In the dark days of winter, it can be difficult to find things to talk about other than young, optimism-addled players running about indoors for their university teams. While our team of university editors and writers have been doing a fantastic job keeping us updated on the ins and outs of the academic season thus far, we thought we needed to try and diversify our current output by writing something about club Ultimate. So an idea was born: a draft of all the players who played in UK Ultimate last season (this rule proved a challenge for one person in particular), with four female and four male players to be picked for each team.
Obviously, the format raises several questions: would it be best to select the best male and female players regardless of team, or would prioritising those who play Mixed be preferable? Do you want established superstars or young, up-and-coming players? To what degree would everyone consider spirit? Would anyone make the terrible decision of drafting one of the editors in order to curry favour?
The format we went with was a snaking draft from a random order. The first order of business – let’s meet our drafters in the order in which they selected:
GeeGee Morrison: GeeGee has written for tSG several times before, starting life as a university writer a couple of years ago. Since then she’s played for SYC, made the GB under-24 Mixed team and commentated at WCBU. We’re a springboard, people.
Sean Colfer: this is me. I edit tSG and make terrible predictions, which you probably know if you’re reading this.
Josh Coxon Kelly: Josh is another of the editors here and a player for Deep Space. He was out at the pub during the draft, which goes some way to explaining his total misunderstanding of the central rule of the draft (although it was, admittedly, misapplied on my part).
Hannah Brew: GB Women’s handler, Brighton stalwart and busy human, Brew was unavailable for the draft but sent in some pre-selected choices and ended up with a very strong team! This is despite making one selection that is liable to cause an ego-related aneurysm (Joe, I don’t want to hear it).
Harry Mason: Hazard might have a ridiculous sense of what makes for good kit but he does a bang up job with the university division and knows his Ultimate. He came in with a very defined plan, unlike many of the others (looking at Josh).
Hani Pendlebury: International party player and superstar World Games commentator, Hani took some time out from her busy schedule to moan at us all for taking too much time with picks.
Rachel Douglas: Doug also misunderstood the rules in a much less obvious way, but still managed to wind up with a strong squad. #StudyYourCriteria #SelectYourComrades
David Pryce: Another of the editors and a legend in his own mind, DP was in a tough position at the end of the first round but seemed confident his nerd-given knowledge could help him select a cohesive crew.
The draft thread was chaos – Hani mentions the time on a number of occasions and an unnamed drafter exclaims very early on in response to an extended wait time ‘this isn’t f*cking X Factor, just pick’ – so there’s not much point in sharing the full details. However, a couple of the more notable points:
- For Josh’s first pick, he chose Sam Bowen. This led to an outburst from someone (possibly me) as Josh had broken literally the only rule in the draft; that players had to have played in the UK last year. While Sam would have been a very worthy pick, he lives in Dubai and played for GB Men at WCBU in France, not the UK. It has since come to light that Sam did play one Tour last season so the invocation of the rule (and associated rant) was unnecessary. Let’s move on.
- For Josh’s penultimate pick, he selected Jools Murray. This elicited another response from me (‘Your banter will be the death of me’) since I was under the impression that Jools had retired/moved abroad. I was swiftly corrected by Hani in that Jools had actually played Nationals for Leeds. This was a surprise to Josh, who had indeed been trying to wind me up and was unaware she had returned from Canada. He ended up with a very good pick, entirely accidentally.
- Doug had assumed the rules were that we were picking from teams that made Worlds. Not a huge misjudgement since the players from those teams are obviously going to be excellent, but made for some confusion when players from other teams were picked. She soldiered on though.
- Josh made his last pick out of turn so Harry stole it, which led to lots of complaining from Josh.
- Brew made an excellent decision to skip the draft, the whole process was exhausting.
Jenna Thomson: one of the best all-round players in the country, if not Europe. Jenna has a very clever frisbee brain (as one of the GBU24 Women’s coaches that’s a given), and is just a boss on-pitch. I have a feeling DP wanted to pick Jenna so I just couldn’t leave her off of the draft!
Rollo Sax Dixon: Rollo is one of the main threats on Chevron’s D line, and a strong Mixed player as well. I chose him for this draft because while he is a powerful deep threat and defender, he is also very consistent – rarely making mistakes.
Bailey Melvin Teng: When you send the disc, Bailey is certainly a target to look out for. She is quick, powerful and gritty, and her wide variety of skills is why she is one of my picks. Nice Bristols definitely have a valuable player in Bailey.
Amanda Fung: a newer player to the UKU scene, Mandy has certainly made an impression this year playing with SYC. She has definitely used her experience and strength to be one of the many strong players to get SYC to WUCC this year.
