May 2017 Volume 14

The Late Junior Allwood - Table Tennis Player Extraordinaire

Dr. Cedric Lazarus
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Junior Allwood who entered KC in September 1969 died on November 27, 2016, aged 59. Those of us who knew him as a KC student will remember him as one of the best table tennis players of his era.

In those halcyon days most boys entering KC for the first time learnt this simple game by playing with ordinary wooden and rubber-less rackets either on the floor of the old pavilion at Melbourne Park or on make-shift table tennis tables fashioned from discarded doors and pieces of plywood. (a few boys had real rackets and as expected those boys had many friends) At times we even played on the teachers’ tables much to their annoyance.

Back then first and second form students would make special effort to arrive at school some thirty or more minutes before the morning bell not to please our teachers but to line up to play table tennis and get as many turns as possible before the bell. (Looking back the table tennis lines were quite orderly compared to the canteen line at lunch time)

If I recall correctly the table tennis system used in the mornings was called ‘One love, chip’! In essence, after a king was crowned, players took turns trying to defeat him. Three points were needed to beat the king who only needed to win the first point against ‘wannabes’ to send them to the back of the queue. Sometimes up to ten players would be in a queue waiting for a turn to try to win three points against the king.

Such was his prodigious and exceptional talent that Junior Allwood was king almost every morning that he played.

I am sure that there were boys who looked around to see who was king on a particularly board before joining the queue to play. If Allwood was king on a board then it would be considered wise not to join that queue because the chances of winning one point, much less three, against him were extremely remote. After a few months of ‘One love, chip’ I believe that Allwood stopped playing because he had little or no competition. (The rest of us were happy though.) One suspects that it was about that time that he went to train with the school team and from then his game blossomed and developed to another level.

Allwood came to KC from John Mills Primary School on Retirement Road. Other boys who came from John Mills Primary in that year (1969) were Clive Mullings, Vance Gardiner and Maurice Weir, all of whom were my classmates by second form. According to Weir, table tennis was rarely played by students at John Mills. Cricket, football and track and field were the sports that boys (and presumably girls) gravitated towards. Since he was already a formidable player and so much better than the rest of us in first form one can assume that Allwood learnt to play the game either at John Mills Primary or in the community where he lived.

When Allwood joined the KC team in 1971 the coach was former captain Michael Melbourne while members of the team were Wigmore Francis, Teddy Martin, Anthony Brown, Richie Stephenson, Ivon Watson, Winston Cowans, Dennis Duncan and Titus Meatley. It is a matter for the history books that KC first entered the inter-school table tennis competition in 1967 and for the next 10 years the school won the competition a remarkable eight times.

Allwood was a member of the team for four of the five years that he spent at KC. In those days, home games were played in the Assembly Hall at North Street which was always full when a visiting team came. KC lost to Calabar in a huge upset one year, (1975, I think) but when they played the boys from Red Hills Road the following year the latter got a 7-0 trashing at the hands of the purples.

By then many of us deemed Allwood to be the most exciting player on the KC team. He had that never say die attitude and he attacked his opponents from the very first point and it did not matter if he had the first serve or not. His backhand was fast and ferocious and when it was unleashed it brought spectators to their feet. It is said that a table tennis ball weighs less than three grams but can travel at speeds of up to thirty miles per hour. Allwood probably got the ball to travel at close to those speeds. I doubt that he ever lost a game playing for KC.

After Allwood and the other senior players like Dennis Duncan and Winston Cowans left school the mantle was passed unto a team of dynamic youngsters who took table tennis to even greater heights at KC. In the late seventies to early eighties the teams of current KC coach Colin McNeish and dynamic players like Randy Fagan, Mark Isaacs, David Marshalleck and Chester Holness continued the dominance for at least another decade.

Once out of school, Allwood continued to play table tennis at the club level for a short time before giving up the game entirely. According to Dennis Duncan, who was his team mate both at KC and at the club level, Allwood’s singular passion was playing for KC and bringing home the trophy and he never seemed to have the same level of intensity in his game at the club level.

Unfortunately, I never saw Allwood after he left KC and so I was extremely saddened to hear of his illness and untimely death last November. Those of us who knew him will remember him as an unassuming and extremely quiet and thoughtful youngster who gave no trouble at all at school (unlike the rest of us!) However, he brought us much joy and happiness once he had a table tennis racket in his hand and an opponent across the table. He entertained us year after year and he can be regarded as one of the giants of the game who made table tennis what it is at KC today. No school has won more table tennis titles that KC.

Some were born to run, others to play football or cricket; Junior Allwood was born to play table tennis and he did it with extraordinary flair, panache and excellence. He will be truly missed.

Rest in Peace Junior.

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