There was a time when competitive crokinole was only played in the Spring, but now with crokinole expanding, a Fall crokinole season has become habitual, forcing players into a shorter off-season. Not that anyone's complaining, considering the crokinole season isn't exactly physically draining. So it's nice to see crokinole tournaments in the Fall.
Last year the Quinte Region Crokinole Club held their first NCA sanctioned tournament in Belleville. For the first time the players from Southwestern Ontario returned the favour to the Belleville group, who are always willing to make the trip to distant crokinole tournaments. Coming out of the off-season not many players had lost their stride. In fact, only three months after their meeting in the 2011 World Championship Finals, Brian Cook and Ray Beierling would meet again. It was Cook who would take the 2012 Belleville title, beginning a rather impressive 2011-2012 NCA season that included 6 straight tournament wins, book-ended by 2nd place finishes at the World and NCA Championships. Meanwhile, Ray Beierling's second place set the path for his 3rd place finish on the Tour last season. And if you are looking for a good omen, try finishing 4th or 7th. It was Jon Conrad who would finish 4th, only to now be the reigning Doubles and Singles World Champion. And Fred Slater finished 7th, on his way to a career-high 2nd place finish on the Tour.
The first Fall tournament is usually looked at as the start of the NCA season, seeing as the real start is the World Championships, which players do look at as the culmination of all the work they put in throughout the season. However, an even earlier indicator of current crokinole prowess was given as the first ever Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament took place just south of Canada-USA border. Four Toronto Crokinole Club players were very successful at the tournament with Justin Slater and Brian Cook showing their fine form in making the finals of the event. For the first time ever the "Wimbledon rule" was put to use as Slater defeated Cook 8-4 in the third game which required 6 rounds after being tied 4-4 through 4 rounds. Despite Cook's loss in the finals, his play is quite high as he was the top finisher in first and seconds rounds of play. He and Jon Conrad will be looked at as favourites for the Belleville tournament.
This tournament will also be very crucial in the NCA Tour Rankings. While the 2011-2012 season only had Ray Beierling and Fred Slater able to challenge Brian Cook for the Tour victory, the 2012-2013 Tour could be decided quickly. Jon Conrad's double victory at the World Championships gives him 110 points as both events were majors. Already well in the lead, a tournament victory in the Fall would, very early, set Conrad up for the Tour victory as only the top 4 tournament results count. It's nice to see someone new challenging for the top spot in the rankings, an early win would put this year's Tour out of reach before it even started.
This year's tournament should bring in a high-calibre field, along with a hometown group as prepared as they have ever been to perform well in their own tournament. The date is set for September 15th for the crokinole elite to show how well the off-season has gone, and what they've got for the 2012-2013 crokinole season.
See you in Belleville.