Club or Country? Introduction

Chevron, Clapham, Club or Country, Discussion, EMO, GB
Josh Coxon Kelly introduces the next edition of Discussion titled: Club or Country?


Next week teams will compete for the right to call themselves the greatest Ultimate club in the world. Now only a number of days away, excited qualifiers from 40 different countries and 161 different teams will be adding the finer touches to their preparation for this momentous opportunity at time of publishing – getting their bodies and minds perfectly ready to take on the rest of the world. At the height of elite non-commercial ultimate the WUCC held this year in Lecco, Italy is only challenged in terms of prestige by international competitions that occur between the World Club years. Players and coaches will still talk with a hushed reverence of Maribor, Southampton, Sakai, Vancouver as they share stories of their brushes with international glory or defeat, and our whole community is undeniably galvanised by the prospect of GB being represented and competing at Ultimate on the highest international stage.


The EUC and WUGC not only carry an extra weight with the privilege and national pride bound up in their medals, but also arguably present a more tantalising prospect for underdog ultimate nationals given the single-team restriction placed on entrants. With only a single entrance from USA, Canada, Japan, or any other of the growing list of world class Ultimate nations (Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Colombia…), the elusive quarter and semi final brackets are notably more viable for the underdog. The most recent example of this comes from close to home with our very own GB open squad making a first ever appearance in a world final in the recent summer of 2012, in Sakai. Whilst the defeat to USA may have been a decisive one, the GB Open performance in Japan provides lasting inspiration for up and coming British players whose dreams of international success were shown to be more viable than perhaps we had all thought a few summers ago.


Whilst not all players at in Lecco will have represented their country, there will be very few international competitors who do not have a club team at WUCC 2014, and depending on the nation, the distribution of national players varies greatly. There are clearly some quite disparate approaches across the international community to balancing the push and pull between club and country.


In the UK Clapham Ultimate have been open National champions for 13 years, and Iceni have held the women’s title for 8 out of the last 10 years. Whilst neither team is completely unscathed, they are widely held as the best teams in the country and there has is a sense building suggesting that we are starting to develop our own domestic ‘gap’, between the best London club and the rest of the country. Accompanying this suggestion, is the discussion of whether or not we should as a country be sending our most successful teams, or a combination of all-star players from across the country’s most competitive squads.

Daniel Furnell (EMO) passes to Si Dathan (Chevron) for GB in Japan. Photo courtesy of Stuart Austin.

It is undeniable that London seems to gravitationally attract a huge portion of young people in the UK whether for career, financial or other reasons. This effect is only going to be further exacerbated for our young sportsmen and women by the high percentage of the Ultimate community who learn and/or mature as players at their universities, and subsequently seek out employment in the larger cities. The country is evidently lopsided population wise, and this as well as the bustling London scene is drawing more and more talent to bolster the already dominant London clubs. Yet, despite this weighting towards the capital, top players from clubs across the country consistently prove at tour and GB selection processes that they can bring their own individual dominance over others from further down the London rosters.


There are clearly many variables and opinions in the balance in this debate, and the pieces in this series will provide an analysis of the British approach and comparison to other world powerhouses, as well as speculation on what steps need to be taken to best progress in the future. Sion Scone will be providing an in-depth analysis of the various options open to us. Supplementing this analysis will be two contrasting opinions from the UK Open club scene [Editor’s note: these supplementary posts are knowingly open-division-centric. We would love to expand the scope of this discussion to other divisions – comment below or get in touch!]: Ollie Benjamin (Clapham ~ 10 years) and Mark Penny (Chevron ~ 7 years). 

The last catch in Lecco will be followed by joy, desolation, celebrations and relaxation for many who move past the pinnacle of their seasons. For some however, it won’t be long after this that the focus turns to EUC’15, WUGC 2016, and the trialling, training and competitive journey of international ultimate that swiftly rises to the height of priority. Should we reassess our current system, and would doing so lead to short term, long term improvement, neither or both? Should we be focusing on top level or grass roots? Should such questions even be imposed on those who make up these teams, and should these people have the responsibility to do both? Let’s start the discussion…

UKU Tour 3 Review

#ukut3, Cardiff, Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Fire of London, news, Nice Bristols, Open, PUNT, ROBOT, SYC, Tournament Reports, womens
David Pryce, Fiona Kwan, Thomas Cliff and Christopher Bell review Tour 3 with some insight into the rest of the season…

Full standings can be found here for Women’s and here for OpenBut what happened in Cardiff?

Women’s Tour – Fiona Kwan

UKU Women’s Tour Top 8 


1. Punt
2. SYC
3. ROBOT
4. LLLeeds
5. Phoenix London
6. Iceni
7. Relentless
8. Brighton Pretty
After 3 rounds of fierce contest featuring local favourites and some great input from international competition, the 2014 Tour season has come to an end. We’ve seen highs and lows, wins and losses, and our fair share of universe points. But sadly, the bakery is now closed. No more bagels.

