There are signs of change in the National Softball League after the first NSL tournament of the season, played at Diamond 1 on May 14-15 at Farnham Park.
Some of the A-grade teams that have traditionally been at or near the top of the standings now find themselves in the bottom half of the table, with some of the less-fancied teams enjoying the heady air of the top half.
The first and second-placed teams in the standings -- Chromies and H2O -- are no surprise.
But the biggest shock of all is to find last year's Premier Nationals Champions Pioneers just two places off the bottom and with a lot of ground to make up over the rest of the summer, especially with only eight teams guaranteed places in this year's Premier Nationals.
"I don't really know what happened," said Michael Lee of the Pioneers. "We had all our players there. Maybe teams were just going for us a little bit harder because we won last year. But the biggest reason was that we just didn't hit."
The NSL has will have 14 teams in its third season this year, with Manchester Maniacs, SPAM and new team Blue Steel joining the competition. Munster (which will not be playing in the NSL this year but hopes to come back in 2012) and the visiting Irish National Team made it 16 teams playing in the NSL schedule at Diamond 1.
The BSF has already announced plans to cap the NSL at 12 teams after this season and start an NSL 2 next year, with the top teams from that competition going to the Platinum Nationals. By 2013, there should be promotion and relegation between NSL 1 and NSL 2.
The BSF has also announced that a proposed NSL tournament in Manchester will not be happening this year, but will definitely be on the calendar in 2012.
But for this year, with 14 teams playing for eight Premier Nationals places, the scramble for points from every NSL tournament will be intense.
NSL action will resume on the weekend of June 4-5 at Diamond 2.
Meanwhile, the placings and points after NSL Week 1 are below.
Placings and points
Blue Steel (16)
Manchester Marvels (14)
Manchester Maniacs (12)
Windsor Knights (8)
London Legends (6)
Baker Tomkins (4)