Walton-on-Thames badminton sensation Toby Penty admits he can’t wait for the upcoming return of the AJ Bell National Badminton League after captaining the Birmingham Lions to title glory last season.
Penty, England’s No.2 ranked men’s singles player, lifted the trophy after the Lions defeated Loughborough Sport in the final at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena in May.
The AJ Bell NBL’s third season kicks off next Monday when the Lions host the Suffolk Saxons on the opening match-night, one of two newly established teams ahead of the new campaign.
For Penty, the sport can continue to flourish on British shores as the AJ Bell NBL continues to go from strength to strength, and he is confident his side can build on their success as the new season gets underway.
“We had some serious momentum on finals day, everything came together and I got to lift trophy at the end, it was a fantastic day,” he said.
“It was a massive surprise to lift the trophy, at the start of the season I knew we had an outside chance of winning but for it to happen was a bit surreal, live on TV, the whole day was a great experience and hopefully we can do similar things this year.
“The first two match nights we are really aiming to use that momentum for last year pushing on and our first match is in Birmingham so we’ll try and get the crowd behind us and keep going forward in terms of playing with that no fear attitude.”
Established in 2014, the AJ Bell NBL is the first ever professional badminton league in the UK, and involves seven franchise teams who compete in monthly match-nights to be crowned AJ Bell NBL champions come the end of the season.
Now in its third year, the league showcases the very best of British badminton, as well as a host of international stars, and Penty admits he couldn’t be prouder to lead out some of the sport’s finest athletes.
“It’s great to be captain because last year that put added pressure on me to perform and I only lost the one match out of seven,” he said.
“I feel if you lead by example on court everyone will follow and that seemed to be the case last year.
“I try and win as many matches as possible, that’s always the key for me personally and for the team.
“Your win is obviously important but you want the team to win, because the more the team wins, the better you do and the better for the whole team.”
The 2016/17 season of the AJ Bell National Badminton League starts on Monday 17 October. For fixtures, tickets and team news, visit: www.nationalbadmintonleague or follow @NBL_official on Twitter