This review will itself be a review of the finals for the top 6. There have been some great match-ups this season, as more and more team find themselves in contention to win – 4 different teams featured in the 3 Tour finals, Iceni and Punt being the only teams to appear more than once. 

Iceni’s absence at Tour 3 was to the advantage of other top level teams who came out hard  vying for the Tour 3 trophy, and the UKU title. Here’s how it all went down…


The Final: Bristol vs. Punt
Half time score: Bristol  4 Punt
Full time result: Bristol 16 – 17 Punt

Punt have been the movers and shakers of Tour this year and have had a remarkable season. A strong performance in 2013 raised expectations for the Cambridge/Oxford side, and they didn’t let us down. Consistent finishes in all three Tour events brought them a well deserved victory in the overall tour standings, beating out SYC by 41 points. They’ll also be ranked 2nd at Nationals, a remarkable feat for such a young team.

Coming into Tour 3, there was a still a certain amount of mystery surrounding the Bristol side this year. The result of them splitting their squad at Tour 1, and their notable absence at Tour 2 meant that they weren’t seen together until last weekend. In fact, Punt hadn’t had a chance to play Bristol all season, so this was a new encounter for all players involved. With the Bristol women representing in Lecco in a couple weeks time (and many of the Punt players playing for Cambridge mixed) both teams were well drilled and ready to play. This naturally lead to a high quality contest, and a hard fought victory.

Benefitting from low player turnover from last year in addition to a full season playing together, Bristol came out strong in the first half, and despite strong defensive pressure from Punt, the Worlds-bound side took half decisively at 9-4. 

Moving into the second half, Punt stepped up their defence, resulting in a number of turnovers near Bristol’s endzone which they were able to capitalise on. In a comeback worthy of the final, Punt brought it back to 11-11. From here, both teams fought hard, but Punt made it evident that they came to win. With the combination of Punt’s defensive strength and the wind playing a role in generating turnovers for both sides, Bristol’s offence began to lose steam. Ultimately, Punt was able to overcome their opposition and beat favourites Bristol in sudden death taking the Tour 3 and overall Tour title. 

Despite the upset, Bristol still finished the season in 10th place, with an average of 230 points per event. They go into Nationals ranked 3rd. 

A new addition to the squad this year, Punt’s Hannah Boddy was awarded MVP, and took the lovely glass UKU trophy home with her. Congratulations!


A clip of the winning point from the final, thanks to Matthew Hodgson.

3 vs. 4: SYC vs. ROBOT
Half time score: SYC 7 – ROBOT
Full time result: SYC 15  10 ROBOT

SYC and ROBOT seem to have played each other a lot this season, with Tour 3 being no exception. After losing to Punt and Bristol respectively in the semis, both were looking to give a strong showing in the 3 vs. 4. Both teams played some excellent D in this game, forcing the offense to put up some shaky throws. 

From the beginning SYC came out strong, piling the defensive pressure and generating turns from the seasoned ROBOT side. While ROBOT’s O was solid with all the right decisions being made with no unforced throwaways, SYC’s defense eventually overwhelmed them. Going into the second half, the London women already had a clear advantage. ROBOT however also brought their strong defensive game, using clever poaches to mark out the younger SYC squad. This strategy worked well for them, stopping the quick and athletic style of SYC, slowing the pace to a more manageable speed, and forcing them to use their break throws.

In spite of ROBOT’s best efforts however, SYC had a convincing victory coming second in final standings; ROBOT finishing right behind them in third.

5 vs. 6: Phoenix London vs. Rebel
It’s great to see that Tour is still attracting international teams this far into the season. Rebel proved a real force to be reckoned with in Cardiff, meeting the high standard of Irish ultimate set by Little Miss Sunshine at Tour 2. They proved to be an extremely athletic team, and their short squad of 10 showed no signs of fatigue in their final against Phoenix.

After a sudden death cross-down and overall disappointing finish at Tour 1, Phoenix have been working hard to climb back up the rankings from 13th. As the season has progressed, this new London team has gelled more, and worked hard to get themselves seeded in the top 8 for the next two tours.

In this match-up, Rebel came out strong, going up 4-1. They used their poaches and zone D to throw off their London competitors, forcing turns even when Phoenix was able to break through the cup. They also proved very effective on offense, with great handler play and quick up the line movement which proved devastating to Phoenix’s D. After a well used timeout call, Phoenix were able to adjust their strategy, and come back stronger against the Irish side. They began to shut down the handler movement by putting a poach in the open lane, and reigning in their offense to be more clinical. But despite their best efforts, the damage was already done and Rebel had a comfortable victory in the end. 

A well spirited game which saw both teams finish above seed; Rebel from 8th to 5th, and 
Phoenix from 7th to 6th.

Great job to all who participated – there were some fantastic games over the weekend. Thanks for coming, and see you at Nationals!


