UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Second Leagues Preview

Midlands, North, Open, Previews, South East, University

Our new second leagues writer Tom Claxton gives a quick recap of last season, and a preview of who will be the big names fighting for promotion this year.

Welcome to the second leagues: full of grit and determination, where a team’s Nationals prospects can be made or undone in just a single game. And with the weekly league structure it is not just your prospects for this season, but for the following as well. Promotion into the top leagues guarantees a Division 1 or 2 Nationals place the following year. But this requires a team to be near undefeated for the entire year, which is made further challenging by having to play on average eight games a season with a lot of travelling and persuading players to make up numbers.

Three regions (North, Midlands, and South East) have two second leagues (2A and 2B), from which only the top team gets promoted each season. The Western region however only has one second league this year (Western 2A).

Alongside the league system is a set of cup matches, with one cup for each of the four regions mentioned above. The two cup finalists from each region get to go to Division 3 Nationals, along with the seventh and eighth placed teams from the Scotland 1A league. This does mean that there is no qualification for Nationals based on league performance, and it can occur that a team finishes mid-table in their league, yet still makes Nationals. Last season this is precisely what happened to Sussex 2, coming fifth in the South Eastern 2A league, however then becoming one of the cup finalists in a thrilling, giant-killing campaign.

Division 3 Nationals last year culminated in a gold and silver for Oxford and Newcastle respectively, alongside impressive undefeated league performances (and promotions) from both teams. Sheffield achieved bronze last year, but were sadly unable to secure promotion themselves, losing away at Bangor in the final game of the year, upon which Bangor gained promotion via the head-to-head rule.

Elsewhere in the leagues, Southampton managed to edge out of a three-way tie between Plymouth and Exeter 2 to gain promotion from Western 2B league. Imperial, Nottingham Trent, LSE and UWE all maintained unbeaten league records to get promoted, although none of them were successful enough in the cup to qualify for Nationals.

This season will also see the second leagues joined by the eight relegated teams from the top leagues. Will they be able to bounce back up immediately, or will a resident team pip them to the post? Here’s a summary of our favourites for each league this season.

 

North

Northern 2A

Last year saw both relegated teams enter the Northern 2A league. This meant that it was always was going to be tough to be the only promoted team out of Sheffield, Liverpool, and Bangor.

With Bangor promoted (but no-one relegated into the league) our favourites are Sheffield. Only narrowly missing out on promotion last year, captain Tomas Benavides Clark is confident of their chances this season. They have had a good intake of freshers, alongside Jonny Ellis (LLLeeds) attending on a Masters course, it’s hard to see anyone beating them this season. Which should then lead to Sheffield topping the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Sheffield
  2. Liverpool
  3. Keele

Northern 2B

This is the largest of all the leagues, with 10 teams taking part. Both relegated teams from Northern 1A (Durham 2 and York) join the league, alongside highly placed finishers Hull, Northumbria, and Durham 3 from last year.

Seeing how well Durham 3 performed last year, our favourites for this year are Durham 2. According to last year’s club captain Dylan Spiers, Max Clifton and Ollie Baines have been heavy losses for the team, but Dom Stafford and Tom Lamport are expected to pick up this slack well. Having a first team training hard to win the top league will hopefully to trickle down to the second team through joint trainings and experienced coaching.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Durham 2
  2. Hull
  3. Northumbria

 

Midlands

Midlands 2A

Last year’s Division 3 Nationals winner Oxford hailed from this league, which was unlucky for the strong resident teams. Leicester won all of their other matches, and UEA joined Oxford in qualifying for Nationals. However this year the residents are joined by another traditionally strong team, Cambridge, who finished fifth in Division 2 Nationals last year.

Their strong finishing last year makes Cambridge our favourites, with captain James Richardson telling us: “I think we still have enough quality to be in with a chance of promotion. Our term hasn’t started yet so I don’t know if there will be a few promising freshers, but we’re always hopeful. I do know of a couple graduate students starting this year.”

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cambridge
  2. Leicester
  3. UEA (Aye-Aye)

Midlands 2B

With Nottingham Trent promoted, and Warwick 2 relegated, this league has more than half of its members as second teams. However the resident first teams have shown that they are more than a match for them, as Worcester were edged out of second place last year by Nottingham 2 on goal difference.

