Martine, Lisa just too close to be split
Saturday 2nd February 2008, 12:00AM GMT.
THERE was a time in the mid 1970s, a school with nuns for PE teachers ruled the country when it came to squash. Blanchelande College was then still situated a Tiger Woods drive away from the south-coast cliffs and among its list of pupils were two of the most talented sportswomen Guernsey had produced before or since.
Martine Le Moignan and Lisa Opie, were the same school year and the reason why it was an easy decision to enter the college into the British Schools Championship.
Backed by the lesser talented but nevertheless very capable Alison Warr, Blanchelande were, in the eyes of former King’s Club manager and coach, Reg Harbour, a ‘phenomenal team’.
With him acting as team manager and coach, it was no wonder they won.
Then, for the best part of nearly two decades, the two Blanchelande belles climbed the national squash ladder, stepped over to the international one, and climbed every rung to the top, one becoming world champion, the other a British Open winner.
It would be churlish to attempt to split them and place one above the other when it comes to assessing their careers.
Opie had the tactical brain, mean streak and all-round game. Le Moignan the power, reach and blistering, booming, forehand.
Although no head-to-head figures are available, I’d be fairly confident in claiming Opie beat her old school colleague more times than she lost against her.
Certainly, their individual careers owed so much to the other. They drove each other on to greatness and, back in the Channel Islands, left everybody miles behind in their wake.
But if they are joint first in an all-time top 10, who should fill places three downwards?
Two players vie for spots three and four and on the advice of Harbour, who witnessed both play, the impish Sue Richardson gets the nod over Louise Grayland for third place.
With her cheeky nature, Richardson was the dominant force for a couple of years in the late 1980s, long after the Blanchelanders had moved out.
Grayland preceded everyone on this list and was comfortably the best woman player the island possessed when King’s opened its doors in 1973.
That year she won the CI title, beating Jersey’s Liz Canavan in five.
That she made it as high as Division Three in the King’s mixed league ladder also showed her to be a fine player.
‘Her standard was phenomenal for the era,’ claims Harbour, who would place two more youngsters at five and six on the list.
Fiona Yates was an emerging star in the very early days of King’s.
‘She was in a squad of six for an England junior team picked and of a very high standard. She would have made it to Grayland’s standard by the time she was 16 or 17.’
Higher education took her away from the island and another to disappear all too quickly for the long-term good of the local game, was Warr.
‘She was a good, solid player. Very handy,’ recalls Harbour who had another faith in her to play at third string for a Guernsey junior squad at Home Internationals level.
At seven, the spotlight falls on a player who turned herself from a nothing to island champion with straightforward hard work.
The left-handed Marilyn Pugh was a worthy island number one for many years, replacing Richardson at the top and squeezing out a couple of Channel Islands championships at a time – crossing the late 80s and early 90s – when Michaela Dawson was a strong player in the sister isle.
Indeed, Pugh’s influence on the Guernsey game should never be forgotten, serving as GSRA president and enthusiastically steering the sport.
At eight, Jo Robinson utilised her outstanding talents, including strength and fitness, to become island champion in Pugh’s era and another tough performer, who could never be underestimated, was Di Hudson.
The ultimate competitor, what she lacked in mobility, Hudson made up much of it in her canny knack of getting underneath her opponent’s skin.
Final spot goes to another island champion of the relatively modern era, Lynn Goodall.
A good all-round player with a range of shots, she perhaps lacked the power and speed to challenge those above her in the top-10 chart.