UKU Open Tour Top 8 

1. Clapham O
2. EMO
3. Chevron Action Flash
4. Fire of London
5. Zimmer 
6. Brighton Gritty
7. Ranelagh 1
8. Manchester

A Tour – David Pryce

With Clapham consolidating back into one team after a flurry of injuries and the repercussions of the US Open, the full squad were out to prove they still could dominate at home. Overall this was what we were shown, with no real trouble in their pool and a lacklustre performance from Fire of London 1 in the semi final setting Clapham against Chevron in the final. Chevron clearly wanted this game and started off the game with a lead and some were hopeful that they could hold onto this. However, Clapham changed gear and got back into it in the second half, taking the game and the Tour title once again. Not to take anything from Chevron, Rob Schumacher (Clapham #99) tweeted:

A sign of mutual respect as the top two British teams turn on from familiar opponents to face and hopefully overcome bigger challenges; the rest of the world better watch out for Chevron as well as Clapham.

In a windy 3v4 game EMO took the win over Fire of London who end the season back in the top 4. The only team of this 4 not attending worlds, Fire now look straight to Nationals where they will want to take advantage of Clapham, Chevron and EMO having to double peak this season. 

Zimmer finished the season with a very strong performance holding off Rebel and keeping their 5th seed. This all bodes well for their upcoming campaign in Lecco. Rounding off the top 8 at Tour 3 we see the now regulars Manchester and new guard NEO. This meteoric rise through the ranks has surprised some but they have made a statement at Tour that cannot be ignored by competition going into Regionals and Nationals. 

Just outside of the top 8 we see Brighton who have experienced a slight fall, but I fully expect them to come out hard to recoup this at Nationals. The lower brackets of the a tour have seen many teams across the season, with old and new faces in CUlt, Reading, Birmingham and LLLeeds making those last few coveted A tour spots a true battleground.

Chevron Action Flash huddle up for the UKU Tour 3 final. Photo courtesy of Serena de Nahlik.

B Tour – Thomas Cliff

Welcome to crossover country.
In my humble opinion, Sunday morning in B tour is one of the most intriguing spectacles in the tour season, simply because of the sheer amount of movement that is not only possible, but probable, due to 3 sets of crossovers with chances to be promoted or relegated mid tournament.  The top 8 of B tour was unrecognisable from the start to the end of the tournament, with only 2 teams retaining a spot therein.
As always, Saturday is just a scrap for the best possible seed going into the vital Sunday morning games. The only team to rock the boat at the top of the pile were Fire 2, upsetting JR at the third time of asking this season to top their pool.
The crossovers for A tour threw up two upsets, firstly Reading taking a game from Devon and Flump being rudely shunted back down to the B tour by Leeds. As a side note Flump somehow managed to score 8 points in every single game this weekend. One for the statisticians. In the other big games the flair heavy JR pushed DED all the way but they couldn’t quite seal the deal, and Fire 2 had their hot streak ended comfortably by Birmingham’s quick-movement based play. Highlight heavy Devon went on to top B tour with a 17th place finish.
Lower down the bracket, worlds-bound BAF looked imperious, taking out all comers on their way to a crossover against an athletic Sneekys squad. BAF went on to win this, and finished their weekend as high as was possible at 21st; no mean feat from a lowly 31st position start. BAF weren’t the only lower seed to win their crossover in the middle bracket. In fact, everyone did, which ruins the fun a bit.
At the bottom of the bracket all of the newcomers, The Brown, ABH, and Camden struggled to adjust on Saturday. However all 3 managed to hold on to their B tour spots (leaving my foot securely in my mouth). St Albans however weren’t so lucky, falling to a Guildford squad who seem to have left it quite late in the season to let their presence be known.
The season is far from over with regionals an important proving ground for B tour teams looking to make the top flight for nationals. Birmingham showed this and were able to use Nationals qualification to take a step up with their team last year. With regional results just in, it will be interesting to see if any of this year’s B tour teams can make a dent in the top 16 at Southampton.
  
Stu Greer bids for Fire of London 2. Photo courtesy of Serena de Nahlik.


C Tour – Christopher Bell

Guildford went unbeaten in Cardiff as they proved to all that they belonged in B Tour all season long. Passing through their group relatively untroubled, they came up against St Albans in their crossover, before beating ABH  comfortably. In fact, they didn’t concede more than 5 points in a game until they gave up 9 against Tour 2’s C Tour champions; The Brown.

Guilford were the only team to manage the jump from C Tour to B. Rhubarb and Pingu Jam held seed on Saturday to face B Tour teams, while Black Sheep jumped seven seeds by beating Devon 2 and CUlt 2 to top their group. Black Sheep squared up against Camden 1 on Sunday morning, but after a strong first 30 seconds, lost the half 8-1 and were only able to trade in the second half. Rhubarb beat Black Sheep and Pingu Jam beat St Albans, setting up Rhubarb to win the C Tour and St Albans to finish third.

The rest of the division saw a lot of movement – a special mention must go to Curve 2, who started 20th (bottom seed) and went on to win the bottom set of 8 – finishing 13th.  Hampshire managed to improve on their initial seed of 11th to finish 5th, enjoying an unbeaten Sunday along with Curve 2 and Guildford. Many teams finished roughly where they started, with Hammertime, Lemmings, Pier Pressure, Reading 2 and Camden 2 all finishing within one seed of their starting position.