Due to their strong fourth place finish at Division 2 Nationals last year, our favourites for this league are Warwick 2. First team captain Willem Garnier hopes that they can achieve re-promotion, despite a considerable number of the second team players joining the ranks of the first team this year. He is confident that, given last year’s coaching from Andrew Hillman (Clapham Ultimate), and adding “some of the most talented freshers we’d ever seen”, they can be one of the top teams in the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Warwick 2
  2. Nottingham 2
  3. Worcester

 

West

Western 2A

This year marks a new change for the Western region. Due to this region having fewer teams than others, the Western 2A/2B leagues from last year have combined into one nine-strong league. This brings strong teams together who may not have had experience playing each other recently, as well as longer journeys for the away teams. Cardiff, Plymouth and Exeter 2 will all be in primary contention for the top spots, alongside relegated FXU (Falmouth) and Winchester.

Whether there is only one promotion spot or two is uncertain, but our favourites are Cardiff. Cardiff captain Dan Finch is “feeling very optimistic this year”, with “a much larger squad with greater depth than we have had in the last couple of years.” They were disappointed in not being able to challenge for Nationals last year, and this year that will certainly be an ambition.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cardiff
  2. Plymouth
  3. FXU

 

South East

South East 2A

Last year, the teams that placed 2-5 in the league all achieved cup semi-final positions, with the fourth and fifth placed teams, Brighton and Sussex 2 respectively, advancing to Division 3 Nationals. With this experience under their belts, we predict that there will be many tough games this year. Although they missed out on qualifying for Nationals, Chichester and Reading have consistently placed highly in this league.

However they are joined this year by Surrey. Their bronze medal in Division 2 Nationals last year makes them our favourites for this season. Captains Ashley Long (SMOG) and Nick Barker (Fire) have a tough challenge ahead of themselves, as many of last year’s players have left the club, although they do retain Sam Fowler (Fire), and Mike Nally (GB U20) has returned from injury. They are focusing their efforts on introducing players from their former second team into the firsts, with aims of getting promoted back into the top league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Surrey
  2. Reading
  3. Chichester

South East 2B

The smallest of the leagues this year, with only five competitors. Last year there were many close games, with league winners LSE only narrowly defeating Brunel in sudden-death, and Brunel themselves defeating Kent in a similar fashion. With St. Mary’s joining this year, it will certainly be an entertaining competition.

Our favourites this year are Brunel. Co-captain Harry Pearce is confident about their chances, but thinks it will be tough. “Last year we had an extremely fresher-heavy team and this year it’s looking pretty similar.” Once they start getting more experience Brunel could be quite the contender later in the season.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Brunel
  2. St. Mary’s
  3. Kent

 

All that leaves now is for us to watch this exciting season unfold! Midway through the season we’ll recap the leagues and update our predictions, in case you happen to prove us wrong.

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Scotland Preview

Open, Previews, Scotland, University

Oscar Nolan will be previewing Scotland’s university scene this year – here’s his introduction to the season, and our first preview of the year.

It’s that time of year, the university Ultimate season has rolled round once again. Club season is closing up shop for another year until the summer, Euros are over while the GB U24s are slowly getting their act together for their trip down under. Beginners have been recruited and engrained into the clubs at universities across Scotland. The graduates are deeply missing university Ultimate and thinking about masters, PhDs and the like. The opening game of the BUCS league is fast approaching and I couldn’t be more pumped to discuss this. Scotland is a region known for its excitement and a deep history of shock results. This year promises more twists and turns along the way so sit back, relax and let’s delve into the preview of the Scottish BUCS region.

St. Andrews

The reigning champions - St. Andrews.

Benji Heywood is now a “full-time” coach for St Andrews, the big cheese of UKU is now on a salary from the university and even has a desk, I hear. This can only mean one thing: St Andrews are just going to get better and it’s not clear whether anyone in this region can stop them. Over the past two years, winning has been the minimum expectation at St Andrews, their results prove this – UMIN champions and a top eight finish at UMON.

Some losses in the team include Lochlan “Goldilocks” Fisher (now at Edinburgh), Hugo Turner and Keith Fingland. Gabe “GB” Schechter is the man with the plan at St Andrews. Backed to the hilt by his SU with new training wear, logos, and merchandise they are attempting to open their own mega store for us to buy their brand. Connor Rock is looking to make a name for himself while Robbie Jones has achieved his lifelong ambition of becoming a first team player. Also, look to see Hannes Ludewig back in the side and vice-captain Aidan Steer backing Gabe all the way.

