London Calling – Women’s Preview

#ukut1, Iceni, Leeds, news, Nice Bristols, Previews, ROBOT, SYC, Women's Tour, YAKA
Charlie Blair introduces the teams who will be starting up the Women’s club season this weekend…

Can you believe it? Here beckons the start of June. The summer has arrived! The season is about to begin! And boy, what a difference a year makes!  London Calling 2014 delivers yet again with another great turn out in the women’s Tour with 24 teams signed up and raring to go. Most exciting however, is that this year promises more depth than ever as preparation for World clubs has strengthened the level of competition ready to descend on St Albans this weekend. Whilst some have complained that Tour maintains a sense of predictability ten years in, the battle amongst the top 8 and the top 12 is finally feeling like a more competitive affair.

There really is no telling just how much the seedings will be turned over in any of these brackets. It would be safe to assume that the three teams contending at world clubs will be found at the summit of Tour. However, in terms of who will take the title, it does seem somewhat likely that Iceni will rule the roost once again.

In preparation for Worlds, Iceni have had a marked overhaul under the leadership of Sonia Komenda and Ange Wilkinson, in recognition of the serious demands required in order to challenge top teams in Italy. They go into Tour 1 extremely well prepared, with months of bi-weekly trainings and professional fitness instruction under the guidance of former Clapham player Paul ‘Voodoo’ Waite who has committed his season to them. Nevertheless, in having not attended the inaugural NFL (Not Fog Lane) a couple of weeks ago, Tour will be their first demonstration of their hard work. With the introduction of a new  ‘north American’ style structure and the complete scrap of vertical stack from their offensive repertoire, will it all come together in time or will others be able to take advantage of their somewhat inexperienced tactics?
Joey Holmes getting off her feet for a D at UKU Club Nationals 2013. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


Bristol have shown the same dedication and intensity to their training over the past few months, ( in fact Bristol’s impressive team effort in preparation for Worlds has even seen them wangle some TV and radio appearance along the way!) but they have already signalled that teething problems remain. Whilst Bristol take their loss to SYC in the final of NFL in their stride, it may be that they don’t place as highly as expected whilst they continue to find their momentum. However, their decision to split their worlds squad for Tour in favour of using the tournament as further opportunity to harness close connections and rapport amongst players suggests their aim goes beyond taking domestic victory.

It is without doubt that the welcome international cohort we enjoy at London Calling will also have their eyes on victory. This year two teams will be making the trip over: E6 from Sweden, and YAKA from France. In such an important club year, it is a shame that so few Europeans have managed to be enticed. Little is known of the current state of this Swedish team who did not make an appearance in Bordeaux last year. Needless to say, they have always sported a team of extremely hard working and gritty players, with an experienced core leading the way. They will surely be looking for upsets. YAKA should equally expect to fair well on UK soil, having finished above Bristol, SYC and LLL at xEUCF 2013 . Even though they missed out on qualifying for worlds, they will be carrying confidence from taking the title at the recent ‘Siege of Limerick’. However, the loss of their famous talisman since then, Aline ‘Rasta’ Mondiot, who has hopped across the Channel to train and play with SYC this season could prove to be huge.

Indeed, this reshuffle of players as a result of selection and qualification of World Clubs has both seemingly strengthened established clubs and stimulated new ones, particularly in the south. Iceni’s much stricter selection process released a wealth of talented women to bolster clubs such as SYC and Crown Jewels as well as initiate the formation of Phoenix and Free Agents. All will be pushing for the best result possible in the top half of the Tour. Of the two new clubs, we know that despite their newness, Phoenix (formed of ex- Iceni  / Herd players) are serious about competing having exploited the wisdom of local beardy guru, Jaime Cross. Free Agents on the other hand are a motley crew of ex Iceni/SYC who haven’t committed to any trainings this year. Whilst they will be looking to cause trouble, the ‘name tags’ of this team, which include reigning Paga queen Bex Forth shouldn’t assume victory over those that have been working hard all season.

In the face of this new competition, others expecting a top table finish will surely be the legends of ROBOT, the Scottish contingent, Swift, and the big movers and shakers of last season, Punt, who all rounded off last season comfortably in the top 10. Looking further north LLL will also be keen to cement their strength after a phenomenal success at developing an incredibly talented core of young players. They appear to have become a real beacon for attracting committed players in the north, with some team members even commuting from as far a field as Scotland. They mean business!

Nevertheless, those teams who are looking to kick off the season with a more modest seeding, who train less frequently, are still capable of surprises. Whilst the battle for the mid table already looks rather crowded this year, there is welcome room for new outfits Manchester and Devon to ruffle some feathers. Both these teams have been established and managed under the guidance of former GB players who have invested in their local area. Up in Manchester, Julia ‘Jools’ Murray and Claerwen Snell have been providing lots of structure to trainings with guest coaches and fitness expertise on hand. So whilst they may lack experience, expect a well-drilled, well informed, skilled team who know their fundamentals. 

Despite my prediction that a full powered Iceni – desperate to play all together for the first time – are going to storm London Calling, I no longer see a divide between the top 4 and the rest as in previous years. There is everything to play for in the top bracket whether it’s the 3v4 or the 9v10, and woe betide any team that goes to Tour 1 resigning themselves to formality this weekend. Things are looking truly exciting in Women’s ultimate after the 2013 shake-up, and now it really is a case of if you don’t take it, someone else will!

Excitement is building steadily for the season opener in less than 24 hours. Our final preview of international teams is on the way!


4 thoughts on “London Calling – Women’s Preview

  1. Great lowdown on the women's division which is looking very exciting indeed! One amendment, YAKA recently won their 7th National title and have thus qualified for WUCC 2014.

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