Just as impressive as that of Curve 2 was the performance of Devon 3 – they managed to climb from second-bottom to third in their group, finishing the tournament in an impressive 12th, also an 8 place increase. In fact, they only finished 4 places lower than their second team. This result points to a great foundation for the club, and a real platform for growth in the off season, as we look ahead to next year.


UltiClips review UKU Tour 3 with some great clips from the weekend!

The Tour season comes to a close but there is plenty more to play for! Stay tuned for WUCC 2014 previews and more!

WUCC 2014 Open Division Preview: East Midlands Open

EMO, news, Open, Previews, WUCC Previews, WUCC2014
Sean Colfer starts off our WUCC previews with the team taking the third Open Division seeding: East Midlands Open.

Dave Povey gets high over Chevron at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.

Squad
Rob Coddington (C)
James Bauld
Dave Povey
Matt Stead
Lloyd Cheesman
Andy Tate
Dan Furnell
Rich Gale
Tom Fox
Sion Scone
Joe Wynder
Nathan Trickey
Chris White
Ed Walters
James Lavendar
Tom Tongue
James Wolverson
Luke Chambers
Ben Poole
Rollo Sax Dixon
Christian Zamore
Dom Norton
Phil Brunson
Robbie Tink
Dan Kemp
Andy Hillman
Kris Kerswell
About the Team

The EMO squad heading to Lecco features many of the players who have played a huge part in establishing the club in their top three spot in the UK this season. After last season’s breakthrough at Tour, followed by a disappointing Nationals, the aim for everyone involved with the club was to make sure that the hard-earned spot at WUCC wasn’t wasted. The offensive system has been tweaked to favour the personnel on the roster, and the defensive line has benefitted from the addition of more handling options alongside the existing height and athleticism. The results so far have been excellent, with EMO finishing as the second best UK club team in both Tours 1 and 2 (behind Clapham’s O and D lines), and an overall second place finish in the Tour rankings.

In terms of specific personnel, the team will be captained by GB under-23 mixed player Rob Coddington, who will play on an offensive line featuring former GB World Games players Dan ‘Colonel’ Furnell and Rich Gale, as well as veteran handlers and athletic cutters like James Bauld (also GB under-23 mixed). The loss of ex-GB player and World Games coach Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone to an ankle injury at Tour 1 will hurt, but there looks to be sufficient depth in the squad to absorb the hit.

The defensive line is a mixed bag of speed, size and skill with enough options to match up against a wide variety of offenses. Once they get the blocks they want, there are a variety of stand-out deep threats and also enough players comfortable with keeping the offence moving that the handling duties will be spread across the line. The defence has been a real strength so far this season, shutting down Chevron in the third place game at Tour 2 and at times dominating every non-Clapham team in the UK so far.

Coaching and Playing Style

Second year coach Joe Wynder has emphasised skills as well as the pre-requisite athletic ability for EMO this season. The result is that every member of the squad is capable of breaking forces confidently and completing accurate lead passes to deep cutters. When the EMO offence is flowing as it can, the team is able to play both a short game, swinging the disc across the field and initiating handler movements, and a long game, making huge gains in a hurry.

Defensively, the team will be largely looking to use their athletic ability to grind out turns with hard man defence, but is capable of mixing in some zones and poach-based looks to keep offences honest. The defensive line is often more keen to play vertically and their speed and ability to complete deep throws makes it a sound strategy a lot of the time. The team has been training together often, with weekly trainings as well as monthly weekend sessions forming the main part of the training plan. Fitness plans and throwing programmes have also been an important part of the build up to WUCC, led primarily by fitness coach and D-line captain Nathan Trickey.
Expected Finishing Place

It is of course tough to predict how this young team will fare as there is really no way of knowing how strong the rest of the field is until play begins in Lecco. The American, Canadian and Japanese teams will be formidable and there will be plenty of strength present in teams coming from outside of the top nations . Despite some doubts about how much the team deserved the spot after the disappointing seventh place finish at Nationals, they have certainly proved they belong at the top of the Tour this season.

The squad is certainly capable of making power pools if things click early and the offence is able to play their game. A top 20 finish would represent an excellent return given the relative inexperience of the squad at international level but the team could well be capable of more than that if they hit form and a bit of luck.

Predicted finish: 25th.



Best of luck from tSG to the Midlands boys! Keep an eye out for more team previews…

UKU Open and Women’s Tour 3 Preview

#ukut3, Cardiff, Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Fire of London, Iceni, Nice Bristols, PUNT, Ranelagh, ROBOT, SYC, UK Ultimate, Zimmer
David Pryce and Christopher Bell take us through this weekends UKU Tour 3.


