younger Ljubic was the favourite however someone forgot to tell father Mark and he steadily took a two games to one lead before Matt fought back to dominate the fourth and fifth to win 7-11 11-8 4-11 11-5 11-3 in a great five setter. The next two singles went as expected and going in to the second doubles Mallee Bearings held a lead of 4-3.
The Bearings pair of Thomas and Ed Hung had enjoyed a very good season as a doubles combination and they were able to maintain a lead in each of the three games against Matt Ljubic and Jackson Murphy winning 11-7 11-5 11-6 and now Mallee Bearings were one win away from a premiership with Joel Thomas stepping up to the table. In 45 singles matches over the season Thomas had not suffered a defeat. Opponent Matt Ljubic was in fact the last player to defeat Thomas in competition play in the preliminary final a year earlier. Thomas took the first easily however the fast improving Ljubic played good table tennis to take the second and whilst Ljubic fought hard in the third it was Thomas who again took control with some fine attacking play. The fourth featured excellent table tennis from both players however it was Thomas who remained on top going on to win 11-3 7-11 11-8 11-6 and enabling Mallee Bearings to take the premiership 6 rubbers to 3.
Exposed Signage/ Apparel had been brave in defeat with Matt Ljubic recording two singles victories and Nicholas Dorman one, could the first doubles have been the difference?
The Mallee Bearings team of Joel Thomas, Mark Ljubic and Ed Hung were deserved premiers and champions and to go through a season undefeated is outstanding. For Thomas this was his fourth premiership as it was for an excited Ed Hung. For Mark Ljubic this was the end of a drought, this was his third premiership his last in 1993.
Whilst neither MJM Automotive nor Mallee Meats finished on top the ladder, they were the most two most closely matched teams of the season, with eight wins each, and MJM Automotive winning just two more rubbers than their opponents during that time. Mallee Meats were favourites to win this game, though, as they had defeated MJM Automotive on the three occasions they met.
– MJM Automotive 6 (Jason Gifkins 2, Geoff Wright, Quentin Clark 1) d Mallee Meats 2 (Sony Sefer, Arthur Paar 1)
MJM Automotive captain Geoff Wright threw a scare into his camp in the days leading up the Grand Final, being bedridden with one the winter wogs that are prevalent this time of the year. Arrangements were hastily made for a replacement, should Wright declare himself unfit, and his side waited anxiously to see if he arrived for the game.
Wright climbed from his sick-bed, trekked to Mildura, and prepared as best he could for the battle.
His number two Jason Gifkins immediately lifted his spirits, downing opposing captain Russell Walder in a long and close five setter. There was nothing between these two in the first two sets, each taking a set 13-11, Walder faltered in the third giving Gifkins an easier win there 11-6, but Walder then rebounded in the fourth 13-11, setting up a fifth set decider. Once again Gifkins proved the steadier of the two getting a break on his opponent early in the set, and maintaining it to take the fifth 11-7. This was promising to be a long night.
The pendulum then swung in Mallee Meats favour in the next two rubbers.
Mallee Meats number two Sony Sefer firstly took on MJM Automotive number three Quentin Clark, and won a truly nail-biting game, the winning point coming from a ball which hit the edge of the baseline, giving Clark no chance of retrieving. Clark had looked the more dominant player, even in defeat, but Sefer had had just enough periods of dominance throughout the match to win 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9.
The next match also went to Mallee Meats, and it initially looked that Wright’s decision to play was the wrong one. Wright and Arthur Paar engaged in a bit of arm-wrestling in the first set, Paar finally taking the win 18-16, then went two sets up after dominating the second set 11-7. Wright made a big effort in the third set, producing a win for him 11-5, but he seemed to then run out of steam as Paar obliterated him in the fourth set 11-3 taking a surprise win. That win gave Mallee Meats captain Russell Walder cause to wonder, “If our number three can beat Wrighty, what about Sony and I?”.
Well, that wonderment was put to the test in the very next rubber, for Sefer and Walder faced off against Wright and Gifkins in the first doubles. The Mallee Meats pair took the first set 11-9, but Wright and Gifkins responded brilliantly in the next two sets taking control of those sets 11-6, 11-5 to lead two sets to one. Walder and Sefer grafted their way back into the game, however, winning the fourth 13-11 to set up another fifth set showdown. Wright and Gifkins were the more committed pairing though, and did not give their opponents much to score from in that fifth set, winning it 11-5 to level the scores at 2-2.
