'Old Priaulx' still has legs

THE old Priaulx League, now into its 120th year, is alive and well. Just look at the league table.

THE old Priaulx League, now into its 120th year, is alive and well. Just look at the league table.

Four teams are still right in the thick of the title race and two of the other three sides are more than capable of springing a shock, just as Rangers did by knocking Vale Rec out of the Guernsey FA Cup a week ago.

A few still moan about their presence, albeit fewer by the month, but the advent of GFC has done the Priaulx one big favour. In an instant it ended the culture of medal-hunting which had been a blight on the top league for years.

The result is the wonderfully even league we have and it promises a riveting last four months of a season that has yet to really take off because of the Guernsey monsoon.

The upshot, I hope, is that Priaulx League crowds will enjoy a sharp rise as the footballing public realise that the product may not be as easy on the eye and skilful as some of the fare the Green Lions offer at Footes Lane, but that it is an honest and open competition which is arguably more representative of the development work the competing clubs have put in over recent years and not the result of players simply eyeing an easy winners’ medal and congregating at the flavour of the year.

As things stand, I have not got a clue which side will be our representative come Upton day.

But the number of matches left to play is alarmingly large – champions North still have 17 league games to fit in – and the only certainty is that whoever emerges on top will not be able to make the claim going into this year’s CI Championship showdown that they are short of competitive action.

It is worrying to think that, besides the numerous cup ties that have to be squeezed into the programme, a remarkable 104 of the season’s total 168 Priaulx Leagues games have yet to be played.

For that to happen, the GFA fixtures secretary is going to have to box particularly clever and clubs across the island must forget about the need to preserve their pitches and simply get on with it.

The desperation to complete the Priaulx schedule will have some benefits, in that the extra midweek floodlit games will allow us at the paper who have faithfully been reporting the Priaulx since 1897, to keep right on track with what could possibly be the most open and intriguing title race for many a year.

Long term, more midweek Priaulx games and fewer direct clashes with GFC on Saturday afternoons, is the sensible way to go, as everyone will benefit.

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THE debate has already started. Who will replace Stuart Le Prevost as the island cricket captain and lead the side at this summer’s European T20 Division One tournament in Sussex?

My guess is that we will have to wait a few months yet as Nic Pothas assesses his options and sees the reaction he gets from his senior players.

Those who know him well will not have been a bit surprised that Le Prevost has opted to end his representative career now, just when it may become even more exciting and challenging.

Le Prevost was a very fine captain. But was he a great one, as Jeremy Frith described him this week?

Inspiring definitely, astute yes, but if the big Cobo man had one fault, it is that he did not push his own case enough.

Far too often, he opted to bat himself too far down the order.

Ridiculously so, on occasion.

This had nothing to do with him ducking the challenge of batting first or second wicket down, more I expect that he thought of others too much and, being the generous, easy-natured man he is, was happy to slip another rung down the order.

I would still not bet against him returning as a player at some stage, but for now the focus is on who will step up to the captaincy and to what extent Pothas will back youth.

I see three captaincy candidates, Frith, Jamie Nussbaumer and Lee Savident. As an outside bet, why not Tim Ravenscroft?

My hunch is that the new man will not be swayed by past reputations and will not be afraid to push a few more youngsters into the fray earlier than they may have in the past. But they will all have to work hard.

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THE gold medals are slipping away in front of our very eyes. Kristina Neves (nine in the Isle of Wight) has, rightly or wrongly, not been chosen for the swim team, and now we learn that top athletes Louise Perrio, Kylie Robilliard and Dale Garland will not be on the plane to Bermuda, and there is every chance that Tom Druce and Lee Merrien may not either.

This illustrious quintet accounted for five individual golds in the Isle of Wight.

On top of that, they were largely instrumental in winning two team titles.

Their collective absence will knock a major hole in the overall Guernsey challenge to remain near the top of the medals table, and, while the heart of it all is finance, another major factor is the Guernsey Island Games Association’s unfortunate insistence that every member of the team needs to travel out and back, together.

Viewed simplistically, Giga’s desire to travel together is an admirable one and certainly promotes team spirit, but at the same time it rather arrogantly ignores that elite performers may have other big fish to fry, or that sometimes there are other matters that are more important.

In the case of Perrio, who won a 5-10,000 double in the Isle of Wight and has improved greatly since, she would have liked to have gone but the Guernsey travel arrangements are such that it would have meant her missing the UK Championships at one end of the week, and her brother’s wedding in Switzerland at the back end.

Druce has his own national championship ambitions and will be unable to be on that plane out.

‘I 100% want to go, but 100% won’t be travelling with the team,’ he said this week.

Rightly, in my view, he says he needs to be competing every year at the national championships if he is to maximise his chances to achieve his ambition of running for Great Britain and, crucially important to him, being at his very for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

The more big races he can do, and the Island Games is not quite at that level, the more experience he can accrue of being on the start line in pressure situations, is vitally important to him.

The Giga policy is wrong. Admirable, but misguided.

Great Britain athletics likes its team to travel together, but you cannot tell me that its own elite performers over the years, stars such as Coe, Ovett, Thompson and Radcliffe, have not sometimes insisted on their own arrangements.

Before it is not too late, Giga should review this policy as it is not helpful, other than to themselves for making arrangements less complicated.

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THESE are golden years for our athletics scene and, specifically, for distance running.

Lee Merrien has made it as an Olympian and is ranked British No. 1 in his best event.

Behind him and for the second time in three years, we can boast two Hampshire county cross-country champions and a national junior winner in Katie Rowe, and a notch below that trio are a growing number of high quality performers.

Underpinning it all is an overlooked science, at the heart of which is first-class coaching and planning led by Merrien himself, Alan Rowe and, more recently, Geoff King, who has steered Natalie Whitty into territory where in the space of two years the young woman has been transformed from athletic basketball player into a runner who is on the verge of a place on the start line at the next Commonwealths.

GIAAC’s distance ranking and record lists are changing at a rapid rate and they do because very ambitious runners are being supported by highly-astute coaches.

A mission statement of the Guernsey Sports Commission is to create a sporting environment whereby it is an advantage to live in an island and not a disadvantage.

Well, in the case of distance runners, athletics is already ticking that particular box.