Welcome home to Clapham Ultimate and Iceni Ultimate, well played out there! This weekends schedule is here: http://bit.ly/TWR1As


A Tour
The final instalment of this years domestic UK club season is tomorrow! With two events already completed it is still mathematically possible for anyone near the top to take the Tour title. Clapham will be combining both lines into the Clapham D team seeding and EMO will be hoping for the London team to lose their almost inevitable semi final. With only a handful of points between them a big enough gap between these two teams on Sunday evening could be the chance for EMO to take the top spot from Clapham D. However, I don’t think Clapham will be lying down too easily. After learning some tough lessons at the US Open they will only be hungry to return to the UK and stamp their authority on their home turf. 

Hayden Slaughter makes a huge grab over Clapham D at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


In the pool stages Brighton get a chance to take that champion scalp early once again, with an opening pool play fixture against Clapham. Can they reverse the result after losing in universe point at Tour 2? EMO and Fire of London face off for the first time in this year’s regular season, can the London team take down the Worlds bound Midlands boys? Londoners Flump however have a tough introduction to this years A tour taking on the young and athletic Devon, flamboyant KaPow! and cohesive Rebel. In the D pool I would expect Manchester to come out on top, but new comers NEO took B tour with relative ease and DED have been strong throughout this season so far so it’s far from a foregone conclusion. Chevron will meet old friends and foes alike in the pool as they face Zimmer, Brighton and Clapham in their pool and will be looking to better a final game loss to EMO at Tour 2.

Can anyone take down a combined Clapham close to their season’s peak? Tour 3 sees both the tournament and overall tour title up for grabs so expect fierce competition as the best teams in Britain prepare for Lecco. 


Women’s
Iceni have chosen to pass on this weekends event to train together and get some rest after the US Open, leaving the Women’s tour title open for a number of teams to possibly take. Punt are only 60 points behind Iceni, SYC trail the current champions by 73 and even if Nice Bristols win this even they will not have enough to take first (or possibly second). This year presents a rare chance for a new team to claim the tour title after recent Iceni dominance, but it won’t come easily…

Punt made their first final last tour and showed that whilst they couldn’t take down Iceni they definitely deserved that second place. Now it leaves them to prove that they can take on Nice Bristols who return from the Boston Invite to continue their Worlds preparation. 

Iceni Captain Sonia Komenda makes a bid on Punt player Hannah Body. Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.


SYC and ROBOT will not let any of this happen lightly. Both teams have had a very strong season and have also had some great battles against each other. Do not be surprised to see some great performances from these women as they push to for their first domestic finals of the year. 

Further down the pack, newcomers Phoenix London and second year team Relentless will be hoping they can firm up their positions in the top 8 with the likes of Leeds, Blink and Swift.

Saturday games to watch: 
Nice Bristols vs SYC (Pitch 3 at 10:40)
Punt vs ROBOT (Pitch 1 at 17:20) 

B Tour

Having finished 2nd last time out, LeedsLeedsLeeds will be hoping to finish in the top 16 this Sunday. In their group are Reading 1 (who they beat comfortably in St Albans), Brighton Echo and Vision. They have yet to face Brighton Echo this season, but they will be expecting to win every game in this group – including regional rivals Vision, who they beat at Northern Winter League on a surprisingly sunny Sunday in Manchester back in February. The Yorkshire lads may very well fancy their chances to get back into A Tour, if looking at the group they would cross with, which isn’t the strongest.

The other group in the top half of B Tour sees JR1, Sneeekys, Fire 2 and Cardiff Storm fight it out for a chance to get back into A Tour – a tough group that’s even tougher to call. JR have been there or there about for a long time now, as far as the A/B Tour line goes. Sneeekys have had an extremely impressive season, having played an entire Tour lower last year, and I’m sure would love to cap a successful season with a spot in the top 16. Fire 2 spent last year in A Tour, though there are some out there that don’t feel Fire 2 have the desire or the pedigree to get back to that level just right now. Finally, there’s Storm, who finished 13th at Tour 2 will have the home advantage of sleeping in their own beds at Tour 3 – which along with only having to do a fraction of the travelling, cannot be underestimated.

The lower half of B Tour is an eclectic mix of teams, some of which have been hovering around those seeds all season, but the majority have played in C Tour at some point this year. Each team will either want to prove that they are definitely a B Tour team (The Brown) or be looking to stake a claim in the middle tier of Open Tour by proving themselves this year (Camden). Expect plenty of close, scrappy games in these pools as each team tries to clamber up the ranks, whilst avoiding the drop back into C Tour.  Rest assured that any team that does find itself facing a crossover at the bottom of the Tour will fight extremely hard to ensure that they stay within the top 32.

Tom Pierce with a layout score for Guildford at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


C Tour

A more open schedule means that the next instalment of C Tour should see some more movement in the rankings, as teams battle it out in this last chance to improve their seedings this season. 

Further incentive to top the pool is provided by the chance of a crossover into B Tour on Sunday morning. Will any teams be able to make the final push to finish in the top 32? The story that unfolds over the weekend will be fascinating – that much is for sure.