Sony Sefer and Jason Gifkins met in the next rubber, each with a win under their respective belts. In the three occasions these sides have met this year, Gifkins has accounted for Sefer on each occasion, and both players have the ability to lift their games for big matches. This match proved to be no exception, Sefer leading 2 sets to 1 early 7-11, 11-5, 11-6 with the match seemingly there for the taking. Gifkins was not having it though, responded with some aggressive hitting, and kept his record intact against his opponent with wins in the final two sets 11-8, 11-8.
The true test of Wright’s fitness came in this next rubber against opposing captain Russell Walder. Walder started the better of the two, 11-8 in the first set, Wright as ever egging himself on squared the sets taking the second 12-10. Walder stuck with Wright, however, and had a chance to take the third, but Wright it was who took it 13-11 to edge ahead 2 sets to 1. Wright was getting better as the match went on, not worse, maybe this was what the doctor ordered? Perhaps it was, because Wright dominated the fourth set 11-6 and now MJM Automotive led the match 4 rubbers to 2. Mallee Meats needed a match to steady the scoring, but it was not to come …
Quentin Clark, who on this night was supported by a large contingent of family and friends, came back for his second rubber of the night, having previously played in rubber number two. With the length of the rubbers here, that was over two hours earlier! After his earlier disappointment against Sefer, Clark was primed for this match against Arthur Paar. Any encouragement Paar may have felt by his defeating Geoff Wright earlier in the night soon disappeared as quickly as some of Clark’s vicious forehand drives. Clark was simply too good for his opponent, winning in three sets (the only three setter of the night), 11-6, 11-8, 11-7.
With MJM Automotive on the brink of taking the match, Mallee Meats were now in survival mode … could they extend the match with a win in the second doubles? Perhaps they could because Sefer and Paar knew that on the two occasions they had played Wright and Clark during the season, they had taken the honours. Perhaps Sefer and Paar had that feeling of “looking down the barrel” playing a factor here, whatever it was, Wright and Clark were not intimidated by their opponents even after losing the first set 8-11. They proved the equal of their opponents with an 11-7 win in the second, then came the grind. Both sides dug in, and in a tremendous display of nervous, tense table tennis, the MJM Automotive pairing kept their heads down point-to-point just that little better than the Mallee Meats pair taking the third and fourth sets 14-12, 13-11 and sealed the win.
As ever with teams in this pennant, all the matches were hard-fought. An indication of the intensity on this night was that of the four Grand Final matches played, this pennant played the least number of rubbers, yet this match went the longest, each of the other grades having already finished, and then watching this match unfold.
Final scores: 6 rubbers to 2 and 21 games to 14.
Sammy’s Slammers took an upset win against pre-match favourites Weightmans Packaging to record back-to-back premiership titles.
– Sammy’s Slammers 6 (Liam Wood 3, David Sergi 2) d Weightmans Packaging 4 (Dylan Wood, Jeremy Corrin, Rohan Reimers 1)
These two teams were the dominant sides in this year’s competition. Weightmans Packaging losing just one game during the season, and Sammy’s Slammers a close second, with three losses. On the three occasions these sides met, Weightmans Packaging won every time. That was before the finals though. In the First Semi-Final, Sammy’s Slammers upset their more fancied opponent to advance to the Grand Finals with a 6-4 win. Weightmans Packaging scrambled back into Grand Finals contention with a 6-5 win against Regional Taxation Services in the Preliminary Final, ready to take on Sammy’s Slammers once again.
The first three rubbers were all over quite quickly, three sets apiece. Weightmans Packaging took the first two, Jeremy Corrin defeating his opposite number, Sammy’s Slammers captain David Sergi in rubber number one, then Dylan Wood accounted for Brice Lock in a similar fashion. Sammy’s Slammers took their first rubber courtesy of Liam Wood’s win against Rohan Reimers.
Sammy’s Slammers then got serious, taking the next three rubbers. Liam Wood and David Sergi hung on to win against Jeremy Corrin and Dylan Wood in the first doubles 9-11, 11-4, 9-11, 13-11, 11-8. David Sergi made it two wins in a row, coming back from 2-1 sets down, when he defeated Dylan Wood in another five setter 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-7, 11-8.
Liam Wood added the third for his side zipping through Jeremy Corrin 6, 7 and 5, and pushed the score out to 4-2.
Rohan Reimers reduced that to 4-3 with a straightforward win against Brice Lock, and Corrin and Reimers squared at 4-4 when they won yet another three setter, this time against the pair of Liam Wood and Lock.
Things were shaping up for a close finish, with the pivotal game being David Sergi and Rohan Reimers. Before that though, the Wood brothers had to play, and Liam added to Sammy’s Slammers account with a 2, 5, 8 win against brother Dylan, giving Sammy’s Slammers a whiff of a win.
