UK Ultimate 2019: A new season dawns

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2019 is a new start for Ultimate in the UK, with a totally new tournament structure (farewell Tours, we hardly knew ye) and a new approach with Tier 1 and Tier 2 tournaments littering the calendar. This weekend sees the first of those tournaments, a Tier 1 event in Cardiff named… *checks notes* a welsh thing (ok, it’s Y Ddraig Goch which translates to An Old, Old Wooden Ship in English). There are some interesting seedings and there are some new teams to look at! Let’s dive in.

Mighty Hucks are seeded first after their overall (joint) win last year, and will feature a changed roster this season. They’ve lost a few of their top players but have reloaded effectively with team boss Ben Bruin recruiting from his Great Britain beach mixed teammates to fill those gaps. Athletes like Conor McHale, Will Rowledge and Amelia Kenneth will make them as formidable as ever and tough to knock from their perch. They face a strong Cambridge team, who will have Tom White and Tessa Bertozzi back, and Reading Mixed. Clearly, stories of Reading’s demise were greatly exaggerated as their team resembles that which has been one of the dominant forces in UK mixed for the last half decade. It’ll be a fun pool.

Pool B sees Thundering Herd 1, back in the top eight after a resurgent season last year, and half of Smog (in their MIST guise) face off against the reigning European silver medallists, Ireland. The focus of the Irish appears to be on men’s and women’s more generally this rotation, but their mixed team features some familiar faces and some talented newcomers. They’re likely to pose a threat to the semis at this tournament despite probably having to leave early, and will be a tough matchup for their two English opponents here.

The next two pools are slightly more difficult to predict since they each feature something of an unknown quantity for me. SMOKE is the other half of Smog and so will obviously be good, while Glasgow will be without important players Axel Ahmala and Katie Flight following their moves to London but always find a way to be competitive. They face Royal Goaltimate Society, who went to one Tour last year and came second after several years of absence from the mixed scene. Are they a phoenix, rising resplendently from the ashes of a defunct team? Or are they a pale imitation of that team, an echo of a once glorious past? We shall see (but they’ll probably be good).

The final top 12 pool will see Birmingham, who had an excellent Tour season last year before focusing on Open for Nationals, face Deep Space and MPA. Deep Space have recruited well again this season and look set to build on their first two years of existence with a talented roster. MPA are almost totally unknown, but my spies tell me that this team features plenty of the GB mixed team that will be competing at EUC this summer. Mighty Hucks refugees Rollo Sax Dixon and Ben Burak are joined by other Chevron teammates and national champions from Nice Bristols according to ShowGame sources, so they’ll be decent I think?

Looking at the teams that will want to cross into the top 16, four teams who had good seasons last year currently occupy the final four spots. TBC, a team of long-time Bristols players augmented with men from Devon and Bristol, are 13th, EXƎ are back to frustrate opponents and ride their outstanding chemistry and are seeded 14th, Guildford 1 start 15th and Purple Cobras are 16th after a successful debut season. LLLeeds Mixed are a team to look out for in this bracket, with Chevron player Matt Aspin co-captaining with Hydra player Katie Lear at the head of what is sure to be an experienced, well-drilled team. They’ll be dangerous and a headache for TBC. Thundering Herd 2 finished off last season by winning the plate at Tour 3 and have had a good build up so far, losing in a reasonably close game to Deep Space in a warm-up tournament while beating a Guildford 1 and 2 mixed squad and GFM handily. Manatees are sure to feature some experienced, useful throwers and some canny older heads, and the other teams here have all had recent successes of one kind or another. The scrap for top spot in each pool, allowing a shot at the top 12 on Saturday afternoon, is sure to be closely fought.

St Albans and Black Sheep battling out at last years Mixed Tour. Photo by Claire Baker.

The second half of the draw sees a lot of familiar names, but a few surprises as well. Ouseburn Social Club must be a new team based in Newcastle from the name, but I must admit I know very little about them. Similarly, Zoo and Nemesis are teams I don’t know much about, while Dreadnought are a new team based in Nottingham, started by former Lookfly majordomo Steve Giguere. They have a first team and a development team so are clearly taking things seriously and trying to establish a real footprint in the area. LLLeeds also have a second team, while there’s a new North Wales Mixed team as well. Outside of that, teams like Lemmings, GFM, Bristol and Brixton are now familiar names in UK mixed and will all be trying to make their mark with more opportunities to play top teams at local tournaments available later in the season.

Here’s the point where I’d usually make predictions, so here we go. A top 16:

 

    1. Mighty Hucks
    2. Ireland
    3. MPA
    4. Cambridge
    5. Birmingham
    6. Thundering Herd 1
    7. Deep Space
    8. SMOKE
    9. RGS
    10. Reading
    11. TBC
    12. MIST
    13. Glasgow
    14. EXƎ
    15. Thundering Herd 2
    16. LLLeeds Mixed

 

 

See you in sunny (no seriously) Cardiff!

Feature photo by Alice Hanton.

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