Lions for the National Badminton League double, says Atherton star Gary Fox

Atherton badminton ace Gary Fox has set his stall out early for this season’s AJ Bell National Badminton League, wanting to retain the trophy he won last season.

The Birmingham Lions player made a successful return to action on Monday night as Season 3 of the competition kicked off at the home of the defending champions.

Lions began their title defence with a comfortable 4-1 victory over the newly-formed Suffolk Saxons, with Fox contributing a point thanks to his men’s doubles win with Rasmus Fladberg.

The new pairing beat Andy Ellis and Johnnie Torjussen 3-0, giving Fox hope of the Lions making it successive titles in 2017.

“It went well for us, I’ve been here for three years now but with a new partnership you never really know how it’s going to go. But it couldn’t have gone better for us really,” said the 26-year-old.

“We’re trying to defend out title this year. Last year was a bit of a surprise for us, we didn’t expect to win but we ended up doing that.

“This year we want to retain our title. We’ve got a good strong team this year so fingers crossed.

“When we won in the final match last season, the feeling of winning was incredible. We didn’t actually have to play our final event but that feeling of winning and lifting the trophy was incredible and we want to repeat that.”

The Lions, captained by Toby Penty, were unsure of what challenges faced them against the Saxons, who were taking their AJ Bell NBL bow.

But the 24-year-old was pleased with his side’s display despite a mixed evening personally, losing the mixed doubles tie with Heather Olver, but bouncing back to beat Joel Douse 3-0 in the men’s singles.

And Penty shares Fox’s ambition for the upcoming season, targeting another title.

“It’s really good to get another win as a team,” he said. “I think we’ve got three wins in a row now in the NBL overall so I’m happy to have turned it around. The women’s doubles was key.

“Against an unknown team, you don’t know what you’re going to get really, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. They could come out and be really good at the scoring format or you could come out and steam roller them.

“They played a good match night. But we did enough and that’s the main thing and hopefully we can carry that on to the next match.”

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