Connor Rock (Gabe was apparently too busy to give a preview) downplays the losses of the team and claims he doesn’t need them for greatness. A quick glance at the fixture list shows a packed schedule with Glasgow up first, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Heriot Watt. A stiff training regime has been implemented and confidence is high in the camp. It remains to be seen whether this team can continue this rise to stardom or crash down like a falling comet, with many looking to scalp them.

Glasgow

Gone are the days of Rory Curran, playing against Glasgow last year was a strangely enjoyable experience. Ex-captain Axel “Blondie” Ahmala saw his spirit scores improve greatly last season which undoubtedly surprised all in the community. A solid season for Glasgow saw them finish second in the table, third at UMON and a top four placing at UMIN.

Captain Joel Terry would do well to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps this year. The ever-present Christopher Chan is a doubt this year with doctor-hood well on the way. Fortunately for Joel, Alan Jeuken is there to lend a hand while the two ginger all-rounders Iain Campbell and Sam Finlay provide questionable comedic “banter”.

Losses include Duncan Webster and Axel himself but coming through the ranks include Doug Fraser, Fraser Kelly (ex GB juniors) and Julian Grant (ex-St Andrews). The first two games are arguably the toughest Glasgow will face with St Andrews and Dundee coming up. The reading for Glasgow does not get easier with the rest of their games are made up of Heriot Watt, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. It will be a real test but should they perform well in these, you could see them well on their way to Division 1 Nationals.

Dundee

Asif Arshad takes the helm of Dundee for this season. This team saw a difficult start to last year, losing to both St Andrews and Glasgow. They learned from these results beating both Strathclyde and Edinburgh while getting good points from other teams. This all resulted in third place and a trip to Division 1 Nationals placing sixth, and with a bronze medal finish at UMIN.

So, what’s new at Dundee then? Due to a diminished Women’s team Beth Hall will be hoping to play with the guys this year; yeah, you read that right. BUCS is technically an open sport so anyone can play including excellent female players of her calibre. Joe Hill and Angus Milliken have both departed the team in different ways. Fortunately, they have replacements in the form of Johnny Tofalis, Nick Byrne and James McGrath.

The fixtures for Dundee include Glasgow, St Andrews firsts, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh. A busy and hard fixture list, but Dundee won’t be fazed. Their goal is to go out and win everything including all Nationals events and the BUCS league. There will be some stiff competition, but I’m confident that this team will provide good entertainment for all concerned and make it to Nationals.

Strathclyde

Word on the street at the end of last year was Strathclyde looking to put in a second team for BUCS. Controversial, right? You would have thought Edinburgh or Glasgow would stake a claim on the next second team. In the end, they decided not to risk it instead sticking with only the first team, which has done well. Having lost the game to go to Nationals, they ended up fourth in the league last year and will strive to do better this year. Indoor Nationals was a disappointment but Outdoor Nationals was a great success of fifth in the country. In store for the boys at Strathclyde include Aberdeen, St Andrews 2 and Glasgow away with Stirling at home.

Youth appears to be the theme of the team this year with Andrew Warnock (GB U20s) leading the way. Backed by the steady hands of Cameron Mackie, Jonny Shaw and Gio Cabrera (Heriot don’t like to hear his name), he hopes to make a strong push for anything and everything in sight. Having lost only Jack Hughes and Ricky Deng, this could potentially be the strongest Horses team to date. I look forward with great interest to seeing how this team develops. In the words of the captain himself “we may be the Dark Horses but you should never count us out”.

Edinburgh

This year, Chris “Habs” Habgood captains a team that could really do some damage in the league. Last year there were difficulties against Strathclyde and Dundee, but positive takeaways from the St Andrews and Glasgow losses, which overall resulted in fifth place. Outdoor Nationals saw a Division 2 silver medal, and strong performances indoors. This season opens with Stirling and Dundee away while Glasgow and St Andrews 2 will come to the Burgh.

