London Charity Softball League 2018: the Harris Hill Cup finalists!

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London Charity Softball League - the Harris Hill Cup finalists

Bring on the battle of the champions!

It's crockery-holders all round for the big match as previous cup-winners Cancer Research UK take on previous plate-winners Plan, aka The Pandas!

But first an apology. Somewhere in a previous post we casually referred to sunshine for the softball finals, and now we've broken the British summer. In our defence it's been on the blink for years (2018 aside) so it might not be entirely our fault, but just in case, we're sorry.

Either way it's bound to turn out fine though, because even the weather gods love charity softball and there'll be sunny smiles all round, not least from the teams who'll be taking home a trophy.

So with just 24 hours to go it's time to meet the contenders for the biggest and most prestigious annual prize in London-based inter-charity softball: the one and only Harris Hill Cup!

For Cancer Research UK it'd be like bringing home an old friend as they've won it no less than three times already, with this being their fifth cup final appearance! Last year they triumphed in the Harris Hill Plate, and of the six 2017 finalists they're the only ones making a return appearance tomorrow.

No pressure then for the plucky Plan UK, though they're previous plate-winners too (in their very first year!) who've consistently qualified ever since, with an equally consistent lineup of players that could prove to their advantage on the pitch.

(Look at us pretending to write about sport! It's probably not even a pitch is it? Field, maybe? Court? We'll stick to running the bar...)

Anyway, enough from us - over as swiftly as possible to CRUK co-captains Leah White and Anna Paynter, and co-captain Tarik Hasan of the Pandas!

Leah White and Anna Paynter, Cancer Research UK

Besides winning the cup (of course) what's the goal for Cancer Research UK?

Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. 
In the 1970s, less than a quarter of people with cancer survived. But over the last 40 years, survival has doubled - today half will survive.

Our ambition is to accelerate progress and see three-quarters of people surviving the disease within the next 20 years.

Tell us about your history in the league?

Cancer Research UK has been part of the London Charity Softball league for ages! We've had some great successes in the past, having won the cup in 2008, 2009 and 2014, and sadly losing in the final in 2010.

However last year we did win the Plate, so we're hungry for another victory! We both joined the CRUK softball team last year and absolutely loved it, so have really enjoyed being captains this year.

What are the best things about the league and making the final?

The best thing about being part of softball is getting to meet lots of new people, having some friendly competition and enjoying softball and drinks in the sun!

We're really pleased to have made the finals as the majority of our team are new this year, with only four players from last season. To see how far we've come when compared to our first training session back in May makes us really proud and proves all those practices and friendlies were worth it!

What's the most memorable moment of the season (so far, at least)?

Best moment of the season has to be during a particularly tense match against the Raptors on the night of the England game! We'd had to stream the game to an iPad on the side of the pitch so we didn't miss it, and we halted play when England were awarded a penalty. All of the tension slipped away as both teams crowded around the iPad, British Red Cross players mixed in with CRUK players, with us all losing our minds when England scored the penalty!

Friendliest team you've played?

Easy question - every year it's Unicef without fail! This year we weren't in the same group, but made sure we organised a friendly with them just because we always have a great night playing and drinking with them!

Who's been your MVP this year?

One of our newcomers Alex 'Briggsy/TheBull/Bully' Briggs has been sweeping the floor with MVP awards this season!

So what's been the secret of your success?

We think it's probably that we've approached every game with the same attitude - keen to win, but there to have fun!

Most of our team being brand new this year worried us at the start, but everyone's been so keen to play, even cancelling plans once we got through to the knockout stages, to make sure they were part of the team that got us through to the next round.

We may be biased, but we think we have the best team around - they're funny, no one puts pressure on each other, you get the p*ss taken out of you and they're as committed to going to the pub afterwards as they are attending the games - what else could we ask for?

A fourth cup win on Thursday?

We're going to approach the finals as we have all our other games - play hard, have fun and enjoy the atmosphere. We're obviously hoping to be up on that stage lifting the cup as the team goes wild - fingers crossed that's what we see tomorrow!

Last year's night ended with the teams popping champagne on Hyde Park at 1am whilst making human pyramids, so we've got big expectations for tomorrow night!

Tarik Hasan, Plan International UK

Tell us about Plan and The Pandas...

Plan International UK is a global children's charity. We work to give every child the same chance in life.

The Plan Pandas softball team is made up of members from throughout the organisation representing all departments. We have an incredibly dedicated bunch of people, and we usually have the same team every week.

How long have you been involved in the league?

We've been playing in the league since 2012, and after a very difficult start that year, we found a rhythm and then went on to win the Plate final!

Since then we've managed to qualify for the Cup or Plate every year, but our best achievement was the cup quarter-final three years ago. We have currently have three players in the team that were part of the Plate winning team of 2012, and most players have been around for at least two or three seasons.

What's the best thing about being part of it?

Getting to meet so many people from across the charity sector, and also getting to know people at work really well and creating lots of new friendships. We currently have one softball related wedding on the cards!

Friendliest team you've played?

St John's Badgers. They are very friendly and always give us a very competitive game (and they don't mind a beer or two after the game). We regularly play friendlies against them when we don't meet them in the league.

And who've been your toughest opponents this year?

British Heart Foundation were an incredibly good team in our last 16 game. They were very well organised, very competitive, and also very fair with all of their calls. It was a very tight game that finished 30 - 26.

What's been the secret of your success?

Balance. In previous years we always relied on a few players to carry the team through, while this year everyone knows their positions and can get to first base. In this game (just as they say in Moneyball) it really is all about everyone getting to first and not about players scoring home runs.

So the big question: who's going to be taking home the trophy tomorrow?

I think it'll be close, but if we play our game I think that we have a really good chance.

It's definitely going to be one to watch - thanks and best of luck to Leah, Anna, Tarik and their teams for tomorrow!

We'll be squeezing in one more set of finalists in the morning but in the meantime, get some rest, sleep well, and failing that you can always check out some of our other features below...

Team Harris Hill

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