Lloyd Cheesman: I couldn’t not have the Rollo-Lloyd combination. Cheese has the throws that every deep receiver wants and can break the mark with ease. If you’re not convinced of why he’s needed in this draft: https://www.facebook.com/claphamultimate/videos/1604337569578565/
Andrew Dick: I’ve only seen Andrew play a few times, once playing against Black Eagles at Dublin Golden Cup, but he was certainly one of the predominant threats on the male side of a very strong squad. He has some impressive throws and is always willing to bid.
Andy Mitchell: Andy disappeared from the UK Ultimate scene for a while, but returned to play for Reading this year. I played on a hat tournament team with him last year and he is an absolute joy to handle with; very versatile and talented.
Rachel Turton: I couldn’t not pick Turts and I am surprised she wasn’t picked sooner. She is another incredibly strong, all-round player. Her long shots are well practiced and consistent, she is a smart defender and trains hard for every play she can.
Justin Foord: good at fris.
Francesca Scarampi: also good.
Ash Yeo: good too.
Alex Thorne: yes he’s good.
Tom Abrams: also pretty good.
Alex Meixner: good.
Marah Neal: good as well.
Sarah Melvin: quite good.
The criticism in the draft thread was that I had picked too many Open or Women’s players. To that I counter; who cares? Talent has a way of working it out, and there’s no doubting there’s a hell of a lot of talent here. My Alex handler partnership has an embarrassment of riches to throw to, with any of the other six able to create mismatches downfield. Justin and Fran are two of the most overwhelmingly athletic players in the UK, while Mum and Marah offer extensive experience and lethal downfield throws. Ash is the best deep threat in the country, and Sarah Melvin is capable of affecting every level of the field. While they’re all known for offensive excellence, every single one of this team is capable of getting blocks and it’s also a group that would exert dominance in the air – good luck beating Ash, Justin, Fran and Marah long. When you add the fact that almost all of these players have high-level Mixed experience, I don’t see any way this isn’t the strongest team picked.
You can break down this group of 8 players a number of different ways to see the dominance that they would wreak on their opposition.
Some place the highest value in international experience. From multiple World silver medals and a World Games campaign brought by Gordon to Murray’s coaching of the first medalling UK Junior team (and no lack of GB representation on field) this team is not lacking on this front. Perhaps offensive firepower is the highest priority, in which case we’ve got full pitch bombs from Wilson and Murray being snapped up by Aspin for fun. Brooks, Leila and Rawlings’ suspiciously robotic consistency provide the perfect backdrop to this firepower, when they’re not quietly controlling the score-sheet themselves. You may also have noticed a strong theme of big game horizontal blockers – watch out for Denniston sneaking past Gordon and Aspin’s victim count. Any team fooled by the stature of this lineup (whilst OG does his laces, I guess) will find themselves rudely humbled by the sheer quality of their play-making in the air across the board.
However – the prime focus of my selections was in fact based on their possession of a headspace that allows a zen-like spirit and calmness to not be overcome by their fiercely competitive drive. A team set on winning needs to first and foremost keep its head, and have the field intelligence to gel their skills whilst presenting the utmost respect to their opposition. This All Star team’s speed, skill and smarts would topple any unfortunate competition that they come across.
Avril Hunter (Brighton, Reading): Fast and super low inside breaks. Clearly an asset on offence as a give go style handler, but also a demon on defence easily marking out some of the top female players in the country, and across the world…
Gabi Starek (GB U24s): Key disc distributor for any team, will be number one handling asset. Provides easy resets for any team mate and has a huge career ahead of her.
Hayden Slaughter (Clapham): Number one skill is sideline and shouting. OK at offence and defence, will probably be on the specials team. Suits a fluid, high frisbee IQ team.
Joe Wynder (Emo): Superb Mixed player and number one in assists at U23 Worlds in 2015. Just needs to quit the golf…
Rachel Dean (Bristol): Fast, experienced and brings a wealth of knowledge. Will be a key implementation of positive mental attitude and will grind through the long offence points, normally finished with a layout for the score.
Charlie Daffern (GB U24s): Quick rise to fame as a quick and smart player. Easily number one endzone monkey. In a trio with Gabi and Avril outside the endzone, it would be devastating.
Adam Lothian (Fire): ‘Get a block Adam’, ‘OK’.
Robbie Haines (Clapham): A jack of all trades but still manages to be among the top in all aspects of the game. Can easily get two blocks per game, and be the primary cutter in any offence structure. If he keeps working in that sidearm, he’ll be unstoppable. Also he’s Brighton Women’s number one fan.