Number 1 seeds, Guildford, may feel this is their time, after sudden-death losses to current B Tour teams in the knock-out stages of the previous two tours stalling their attempts at promotion. They will expect to dominate in their group and continue that form into the Sunday. Rhubarb (3rd seed) will similarly be aiming high after an impressive showing throughout the season so far. Perhaps Pingu Jam can find some extra motivation to convert their obvious talent on the pitch to a rise in the seedings akin to that which they enjoyed at Mixed Tour.

Below the teams topping the pools, there is much room for upset with another six or seven teams definitely capable of going toe-to-toe with the big guns. CUlt 2 will be hoping to go one better after a great performance in Nottingham. Likewise, teams such as Lemmings and Black Sheep have bolstered their ranks as they push to challenge those currently at the top.

It will be very much a case of which teams show up this weekend as to who will be able to provide those shock results – but don’t expect everything to go to seed! There is an incredible amount of potential for some huge changes in the C Tour landscape this weekend, with pride and a place in B Tour as the prize.

London Calling – Open Preview

#ukut1, Bad Skid, Brighton, Chevron, Clapham, club, DED, Devon, EMO, Fire of London, Flying Angels Bern, Glasgow Ultimate, Kapow, Leeds, London Calling, Manchester, Previews, Ranelagh, UK Ultimate, Zimmer
The club season is upon us! James Burbidge takes a look at the competition heading to the open division this weekend.

Returning to St Albans, Tour 1, this year’s London Calling sees over 70 teams entered into the open division with 10 coming from overseas.

At the top of the pack, four teams will hope to prove themselves the best of the best in Europe: Clapham, Chevron Action Flash, Bad Skid and Flying Angels Bern. London Calling will doubtless provide top competition for these teams as they prepare for the big one: the World Club Championships in August.

Reigning National and European champions Clapham have split their team into two like last year (an O-line and a D-line), and are using the competition as the final part of a long and heated selection process. Captain Marc ‘Britney’ Guilbert returns to lead a club firmly focused on a peak in Lecco and will be hoping that his teams can meet in the final this year, rather than the semi. With no major player movement out, and more top recruits coming in – notably Ollie Gordon from Chevron, Matt Parslow and James Baron from Fire – they may find that the toughest competition is also the most familiar.

Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.

Bad Skid beat Clapham’s D-line last year at London Calling but lost to the O-line in the final. They met a full Clapham team in the semi-final of Euros and lost again. Since then the team has added a few younger players to the squad, as well as NexGen player Philip Haas, who won’t make it to London. Captain Holger Beuttenmüller admits that the team needs to be at their best on both sides of the disc to be in with a chance of beating Clapham, but places faith in the trust between his teammates who have largely been playing and competing together since they were as young as 14.

In the battle for bronze at Europeans 2013, Bad Skid beat out Flying Angels Bern; the Swiss powerhouse is also making the trip to London. Whilst FAB finished fourth in 2013 and 2012, in 2011 and 2010 they took home the gold. Captain Silvano admits that the team coming is far from a finished product, and with only 13 of a 25-man squad able to make it over they may struggle to compete on Sunday afternoon. That said, with their eyes on a finish high up the table at Worlds, the team will be competing hard in every game and with their reliable combination of huge throws and rapid athletes are more than capable of causing an upset.

Also coming over from Europe in preparation for Lecco are the Swedish Viksjöfors and Ragnarok from Denmark. Both teams have a long-standing history of high level ultimate and will be looking forward to challenging games early in the season. Looking further ahead, Austria and France are sending national teams to London in preparation for the 2015 European Championships. Whilst neither country has a club at the elite level, it will be interesting to see how high their national sides can push in this competition.

Chevron has had to reshuffle their club hierarchy this season after the loss of coach/captain Josh Coxon Kelly. They have also lost some experience to the Master’s division in Dave Sealy and Stu Mitchell, and the aforementioned blow of Ollie Gordon suiting up for their London rivals. As usual they have restocked with youth from the junior division, as well as tapping up Steve Dixon from Devon, a returning stalwart in Si Dathan and Jose-Luis Mendoza (call him ‘Pepe’) from the Mexican national squad. Chevron won their home tournament at the Fog Lane Cup, but not without stiff competition  in a sudden death semifinal against Fire. With top teams from Europe in London, they’ll find it far tougher than usual to make the final, but will push hard regardless and should stake a firm place in the top 8.

Emo will be hoping to force themselves into elite contention this year, and would love nothing more than to giant-kill their way to semis and even beyond. Drawing players from across the country with their well-earned Worlds qualification, competition for a place on the first team has been fierce. Returning players include Dan ‘Colonel’ Furnell, Rich Gale, Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone (all 3 of whom have at some point represented for GB at Open World Championships and World Games tournaments), Andy Tate, and offensive wildcard Ed ‘Freddie’ Walters. Chris ‘Aussie’ White (formerly Leeds, Chevron and Fire) has also been added to the roster. The team continues to put trust in youth, with Joe Wynder returning as playing coach and Rob Coddington as captain. Emo finished 2nd at Fog Lane after beating Jen in a friendly earlier this season, and are looking better than they ever have before. Whether this potential can be converted into the breakthrough year that they want so much will be one of the stories of the season.

