The European Ultimate Championship Finals begin today! Ahead of the tournament starting, Sean Colfer takes a look at the Mixed division, often the hardest to predict given the lack of high-level Mixed tournaments around Europe. Sean Colfer concludes the preview series with a take on the Mixed Tour champions JR.
JR are another team that has been building for a number of years. That building culminated in a spectacularly successful Mixed Tour season this year, with two first place finishes (when discounting international teams at Tour 1) and a third place. They lost a few players to Open and Women’s teams between Tour and Nationals, but still brought a strong team to Southampton. They experienced their first struggles of the year at Nationals, defeating Cambridge and Thundering Herd in sudden death, coming from behind late in the game against Herd. They lost to Black Eagles in their final pool game, leaving them a semi-final against Reading. They were defeated soundly, but managed to pick themselves up to score their best win of the weekend against Brighton Breezy 13-11.
The JR squad has been added to every year, keeping the same core of players. George Hudson is the captain and the leader, but there are other players who have been with the tam for years – Alex ‘Medic’ Charlton, Ally Lead, Charlotte Kennedy and Rachel Finch are just four of the players who have played extensively together. They play a slightly different style to other teams in that they have lines that play together on both offence and defence, one against the wind and one with the wind. Captain Hudson helms the upwind line, where he’ll be handling alongside Chris Peploe, with Charlton, Lead and husband-and-wife pair Luke Tobiasiewicz and Cat Gale. Meanwhile, the downwind line features more slightly cooler heads with Kennedy, Finch, Rupal Ghelani and Robert ‘Codgoblin’ Coddington. The strict lines mean that they’re essentially two teams within a team, and means that both have excellent chemistry.
Their pool seems the tougher of the two. They have the Polish team FLOW, Austrians Wunderteam, Swedes SeE6, Dutch team Airborn and more familiar foes Rebel Ultimate. Rebel will be a difficult matchup – their women have had a great season and they’ll have very strong chemistry as a team as well. FLOW have four Polish Mixed team members as well as an Open team member, so they have some talent too – though there doesn’t seem to be much crossover between this squad and reigning champions Grandmaster Flash. JR will be aiming for a semi-final spot however their opponents play, and if things come off like they did during the Mixed Tour season they can certainly get there.
The key for JR will be how their spicier line can manage against the European teams. They struggled as a team at Nationals, missing a couple of players and perhaps slightly out of sync after the long break between the Mixed season and Nationals starting. If George’s hucks can stay aggressive and creative, rather than veering into forced and ill-advised, they can make a lot of yards very quickly and score some easy points. He’s capable of throwing pretty much every throw in the book and their cutters, both male and female, are well capable of reeling them in. The more structured line should be able to grind along well and keep the scoreboard ticking over, but the boom-or-bust upwind line is where games will be won and lost. My bet is that they’ll do a fair bit more of the former.