Winston Churchill once advised against making bold predictions, particularly those about the future. Aided and abetted by Richard Chapman, I confidently predicted that one of the two teams that would meet their demise and spend a year in division two would be the Browning Hotrods. They finished comfortably in the top half of the table. The Crewe Match Group, captained by Let's Fish! coach Simon Mottram, were attempting to do something that had not been achieved in national history by winning the Division One at the first time of asking, having won the Division Two title in the previous national. For the 48th time of asking, the feat remained elusive. Crewe did better than my 25th place finish prediction by ending up in 13th position.
Like so many teams, they had couple of single points scores and that made all of the difference for Crewe as it did for numerous other teams. It's a horrible feeling for the anglers on the receiving end but that is what happens in nationals. If it were easy, anyone could win them and if you are lucky, you perhaps get one chance in a lifetime to achieve that ambition. Northants Colmic had me sweating too, their 7th placed finish was around 25 places higher than I thought they would have been capable of. Perhaps James Lewis is a better angler than I give him credit for and that he should perhaps have been picked for the England junior team back in the day.
The most successful team in national history were aiming to break further records when they attempted to win the third top division national on the bounce, having previously triumphed on the River Trent in 2018 on the Aire & Calder / New Junction Canals the following year. By their own extraordinary standards, their record on narrow canals has been somewhat mixed. Some good judges, and some indifferent ones like me had even considered the possibility that Barnsley would never end up on the podium on a narrow canal national. They emphatically proved the doubters wrong, finishing runners-up and pipping the Starlet's who took bronze. It's good to see talented all round young anglers like Josh Newman on the podium and perhaps disappointing for him that several teammates were called away before the medal presentation.
Tri-Cast Rochdale and Cadence Superteam just a point further behind, mixed emotions for both of those teams, a point or two here and there making all the difference. Having tipped Barnsley for the best part of two years not to win this national, I thought back at the HQ that I was about to eat a huge slice of humble pie. Quite frankly, I would have deserved it, for having spent a good few minutes observing the skills of Matt Godfrey and James Dent, I know those two are the real deal on all types of venues. I already make them massive favourites for the 2022 national on the Trent where they aim to emulate the great Nottinghamshire Federation of Anglers team who won four consecutive Trent nationals in the 1980s and 1990s. The big question might be which teams will end up in second and third positions next year.
Bravo Sensas Devizes
In so many nationals over the years, there is always one team who slip under the radar or at least under my radar. Tommy Boyce picked Devizes out as possible contenders in his dozen national teams to watch. It proved a wise choice. The team skilfully avoided any single figures point scores working out the tactics that would score on their several visits to the fishery ahead of the big day.
Whilst Barnsley may not agree with me, it is probably a good thing for the national when a relatively unfancied team takes away the gold medals. It gives many other teams hope that with a combination of hard graft and that all important slice of luck, then anything is possible. Most anglers may only get one opportunity to be part of a winning national team and the Devizes team grabbed that opportunity with both hands. I imagine their former secretary and last NFA president Terry Fell will be celebrating at one of the many hostelries in that small Wiltshire town for many months to come.
I'm sure there will be teams regretting not putting in a little extra effort ahead of the big day. I was shocked to see the Black Country AS team finishing down in 42nd spot. It just goes to show that you should never be complacent in national championships for unexpected results are always around the corner. No team is ever too good to be at risk of going down.