Fire of London will be hoping to push back towards the top of UK Ultimate after some disappointing results during Tour last year. New captain James Dunn’s squad is bolstered by members of the folded Tooting Tiger and Burro Electrico teams, as well as a contingent of Bear Cavalry (mixed) players – including World Games star Dave Tyler. Ka-Pow also have a new captain and a refreshed squad – Richard ‘Pringle’ Taylor has invested in the future by inviting plenty of trialists to be part of a massive training squad comprising over 30 players. When they met in the final game at the Fog Lane Cup, Fire handily defeated Ka-Pow to take 3rd spot. Both teams will be aiming to make semis at some point this season but will have a fight on their hands for a top 10 spot at Tour 1.

Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey
Building on their recent trip to Europeans, Devon have promoted some strong second team players and reportedly picked up a “wonder-Columbian” to replace the players they are losing to GB Juniors for the Tour season. They’ll be as athletic and determined as ever – they came 6th at Fog Lane with just 9 players – but indicate that the Tour will be simply preparation for Nationals and (hopefully) another trip to Europe.

Ranelagh return to the club circuit once again, and, buoyed by their success last year (5th over the Tour season), are bringing a second team. We’ll see if familiarity with the UK teams (and vice-versa) after the committed attendance of tour over the last few season will affect their results. Brighton City are coming off the back of one of their most successful seasons (4th overall at Tour), and Tour 1 will be a good indicator as to whether they can replicate that level of performance. The loss of deep cutter Dan ‘Dyno’ Friedeberg (reportedly to Devon) will be something of a blow but they will almost certainly have reloaded with talent from the dominant Sussex University program.

Zimmer – who are preparing for Worlds in the Masters division – are also a bit of an unknown. A surprising 83% percent of this commitment-averse squad will be attending London Calling. If they bring their A-game they’ll be a force to be reckoned with; they only narrowly lost to Chevron in a friendly earlier in the season and are brimming with international experience and pedigree.

Further down, but looking to push up the table, Manchester and LeedsLeedsLeeds will be fighting for the title of ‘second best team in the north.’ Manchester took that plaudit last year, and return all but two of their squad. They’ve been training regularly with Chevron players but despite a successful run of winter leagues, had a disappointing weekend at Fog Lane, finishing 8th. Leeds played Fog Lane with only 9 players and finished 11th. Ben Bruin has left for Emo, and Rich Hims will be focusing on his run to Worlds with Cambridge (mixed) leaving behind a young squad with a significant battle on their hands to stay in A-tour.

North of the north, the battle to be Scotland’s best team has taken an interesting turn with the complete dissolution of Fusion. Glasgow Ultimate top the pile at the moment, and will be looking to solidify the A-tour spot they earned last year. Sneekys have added a large number of Fusion’s Edinburgh contingent to their roster, and yet only beat in sudden death new team NEO, who have recruited heavily from Aberdeen and Dundee universities. DED meanwhile, are refocusing on Open this year, and are one of the few club teams in the UK with a dedicated coach – Jonathan Saunders. The squad, captained by Sam Vile, has seen quite a large turnover and brought in plenty of young players, but promise has already been shown in preparation for the season with a trip to Rising POT, a tournament in Poland where DED finished 4th and won spirit.

There’s a lot of top quality competition coming to London – and Si Hill is to be congratulated for once again attracting overseas teams. Tour’s opening weekend is reliably one of the toughest tournaments in the calendar, and this year is no different. With a large but fairly static domestic scene, mainland-European competitors make for exciting matches, unfamiliar styles and the inevitable occasional shock result. With the battle for A-tour distorted by the influx of single-appearance teams, teams in the 12-24 area are going to scrapping for every single win. 

What are your thoughts? Have we missed a sleeper? Will we see an all mainland-Europe final? Let us know in the comments.  And remember to use #ukut1 for social media and smack talk. Finally, best of luck to all teams attending from tSG! 


A Look Ahead – The 2014 Open Season

Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Jen, Open, Open Tour
James Burbidge continues his open coverage looking towards 2014.

2014 – A Look Ahead


In case you weren’t aware, the big deal with 2014 is the World Ultimate Club Championships (or WUCC for short). It’s taking place in Lecco, Italy from the 2nd to the 9th of August (1 week after UK Regionals, 2 weeks before Nationals). The UK will be sending 3 teams: Clapham, Chevron Action Flash and EMO. And as Clapham captain Britney points out World Club years are different. They are different because they are the only time within the 4 year cycle of international competition that clubs can expect undivided attention and commitment from its players. For top clubs who feed various GB squads, this focus is rare and welcomed.” 


With the lessons learned from 2013, and new members currently joining the squads, now seemed like a good time to take a look at the three teams.

Clapham are running closed trials this year, having taken a fairly large contingent of new players on last year. They are on a 2-year plan for the competition, which began with trials immediately after Euros in 2012. Britney notes that Clapham in 2013 was working through new systems and new ways to play the game. We looked different and played different but [the strict framework of our plan] allowed all of us to push in the same direction. This alignment and synergy was probably our greatest accomplishment out of 2013…. [W]e can spend the remaining months between now and WUCC to perfect our systems instead explaining them. With our existing foundation, we can concentrate on looking forward instead of dissecting the past.” 