Christopher “Rocket” Burrows, Ian/Duncan/Bella Tait, Erasmus “Moose” Haggblom and Graeme Leamy have parted ways with the team, big shoes to fill here. Long serving Miroslav “easy options” Stankovic returns after a shoulder injury while Ben “Housewife” Preston is still around. There’s a multitude of second years pushing for places, leading the charge include young Teddy “King of the Lefties” Pilgrim and Joe “Sax” Pennington.

One hopes there won’t be issues with a random football team (c’mon eh corn) for pitch time this season. With fifth place finishes over the last two years, Habs sees a strong push for Division 1 indoors and outdoors but only time will tell if this is a team that is capable of living up to their capabilities.

Heriot Watt

Injury central, problems with fitness and not listening to medical advice. This appears to be a running trend within the Watt experience. It paid in the form of a few unfortunate losses and some scores that would worry any captain. The news does not improve from here with the likes of Cammy Dick and Andrew “MVP” Boxall graduating.

Leading the line is captain Fraser Stewart backed by Mike Carrell, Callum McLoughlin and ex-captain Gavin Nicholson. I hear Jonny Ridley is still kicking around Watt, keeping him fit may be the key to the Division 2 lock. Fraser is looking for a rebuilding year this year and finding the freshers to lead the charge up the table in years to come.

Their opening semester games sees away games at both St Andrews teams and Glasgow with Dundee at home. A stiff opening list where I see difficult games ahead, Heriot will not be fazed. The defying cry of “You Watt?!” will ring loud and clear across the pitch throughout Scottish ultimate once again.

St. Andrews 2

St. Andrews who? Last year was a good season for the only second team in the league, they came out on top of the three-way fight at the bottom. Apparently one of their targets last season was Edinburgh, that didn’t go quite as planned. These boys have a lot to do this year and I look forward to seeing if they can beat my prediction.

At the time of writing this article, St Andrews had yet to select captains for the season, showing their real investment in this team. Notable absentees from the team this year include Connor Rock, Aidan Steer and Robbie Jones who have both nailed down first team places. Coming through into the team include Matt Devendran (layout grab at trials) and Jack Symonds (full pitch throws, shock, right?). The Saints are hoping to bring a plethora of young talent into the team this year.

Their first semester games include Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde at home with Edinburgh away. These are tough matches; the seconds will look to take a chunk out of Heriot but the other two games will potentially not go so well. I don’t see this team getting the best of Aberdeen and Stirling at the bottom of the table but I have been proved wrong before.

Aberdeen

The former men’s writer named this team “Aber-doomed” last season but they snatched themselves from the jaws of relegation through a victory against Stirling and achieved a better points difference. They ran Heriot Watt and Edinburgh close last year, but came away with unfortunate losses but were crushed by Dundee, St Andrews and Glasgow.

It seems that it will take a while to rebuild the team back to the glory days but captain Edward Payne is looking to make in-roads this year. Aaron Roberts will be a major loss to the team but he is the only graduate. Edward looks to bring a few young names into the squad this year and push for Division 2 Nationals.

Aberdeen will look to make the BUCS league less of a struggle this year but we all know that the BUCS league is never easy. Up first for the boys in red include Strathclyde, St Andrews first team and Stirling. A short fixture list which includes two difficult opening games and a potential easy winner. Look for Aberdeen to get their Mojo back this year in the BUCS league.

Stirling

Hold the press folks, Fraser MacDonald is still at Stirling, remarkable. Instead of Australia convincing him to stay forever, he elected to come back and take on the presidency role. The role of captain falls into the capable gloves of Finlay Watson/up who has decided to take a break from highlight reels and trips to the disabled bathrooms to focus on Ultimate this year.

The intensity at trainings have been at the highest ever, due to the experienced setting examples left, right and centre. According to the cap, this is the largest squad that has ever played over at Stirling. Finlay will look to Fraser “Franchise” MacDonald, Peter “Clutch” Glasgow, and Daniel “Ding-Dong” McBride to lead the charge. Throw in up-n-coming Ryan “GU” Hill and you start to think this Stirling team might mean business this year.

With Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen and St Andrews up first, this is a tough opening fixture list for the boys at Blaze. Aberdeen should be certain points but Stirling will be looking to avoid drubbings from the other teams. Will they make fifth place this year to climb into Division two or will it all go up in a Blaze of glory? Only time will tell.