Then the Sergi-Reimers game. David Sergi had not beaten Rohan prior to this night. He had come close, had given Rohan a run for his money, but had always fallen short. In rounds 1 and 6, he lost in five sets, and in round 11, the result was a four set loss. So he really had nothing to lose. If he won, the game was over and his side would win; if he lost, then he knew there was nothing more he could have done. And that was how he played. Sergi was more aggressive than Rohan in this match-up, and it is reflected in the scores. Sergi won in four sets, in so doing won 42 points to Reimers’ 28 points, 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5.
So that was it, a win to Sammy’s Slammers 6 rubbers to 4. For the second time in three weeks, Weightmans Packaging left their best player sitting on the bench in the last round of singles, while the lower ranked team-mates suffered defeats.
Final scores: 6 rubbers to 4 and 18 games to 17.
Dunkley Scales win late night thriller against Cookes Pools and Spas to claim title.
– Dunkley Scales 6 (Kim Avers 2, Karl Whitney 2) def Cookes Pools and Spas 4 (Matt Cherry 3, Miya Lock 1)
This match-up promised plenty and in fact delivered in spectacular fashion. Cookes Pools and Spas, who had last week off, went in as slight favorites against Dunkley Scales – but as we know anything can happen in a Grand Final. Cookes got off to a flying start Miya Lock accounting for Raylee Waugh in straight sets. Dunkley’s hit back straight away with Kim Avers straight sets win against Kayla Bettess to level up the match one win apiece. In the third match Cookes’ Matt Cherry was pitted against Dunkley’s Karl Whitney. These two combatants have had great contests over the season and this match was no different. Cherry came out nervously in the first set and made quite a few unforced errors that Whitney took full advantage of to win the first set 11-8. Cherry then got his attacking game going and eventually penetrated the defenses of Whitney (which is no mean feat) to take the next three sets 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 in a great display of controlled hitting. The first doubles match of the night was crucial to Dunkley’s as at this point they trailed the match one game to two. With this firmly in mind Dunkley’s pairing of Avers and Whitney played near faultless table tennis to defeat Cookes’ duo of Cherry and Lock to record a comfortable straight sets victory. Next up was the match between Avers and Lock. This was a great match as many long rallies were witnessed with both players taking their turn in attacking and defending. It would be Avers who outlasted Lock to win in four entertaining sets 11-7, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6 and with this win Dunkley’s lead the night for the first time three matches to two. Now Cookes needed to respond – and respond they did with Cherry blasting many winners past Dunkley’s number three player Waugh to record an emphatic straight sets win and again to square the ledger at three games all. The seventh match of the evening say Whitney pitted against Bettess. The wily Whitney played smart table tennis and made sure he made very few errors and was able to retrieve Bettess’ best shots to run out a comfortable winner in straight sets and wrestle back the advantage for Dunkley Scales. Now trailing four games to three Cookes was in a must win doubles match. As it turned out this was the match of the evening. Cookes pairing of Cherry and Bettess took on Dunkley’s Avers and Waugh. The last time these teams met two weeks ago it was Cookes with a comfortable win 11-4, 14-12, 11-7. The question is – could they repeat the dose when it mattered most? Well two weeks is a long time in table tennis and Cookes found themselves in early trouble after surrendering the first two sets 12-14, 8-11. With Cookes season on the line they needed to dig deep and did so to take the next two sets 11-7, 11-7. The fifth set started cautiously with both teams eager not to give away cheap points. Cookes chipped away and eked out a two-point advantage 10 – 8 and were on the brink of victory. The next two rallies of this match were simply amazing with Cookes attacking and Dunkley’s defending grimly in two of the longest points of the night. Dunkley’s held firm and forced this on into overtime at 10 all. With it all on the line the final two points were just as hard fought and the previous two and it was Avers and Waugh prevailing 12-10 in the fifth and thus propelling Dunkley’s to within one match to win the title. Cookes now needed to rally and win the last three games of the night to pinch the title and Cherry was able to secure the first of these victories needed in defeating Avers 12-14, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8. Now it was up to Lock to keep the match alive as she faced up to Whitney. Both Lock and Whitney have shown dramatic improvement in their games over the season and with the pressure on could Whitney deliver the title for Dunkley Scales? Whitney stated well and won the first set 11-5 before Lock returned fire and clenched the second 12-10. Whitney then ‘put up the wall’ – and with great defense defused Lock’s mighty forehand drives to win the next two sets 11-8, 11-6. This win securing the title for Dunkley Scales against a valiant opponent in Cookes Pools and Spas six games to four. Well done to both teams for putting on a great display during the night. We look forward to all pennant four players and their families in getting together to celebrate the season that was during this coming Wednesday’s presentation night.