With confirmed appearances at the US Open (4th July weekend) and Windmill Windup (13-15th June), Clapham will be putting themselves up against the best competition they can to prepare. Just as it will be during Worlds, we will only have one chance to win every battle. This is our aim. Not to win a tournament, not to win a game, but to win a point, to win an individual battle. If you think is sounds too cliché, I invite you to try it. It’s harder than you think when you come up against the best in the world. The pressure is on and we will push each other up to these standards at every single training.


After gold in Europe and a successful trip to Chesapeake, Clapham will be confident they can hang with the best and have a good shot at making semis. But don’t ask Britney where they’ll finish, The duty of a captain is not to set a goal to his players but to give them all the tools to reach their apogee. I hate this question because setting your team an end goal only ever leads to disappointment. Either you fall short and underachieve this predetermined expectations or, worse yet, you underestimate your potential and lead your team past this arbitrary objective only to see them lose the drive that pushed them only to reach it. I will say this one final thing. Come Worlds, every CU player will fight with all his worth to win that point, to win every individual battle. If we achieve that, then who knows where we will finish.


Chevron Action Flash have set themselves the goal of making at least the quarter finals. Captains Penny and Josh Coxon Kelly say that Chevy have been preparing for this tournament since Prague in 2010 and plan on attending more tournaments than ever across Europe to get as much exposure as possible to different styles of the game. Chevron finished 13th at WUCC in 2010.

EMO finished 41st in Prague and are looking to place in the top 20 this year.  They acknowledge that they’ll be expecting a very strong team in the crossover, but EMO always enjoy big games and they’ll certainly be up for it. Worlds being an exciting opportunity, EMO have had a large influx of new players – something they’re well able to cope with as a 2-team squad. Apparently they have attracted some well-known players but I won’t be naming any names because I find the Chinese whispers of frisbee transfers strangely enjoyable,” says captain Coddy. He admits though, that the biggest challenge they face is squad cohesion as they integrate the new players with the core from last year.

EMO at UKU Tour 3, Cardiff 2013. Photo courtesy of EMO Ultimate.


One thing both EMO and Chevy captains commented on was the depth of competition this year – particularly in terms of teams who feel they should have a spot in the quarterfinals.  The Chevy captains said: You will always come up against the usual powerhouses of the US, Canadians, Japanese and the Australians at these tournaments but this year we can also add in a number of European teams who could easily look to make at least the quarter finals. From Europe alone you have strong teams from Germany and Switzerland attending who will look to do damage to all they come across, as well as the UK teams 

What else is moving and shaking on the UK Open scene? Well there’s the inevitable out with the old and in with the new, both in terms of players (fare-thee-well Mr Retter) and teams. A void for a mid-level team seems to be forming in London where both Tooting Tigers and Burro Electrico are slipping quietly into the night – that’s two full squads of solid players looking for a new home. With Ka-Pow reporting 70+ players registered for try-outs, Fire looking for fresh talent and Flump with a great 2013 season it’s going to be a competitive trial period in the capital.

Up North, Chevron are getting their fingers sticky in other teams’ pies (part of their talent tap-up system?) as Liam Kelly is coaching Vision, and Manchester Ultimate continue to keep the doors open to Chevvy players at their weekly trainings. Following a strong debut year (if you forget ManUp) Manchester are keen to stabilise in A-tour and even push into the top 8. DED may be able to tell them a thing or two about the difficult second season and they too have set their sights on a return to top 8 form following a year where Mixed seemed to be their focus.

And, let’s not forget – outside of Tour, this is the year that Jen starts to make its mark on the tournament scene.

All in all, 2014 should be fresh, fun and exciting.
If you are involved in the Open scene and would like to feature or be interviewed, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – burbidge{dot}james[at]gmail{dot}com

We are still looking for a mixed correspondent! Please contact showgameblog@gmail.com if you want to help us cover this huge year! 


The Grapevine – 17/01

Discussion, EMO, The Grapevine, Ultiworld, Understanding Ultimate., world games
This week’s Grapevine brings the best from ultimate news around the globe
 

Keep voting for the World Games Team of the Year … ‘Flying Disc’ is winning. . .  shopparajumpers

This week we launched Discussion, kicking off with a provocative piece by Sophie Edmondson…

Ultiworld Editor Charlie Eisenhood did a Reddit based ‘AMA’ …

Understanding Ultimate bring us the conclusion in a 3 part series looking at IO turnovers… 

Ultimate Interviews get to know the European Ultimate Celebrity that is ‘Oddi’

EMO ultimate bring the banter in their individual preseason self-promotion #pickme videos. Check out their Facebook for the links, including our favourite

 

We’ve got plenty in store at TheShowGame in terms of preseason content – as always if you’re shopparajumpers interested in helping out then get in touch! tSG