WILTSHIRE ladies enjoyed their best outdoor season in the inter-county championship for the Johns Trophy for 23 years by reaching the last four at Royal Leamington Spa last year.

En route to Leamington, they won the West group section A, defeating Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset and then beat Devon, the West section B winners, in the quarter-finals to book a semi spot for the first time since 1995 when they won the trophy.

In the semi, they thumped Yorkshire, but were unable to go to another Johns’ success, missing out to a strong Surrey unit.

Added to this, Wiltshire junior ladies triumphed in the Amey Rose Bowl for the first time, lifting the trophy with victory in the final at Leamington over Cornwall last September.

The county ladies also went close in several events at the national championships at Leamington, with Box duo Sue Cooke and Alex Jacobs runners-up in the ladies pairs and sisters Lucy and Katy Smith (Royal Wootton Bassett) losing in the ladies U25 pairs final.

However, earlier last season, the Purton trio of Chris Mitchell, Julie Jones and Alison Fail won the triples championship crown in Belfast at the British Isles Women’s Championships.

This season, Wiltshire ladies will be seeking to go one better in the Johns Trophy, retain their Amey Rose title and lift a couple of national titles at Leamington in August.

In the Johns Trophy, they have been drawn in section A of the West group and face Gloucestershire (June 1), Warwickshire (June 22) and Dorset (July 6).

In preparation for the new Johns campaign, the selectors named 40 players for the first trial at Devizes last night and have named another 40 in different combinations for trial two at Wroughton on May 11.

Also, they have chosen a side for the match away against Cornwall at Tiverton West End – the first game in their defence of the South West Counties Ladies League championship.

  • LADIES national championship and competitions commence on Friday, with games being played in the national fours.

The one match in the north section involves Chippenham Town and Wroughton.

While in the south section, four matches are scheduled, including Alex Jacob’s four from Box against Marilyn Jay’s quartet from Spencer Melksham.

  • WILTSHIRE men have avoided Devon in the group stages of this season’s inter-county championship for the Middleton Cup.

The county have been placed in the West group section B alongside Somerset (June 1), Herefordshire (June 8), Worcestershire (June 15) and Cornwall (July 6).

In the last 10 seasons or so, Devon have halted Wiltshire’s progress in either the group stages or quarter-finals with one exception.

This season it is all change for the Middleton Cup, with team manager Neil Smith (Royal Wootton Bassett) standing down after his four-year stint and being replaced by Mike Jackson (Swindon Westlecot).

Jackson, who hails from Caldicot in Wales, holds Wiltshire’s record number of Middleton Cup appearances which currently stands at 131.

He moved to Swindon in 1985 and joined Swindon Bowls Club and linked up with his brother Arthur, who was a member of the Shrivenham Road club at the time, before he moved on to Worcester.

Mike Jackson switched to Westlecot in 1999 and has held numerous roles at the Old Town club ever since and at county level including the important role for several years of national county championships co-ordinator.

“I am really looking forward to the challenge of Middleton Cup manager,” said Jackson. “I am quite excited about it.”

To assist him, he has four selectors on board covering the four areas of Swindon, Chippenham, west Wiltshire and Salisbury, plus county junior team manager Adam Tanner.

Between them, they have chosen 39 players to be invited to the first Middleton Cup trial of 2019 at Royal Wootton Bassett on May 12.

From that trial, 32 players will be invited back for the second trial at Bassett on May 19.

  • MEN’s national championship events that lead to Royal Leamington Spa open next week with games being played in the first round of the national fours.

This event was won last season by the Bassett foursome of Kyle Anderson, Mike Snell (sub for Tom Walkley), Dave Godwin and Steve Snell.