Predictions

This is the bit where you get a laugh in derision because my predictions will not match yours. But let’s get down to it. I genuinely see St Andrews choking at the last minute and Strathclyde storming through to the top. Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh will have a tough three-way showdown for the third division one spot. I see it coming down to the final day with Dundee just pipping everyone to that precious Division 1 spot. Glasgow and Edinburgh will play in Division 2 this year along with Heriot Watt. The former two teams will likely be in the Men’s Outdoor Nationals’final with Heriot piling into the top eight. Stirling will come out on top of the bottom three with Aberdeen in at second last and St Andrews seconds ending up with the proverbial wooden spoon.

1st Strathclyde
2nd St Andrews
3rd Dundee
4th Edinburgh
5th Glasgow
6th Heriot Watt
7th Stirling
8th Aberdeen
9th St Andrews 2

AIUC 2017 – Division 2

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

Here we share Aidan’s thoughts on the second division of AIUC 2017. 

Alongside the All-Ireland Ultimate Championship Division 1, there is a second division taking place this weekend in the same venue. This is for any club that didn’t qualify out of their region, or didn’t participate in the first place.

This year, we have nine teams fighting for the Division 2 title. Not only does this accolade tend to act as a precursor to a future at the top of the ladder*, but finishing position plays a massive part in bids for next year’s events. Depending on how teams finish at the bottom of Div 1 and the top of Div 2, one of our two regions (East and West) can potentially lose a bid to the other. This hasn’t occurred yet, so at the moment each region gets 4 a piece.

So for example: If Division 1 ends up with 6: W 7: E 8:W and Division 2 finishes 1: E 2: W 3: E, East gains a bid for the following year due to having two of the top three in division 2 and only one of the bottom three in division. Confused/don’t care? I’ll move on quickly…

1 – Uproar (Kildare)

The fifth place team in Div 1 last season, the club from just outside Dublin have had a massive amount of roster turnover since then. They have suffered with a bit of a transitional year and found themselves missing even more key players for the weekend of Regionals as they missed out on the top four spots.

The club will look to consolidate themselves by winning the division and doing all they can to help strengthen the East next year.

2 – Tribe 1 (Galway)

Another side who will be frustrated to see themselves down in the second tier this weekend. Tribe have a good, young team full of athletic talent but missed out on Div 1 due to a really strong showing for the West division this season.

Like Uproar, they will expect to work their way past their opponents and attempt to show that they don’t deserve to be thought of as a second division side.

3 – XVI 2 (Dublin)

Just like their first team, expect to see a young, plucky side who are out to garner experience. Expect several U17 internationals to feature and attempt to run the legs off everyone that they face.

Interestingly, they are grouped with Uproar, who they hold one giant upset victory over from earlier in the season. If they can do it again, they might be an outside bet for the final.

4 – Gravity 2 (Dublin)

A team that is hard to predict. Looks like a side full of players who gave a lot at training but just aren’t ready for first team action, along with some experienced internationals in the form of Emer Staunton and Sinead O’Sheil Fleming. While not as strong on paper as previous Gravity 2 sides, would expect them to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack this year.

5 – Tribe 2 (Galway)

Complete unknown to be honest. At a guess, will feature a number of young college players and pick ups as I expect Tribe will stack their first team as much as they can. It seems they are currently ineligible to finish above 5th due to roster regulations.

6 – Ballincolig 2 (Cork)

As I explained in the Div 1 preview, this is a club that prides itself on developing young talent. I expect this second team to display lots of it! I’m unsure if they will challenge the first teams above them, but can see them battling it out for a semi-final spot.

7 – Rebel 2 (Cork)

I expect this side to fly up the seedings this weekend as they are possibly the strongest second team in the division. Rebel just seem to have that bit more depth than those around them. Like Collig above, they will feature several school-level players with big futures as well as a number of older, established talents that might not have trained enough to make the first team this year.

8 – Gravity 3 (Dublin)

An interesting one. Probably as strong as their second team on paper, featuring a lot of older players who don’t really train but have the clear ability. Also ineligible for a top four finish due to rostering issues.

9 – PELT 3 (Limerick)

After establishing a Junior team earlier in the season, I expect a number of them to make their debuts for this side. It’s hard to guess who else will be featuring, but if any club know how to call in old faces and get them to don the jersey, it’s PELT. Like Tribe 2, a complete unknown but much more unpredictable. They could finish dead last or they could win the bloody thing.