If you want the best Mixed team, here it is, as every athlete I picked has played Mixed at high level. I would be genuinely terrified facing this team on the field. Just, stop for a second, and try to work out who you would mark. And, when you pick Gunbie, realise you’re the one that gets blamed as he breaks you for a full-field huck to a miles-open Tessa Hunt. Pick Ania or Jackie, and realise that, even if you get lucky, they won’t rest until they destroy you and get that disc back. Which they will. Every. Time. Unless you’re 6ft5, I’m guessing you didn’t pick Steve or Ally, because that’s the height you need to even have a chance at the discs they usually take. Unless you’re insane, you didn’t pick Ange. Also, Sam Vile is known to be one of the most level-headed captains in Ultimate. If anyone can push this team of superstars to the next level, it’s him (probably with Ange, I just speak from experience from being captained by Sam).
In short: they will beat you for height, throws, speed, athleticism, mentality and spirit. And they’ll play great Mixed Ultimate too. Good luck.
I’m pretty chuffed with my team, ending up with the vast majority of my pre-draft ‘top line’. Who do you think my two reserve picks are? Answers on a postcard/@Discgal31 on Twitter!
So how did I make my selection? Well dear reader, rather than just opt for a #AllStar strategy of typical household names (here’s looking at you, Sean Colfer) I selected players to craft my team around two themes.
For the gents I sought after those with excellent records in the Mixed division rather than just success in Open. I strongly believe that being good at Mixed is a specific skill, especially for male players. James Freeman is therefore an obvious first choice with bags of elite club experience from his time with Bear Cavalry and numerous GB Mixed caps.
The rest of my male roster have all represented GB alongside Freeman on one surface or another. Mike Noblett and Mark Bignal have also enjoyed recent success on the elite club Mixed stage with Black Eagles and Reading respectively. I caught a little bit of flack on the draft chat for choosing Chevron Action Flash’s Matt Beavan, but I really enjoyed his play style at EUC & WUGC. Plus, he used to play for this little Mixed team called Magic Toast…
Turning our attention to the ladies, the theme here is fearless athleticism. First up is Amelia Kenneth. This young upstart already has GB caps for the U24 and senior squads, European Club gold & silver medals and even her very own Fanseat highlight reel (https://tellyo.pro/moment/13999). One of my favourite moments from the domestic Women’s season was her run through D on SYC’s Tessa Bertozzi in the UKU Nationals final. She’s terrifyingly good.
The rest of my female roster all have national team experience too. They are also absolute monsters on D, which is why I picked them! Beccie Haigh has insane grabs and will happily wreck any player of either gender in the air without a care in the world, and Alex Benedict and Catherine Ashton are both layout block machines. The difference between the latter two is that after generating the turn you’ll see Ashton burn deep for the score, whereas Benedict is more likely to be lashing it downfield for the assist.
So there you have it – my hot take on a UK club scene dream team.
My priority was to choose incredible players who embody the best elements of ultimate in play, spirit and attitude. I was also keen to look beyond the names of those who routinely get thrown around in conversations like these and find the players who, although their talent and ability is no secret, might be overlooked in these kinds of exercises. I think that all of my draftees are incredible players with immense skill and expansive, versatile play; they work hard for their teammates both on and off the field, in and out of season; and they embody the highest standard of spirit of the game.
I went into this draft with zero preparation and feel like I came out with an amazing squad. My aims were to ensure a cohesive unit and that in any situation would both be consistent and, if needed, get those blocks that win championships!
For the first aim my first four picks were players who have all played at a high level and together in some way. Lucy Barnes and Dom Dathan have played either as Cambridge Mixed or GB Mixed together for at least three years, then Fiona Kwan and Josh Briggs played together at York Uni but now play respectively for Iceni and Clapham. Both these pairs have demonstrated class throughout their careers so far, and would also work well with the next four picks. With those remaining picks I wanted some powerhouses of the field and sky. Grainne, Nina, Fred and Magnus offer height, grit, hard work and will bring it in those big games. And that’s my eight. I think they are bloody class, and I have faith that this team would also come together as a great Mixed team. Maybe we should enter them into Mixed Tour? Magic Boast?
So, tSG readers. Now we put it to you. Who has the best team? We have generated a random tournament, which will see a match per day put on our Facebook page. Here’s the first round:
GeeGee v DP
Brew v Hazard
Sean v Doug
Josh v Hani
We’ll update as we go to find an overall winner of the first annual Great ShowGame Draft!