Once again, the noisiest, screechiest, shoutiest, screamiest primary schools sports competition – skittleball – deafened and delighted spectators in a specially marked-out court, where the true winners were fairness, shared sporting spirit and respect.
The annual decibel-busting tournament was staged at Hammersmith Town Hall on 13 and 14 March, giving the borough’s Year 3 and Year 4 pupils a chance to defend, attack and – above all – yell. Here’s how the action unfolded:
St Paul’s triumph in Year 3 finals
The intensive after-school training for the young stars of St Paul’s primary paid off as they romped to a 7-2 victory in Hammersmith & Fulham’s annual skittleball competition.
Played in in the town hall’s Assembly Hall, the Year 3 tournament saw 180 competitors from 18 teams whittled down to two in a fast-paced final refereed by school games organiser Calum Fairley.
St Paul’s, from Worlidge Street, Hammersmith, had reached the final after a 10-2 win against Good Shepherd, and – having proved their mettle in earlier rounds – were clear favourites to lift the trophy as they played All Saints, who had reached the last two after knocking out Fulham’s St Thomas of Canterbury on penalties.
“They’ve been practising and practising in their Wednesday after-school club,” said one school insider after St Paul’s lightning-fast passing and deadly accuracy paid off.
As seven-year-old team captain Natye raised the trophy, he said: “It feels great; we’re really pleased. We’ve been trying our hardest.”
Skittleball, a mix of netball and basketball, is played in boisterous six-minute games with mixed teams of boys and girls, the aim being to knock over the opponents’ guarded skittle.
The sport was devised by former H&F’s school sports and games organiser Deryck Fill, who adapted it from a playground game that he recalled from his childhood.
In the early rounds of the six-minute games, eye-catching scores included a 6-0 victory for John Betts over Greenside, a 10-4 win for All Saints against Good Shepherd, and an 11-0 trouncing of Sulivan primary by Wendell Park.
As Calum presented the winners’ medals to the team from St Paul’s, he said: “This has been a hugely enjoyable and very exciting tournament, played with good heart and good spirit in a sporting and well-behaved atmosphere.”
Respect and magnanimity were the main qualities on display, with every ‘bounce-off’ match starting with a solemn handshakes between team captains.
The first of two successive skittleball days involving different year groups in the town hall, the tournament boasted four top-notch referees in Gilbert Batousol, James Welch, Jamie Young as well as Calum.
The ref’s whistle was often drowned out by the deafening screams of supporters around the perimeter of the skittleball court as enthusiasm was translated into decibels.
So frantic did the final become that Calum had to stop play at one point to remind the contestants that they were playing a non-contact sport.
“What’s noticeable from previous years is that the schools have obviously been training hard,” said Calum afterwards. “Even though these were Year 3 players who hadn’t competed in this tournament before, they stuck to the rules and there were hardly any penalties awarded for infringements.”
At the end of every match, each team member shook hands with their opponents, underlining how skittleball not only encourages teamwork and ball skills but also emphasises the importance of sporting behaviour and fair play.
St John’s Walham Green crowned in Year 4 finals
For the fourth time in seven years, the Year 4 skittleball cup headed back to the trophy cabinet of St John’s Walham Green.
But it was a close-run thing. The final, against Good Shepherd, ended goalless, so penalties determined the outcome.
St John’s scored two but – agonisingly for Good Shepherd’s sharpshooters and their supporters – the critical throw by Good Shepherd primary sent the St John’s skittle wobbling and teetering… but refusing to fall over.
“We’re delighted,” said St John’s coach James Welch. “This is probably the least amount of training we’ve put in over the past eight years, but in the sessions we’ve done, the children have just got better and better.
“The young players have shown good decision-making and a willingness to listen to instruction; lots of the other teams play in a direct way, but we do a possession-based game.”
Final was harder
Skittle-guard Amelia, eight, collected the trophy from referee and organiser Calum Fairley, and said: “The final was harder than we thought it would be, and it went to penalties… but we’ve been practising hard.”
Among the stand-out results in the build-up to the final, Good Shepherd inflicted a 10-0 defeat on St John XXlll, St Stephen’s beat Flora Gardens 11-0 and then defeated St Thomas of Canterbury 5-2, John Betts beat Wendell Park 6-0, and Addison triumphed over Greenside by a 9-0 margin.
Calum praised all the participating schools for the sporting way the Year 4 tournament was conducted. “Skittleball combines passion, respect, self-belief, determination, honesty and teamwork, and reflects the spirit of school games,” he said. “The teams taking part today demonstrated all those qualities; this has been one of the best competitions we’ve ever staged.”
Road to finals
St Stephen’s beat John Betts in the third place play-off by 6-3 – the victors’ main attacking tactic being to launch long speculative balls upfield for the team to chase down.
Good Shepherd received their runners-up medals after the final itself, with St John’s – standing proudly in their pale blue kit – lining up for the winners’ medals and trophy. The school, based in Filmer Road, lived up to its ‘Love one another’ motto by applauding their opponents at the medal ceremony.
We’d like to congratulate all the local primary schools who took part in this year’s skittleball tournaments:
- Wendell Park
- John Betts
- Sir John Lillie
- Fulham Primary
- Flora Gardens
- All Saints
- Good Shepherd
- St Augustine’s
- St John’s
- St Stephen’s
- Queen’s Manor
- St John XXlll
- St Thomas of Canterbury
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