Aidan’s predictions:

1 – Tribe 1

2 – Uproar

3 – Rebel 2

4 – XVI 2

5 – Ballincolig 2

6 – Gravity 2

7 – Gravity 3

8 – PELT 3

9 – Tribe 2

*PELT 2 and XVI have previously won and both are now in Division 1

AIUC 2017 Division 1

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

Our favourite Irish reporter Aidan Kelly gives his views on All Ireland Ultimate Champs.

 

The 2017 Irish domestic club season prepares to come to a head, we are warmly welcomed by the pinnacle of Men’s Ultimate in the country. The All-Ireland Ultimate Championships.

With three* different winners in as many years, (or four if you count a club’s second team as ‘different’**) there is set to be a massive tug of war over the title of national champions, and with qualification for both next year’s EUCR-W (three spots) and WUCC (one spot) on the line, the stakes are that little bit higher.

The participants in this battle royale have been known since our regional qualifiers took place last month. Travelling from the East are Ranelagh 1 and 2, XVI and Dublin Gravity, while in the West we have hosts PELT 1 and 2, Rebel and Ballincollig. A betting man would stick their house on a PELT vs Ranelagh final and a rematch of last year, but the other six challengers will look to upset the status quo and cause a shock.

Here’s our rundown of the division based off seed:

1 – PELT (Limerick)

Last year those messers from Munster shocked the WORLD (or, Irish Ultimate) by taking down a stacked Ranelagh side that boasted almost half the Ireland Men’s WUGC team to win their first All-Ireland. And they didn’t just beat them, they did it comfortably, finally managing to shake off their ‘bottlers’ tag and announcing themselves as top dogs in the country.

Since that day, they’ve gone on to compete at EUCF, win bronze at Windmill and battle it out with the UK’s best at EUCR-W, finishing third. The club, made up of an extremely tight knit group of players who have battled with one another since they were freshers in Uni will no doubt be hungry to repeat their win from last year and show they’re still number one.

With club talisman and captain Padraig Sweeney pulling the strings as the axis-handler combining with the work-horse ethic from players like Eoghan Lawlor, Dave Smyth and Jamie Chambers along with the unpredictable nature of Niall McCarthy. They could be considered almost unstoppable on their day. Add John Doherty, fresh from a stint with the AUDL into the equation and things really get interesting.

2 – Ranelagh (Dublin)

A wounded animal. This is a team that is hurting. After the bitter disappointment of missing out on EUCF qualification last month, the Lagh are looking to take their frustrations out on all who stand against them come AIUC.

Last year, as heavy favourites, Ranelagh walked past every team that faced them on the way to the finals, conceding only 12 points all weekend in the lead up before falling to their Limerick rivals. This year, they club are smarter, more aware and prepared for what lies ahead. With already one scalp over their counterparts in the AIUL, there is a sense of belief that they can take the trophy back to Diceys Sunday evening.

Under the tutelage of Cork bai Matthew Feely, this rather new-look Ranelagh side boasts many talents like the cohesive combo of Keith Mernagh and Liam Fletcher, the powerful Ross Andreucetti and the reserved yet uncontrollable Ronan Callaghan. Expect them to act as the fire to PELT’s ice.

3 – PELT 2 (Limerick)

In what may surprise some, PELT’s second team secured a top 3 seed by finishing second at regionals, besting a number of first team clubs. How this team will actually look, I do not know, but expect a number of athletic young talents and future first teamers combined with some calm headed experience to back them up.

I can see this going two ways, PELT 2 will either sink like a stone, finishing 7/8th or like their first team before them, rise up to the challenge and shock all. I do think a semi-final place is out of their reach however.

Not just an Ultimate journalist Aidan Kelly gets up for Ranelagh at UKU Tour 3 this year. Photo by Claire Baker.

4 – Rebel 1 (Cork)

Are they a fallen giant or simply a sleeping one? Rebel have had a rather odd few years, losing a number of their younger talents to other clubs has meant that they’ve had to focus on farming more in order to keep their club’s ethos alive.

Despite this, they have still been able to fight for themselves, finishing third last year. This season, we haven’t really gotten a chance to see the best of this Cork outfit, and this could be their biggest weapon. Underestimate the tricky reds at your peril, as they are equipped with enough experience and clever players to punish you.

