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Winter Cup entry closed at 106

Winter League

Today at 3pm we closed entry for the 2023 Winter Cup with the truly remarkable number of 106 entries received. All these are listed here so if you believe that you have entered but are not included in that list then you need to get in touch immediately and certainly before the 1pm Thursday draw. The 106 entries are split into 5 qualifying rounds, one for each of the five divisions in the League.

The draw for those qualifying rounds will be made at Netherton Cons clubhouse at 1pm on Thursday 2 February. Everyone is welcome to attend and you can also watch the final day of the Division 5 season on the green at the same time. The completed draw for all five qualifying competitions will be posted on HuddWeb on Friday 3 February.

The number of entries per division is as follows:

Division 1 - 17 Division 2 - 23

Division 3 - 23

Division 4 - 18

Division 5 - 25

In view of the number of entries and the need to juggle numbers to provide a Last 16 a change has now been decided to even the number of qualifiers out. So instead of the previously declared intent to only have two qualifiers from Divisions 4 and 5 we have decided to make this 4 qualifiers from each of the five divisions to provide a Last 20. This is fairer on the bottom two divisions and allows the number of rounds on qualifying day to be reduced at those two venues. That is catered for in the following list of details for the qualifying rounds.

The dates of the qualifying rounds are as follow:

Division 1 - 11.30am on Wednesday 15 February (4 qualifiers) at Milnsbridge BC

Division 2 - 11.30am on Wednesday 15 February (4 qualifiers) at Springwood BC

Division 3 - 11.30am on Monday 6 February (4 qualifiers) at Thorpe Green

Division 4 - 11.30am on Monday 6 February (4 qualifiers) at Lindley Lib

Division 5 - 11.30am on Thursday 9 February (4 qualifiers) at Netherton Cons

Due to the number of entries and the resulting time-lag a decision will be made on the day of the qualifying rounds as to whether games will all be 21-Up or 15-Up. For example at Netherton where we have 25 entries which means 21 games will be played to get us down to the four qualifiers. That could take around 4 hours at 45 minutes per game of 21-Up. Should we have poor weather conditions then this could feel much longer and the last eight would have played 3 games each at that time.

The decisions of the League Officials at these events whether to play 15 or 21 Up will be final in all situations.

The 20 qualifiers will progress to the Round of the Last 20 who will play down to 8 bowlers who will go on to Finals Day. The Last 20 is at Springwood from 1pm on Wednesday 12 April. Finals Day is at Springwood from 1pm on Sunday 16 April.

We have learnt a lot from the extraordinary response to the Winter Cup this year and some of those lessons will influence how we set the competition up next season. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect to have over 100 people entering the competition. Well it wasn't a financial incentive that prompted so many bowlers to enter because there are no cash prizes at all. That is absolutely magnificent but it does bring its own challenges which are great to have.

With hindsight we probably made a mistake in the allocation of qualifying places. It would probably have been fairer to allocate qualifying places based on the number of entries in each division. Four places going to the three divisions with the most entries and two places for the 2 divisions with the least number of entries. An alternative being to provide 4 places for Division 1 qualifiers and then four places to the two divisions to have the most entries and 2 places for the other two divisions. We don't feel that we can make wholesale changes this year but have decided to award 4 qualifying places to both Divisions 4 and 5. This means we have a Last 20 Day at Springwood but that is entirely manageable within the timescales. If we have a Division 6 next year that complicates things even more but it would be a good problem to have.

That is one of (at least) two mistakes we have made with the Winter Cup this year. The other being the early allocation of dates. The shifting of these dates has brought some confusion, disappointment and elation for those that are no longer able to play on previous dates or those that now can. As a result, we have lost a few entries that can no longer play on the new dates. It is likely that we have to organise next year on dates that we can stick with.

That will probably mean a late March/early April competition as being the only way that we can guarantee staying with the dates from start to finish. We are still learning all the time.

We have definitely underestimated the number of entries. This will have an impact on the format of some Qualifying Rounds. For example at Netherton where there are 25 entries. Before we extended the number of qualifiers to four it would have meant 23 games being played and that would have meant four rounds of games taking up to four hours which is too long in the middle of winter. We were discussing the need to have 15-Up games instead of 21-Up but then the idea to include four qualifiers which reduced that number of games to 21. However we may be looking at 15-Up games if the weather is bad and that decision will be made on the day by League Officials whose decision will be final.

Despite all that we are looking forward to seeing the competition through to its final stages and a few surprise results along the way as well no doubt. Another thing that I believe that we need to look at is making the qualifying rounds into mini-competitions in their own right. It would be good to see the 5 qualifying rounds playing down to a single winner so that we have a Champion of each Division with a trophy for each of them. With the present entry responses, we could be looking at two-day events for each division. The top four bowlers from each division would still qualify for the Last 20 and then on to Finals Day.

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