We’ve heard Tommy Boyce’s thoughts on which teams will offer stiff competition in the 2020 Division One National. But who will fall short? National fisheries and angling manager, John Ellis, weighs in on the discussion.
Who’d be a sports pundit? It’s fraught with danger, for you’re bound to cause controversy. Following on from Tommy Boyce’s recent post, during which he listed nearly half the field as potential 2020 National team champions, I’ve decided to be bold. I've selected five competing teams who I think won’t take the title, regardless of whether the event goes ahead on 15 August or is delayed for a later date.
Some squad members may never speak to me again; others may be inspired to put in extra effort to prove how little I know. If one of these five teams does prove me wrong, I will happily donate £50 to an angling charity of their choice.
On paper, they are not without a chance, as they are the 2019 Division Two champions. By their own admission they had a strong draw at that Shropshire Union match and were able to take full advantage.
That good fortune at the drawbag might not be with them this time around. Losing Dave McCall, who returns to the Cadence team, will be a blow. Dave, along with Paul Murrin, won last year’s Dynamite Bait Canal Pairs Championship, so finding a similar calibre replacement angler will be a tough ask.
While Crewe might be champion material on the Shropshire Union, the Grand Union is a whole different ball game. Most importantly of all, the weight of history is against them. John Essex’s book on the history of the National shows that 47 teams have tried to win back-to-back Division Two and Division One victories since 1973. Yet it remains a feat that hasn’t been achieved. Why should this year be any different?
Northants are last year’s Division Two bronze medallists and they have the individual National 2019 winner, Colin Harris, in their team. They’ll be competing in the top flight on their local Grand Union this time around, after missing out on promotion on a couple of previous occasions.
Buoyed by a new sponsorship deal with Italian company Colmic, they must be feeling hopeful. However, I’ve just a got a gut feeling that things might conspire against them, and a mid-table finish is the best they can hope for now that they find themselves up against the big boys.
Having failed to reach the Winter League final for the first time in many years, Hotrods will be looking to bounce back in style. They’re a very consistent outfit who are sure to do their National homework. I expect to see plenty of squad members in the two Grand Union heats of the Canal Pairs.
In the last four years, Hotrods have finished 6th, 6th and 10th, followed by a slightly below par 15th on the Yorkshire canals last time out. Their 6th position finish on the Shropshire Union in 2017 was undoubtedly very impressive and with a better draw they would have medalled, but I won’t be tipping them to improve on that performance this time around. Sorry lads.
Founded by the legendary angling journalist Keith Elliott in the 1970s, the A4 Match Group give Drennan Oxford a run for their money every year in the Winter League, without realistically threatening to topple them. Although they did finish a very decent 8th in the 2019 Winter League final.
They tend to struggle on narrow canals, which may not bode well for the Reading-based team, who came in 29th the last time the National was hosted on such a venue (the Shropshire Union in 2017). Since then they’ve finished a creditable 20th on the River Trent in 2019 and another mid-table 27th last year on the Aire & Calder. Incredibly their top points scorer was Environment Agency Fisheries man Stu Keable. His assessment of their chances this year? “If they can keep me out of the team, they have a fighting chance.” I think that says it all.
They are the best team in the world, it’s as simple as that. Their squad is the perfect mixture of experience and youth, with the likes of five-time world angling champion Alan Scotthorne providing the former and three-times world junior champion Matt Godfrey the latter.
Winners of eight National team titles, all in the modern era, they’ve never recorded a National victory on a narrow canal. No team has ever won three times on the bounce in the top division either. Indeed only Trev’s team has ever won three divisional Nationals in successive years. Coronavirus permitting, the team will have other events to focus on too, including the World Club Championships, and for Alan and Matt, England international duties.
It would be foolish to rule Barnsley out entirely. I expect them to finish comfortably in the top ten, rather than a repeat of their below par 2017 Shropshire Union performance, when they ended up below 30th place. Given the number of strong narrow-canal teams in the line-up, I just can’t see a Barnsley victory on the Grand Union. However, if any one of these five teams are to prove me wrong, it will most likely be the mighty Barnsley.
This is the most open National for many years. Doomsters predict a disastrous day with loads of dry nets, while local anglers like Tommy Boyce think we are in for a decent or even a classic National. I believe those standing on the podium at Towcester Racecourse will be Drennan Oxford, Cadence and Dorking, but in what order it’s too early to say.
Tom Scholey and I will be making our predictions immediately after the draw on match morning, live on the Trust’s angling Facebook page. If you're not competing, do tune in from 7.30am.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the event is able to take place as scheduled on Saturday 15 August, or as soon as possible afterwards. Like you, I'm looking forward to seeing which team emerges triumphant.
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.See more blogs from this author