Captained by stalwart Brian T O’Callaghan and American import Drew Moore, the side will no doubt be backed up by ever-presents Donal Murray, Michael ‘Fada’ McGrath and Lee Griffin.

5 – XVI 1 (Dublin)

The young guns’ first foray with Div 1 after winning Division 2 last year will be an interesting one. A wild-card of sorts, it’s hard to know where they will end up. A semi-final could easily beckon if they play to their potential, and after a long season where they’ve managed to get many competitive games under the belt as a club, there’s no reason why they can’t.

With a gung-ho, nothing to lose attitude, combined with youthful exuberance. If they was ever a team that would cause an upset to the top two, it would be XVI.

Featuring an abundance of underage and u24 internationals, with at least 5 European Junior silver medalists including Paul McDonough, Conor O’Doherty and James O’Donovan. These kids have nothing to lose. With senior international Ian French also kitting out to play for the side at AIUC, there’s some major scope for the boys to turn heads this weekend.

6 – Ballincollig (Cork)

Rebel’s little brother (Although I doubt they want me calling them that…) up until now have never quite reached the heights they seemed destined for when they came together three years ago. Much like their fellow Corkians (Corkites? Corkies?) the club always seems to have an eye on two or three years down the road, rather than now.

Sustainability is rare in Ultimate, as players tend to have quite short-sighted goals. Instead Ballincollig tend to look to embed younger players like Eanan Cronin, Killian Leahy and Adam Purcell and combine them with their experienced leaders such as Ben Noonan and Donnchadh Mc Auliffe.

7 – Ranelagh 2 (Dublin)

Another former champion hoping to upset everyone (including their own club mates) and take the crown. A rougher diamond than their first team, expect Ranelagh 2 to be well-drilled and hard working. Whether they can compete with the top end of the division is tough to say, as they narrowly lost to XVI at regionals last month after leading for most of the game.

Armed with seasoned battlers in the form of Alan Kelly, Brian Boyle and Cormac Bourke, experience will play a massive part in how the side performs over the weekend.

8 – Gravity 1 (Dublin)

Qualifying thanks to a massive universe point win against the veterans of Masterclass, Gravity will look to test themselves against the best the country has to offer. With a massive roster turnover from last season, I count only four members of the previous year’s first team playing this time round.

With an ethos that looks to play with joy and combines it with positive spirit, I feel Gravity will need to keep their heads up in order to compete at AIUC. Their pool is a tough one and I must admit it’s hard to see where the wins will come from on day one, however if they go in with the right mindset, learn from any mistakes and adjust to their opponents, they could make a big push for wins on day two. A semi final spot is a lot to ask, but fifth isn’t an unreachable target for them.

Led by Gearóid Ó Fearghaíl and Matthew Colfer, expect to see big performances out of their rookie players Shane Corcoran and Dean McCreary, who are both capable of making big plays despite only playing a number of months.

Aidan’s predicted finish:

1 – Ranelagh 1

2 – PELT 1

3 – XVI

4 – Ballincollig 1

5 – Ranelagh 2

6 – Rebel 1

7 – PELT 2

8 – Gravity 1

*Ranelagh 2014, Jabba 2015, PELT 2016

**Ranelagh 2 won in 2013″

Feature photo by Claire Baker.

UKU Nationals 2017 – Predictions

Mixed, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports, womens

Now that we’ve published all three previews, here’s what our ShowGame team think will happen at Nationals. We’ll give you a projected top four in every division with some discussion afterwards, and a collection of things to watch as well. Hopefully we don’t look too ridiculous come Monday evening…

MIXED

    DP

1. Black Eagles
2. Reading
3. JR
4. Glasgow

    Sean

1. Reading
2. Black Eagles
3. SMOG
4. Deep Space

    Hani

1. Black Eagles
2. Reading
3. SMOG
4. JR

    Aidan

1. Reading
2. Black Eagles
3. Deep Space
4. Mighty Hucks

    Harry

1. Reading
2. Black Eagles
3. SMOG
4. Deep Space

So Sean and Harry see the division shaking out the same way – they actually predicted the whole eight the same way, so either great minds think alike or small minds rarely differ on that. No one sees a final other than Reading vs Black Eagles, and for good reason; they look like the class of the division.

After that, there’s a pretty diverse opinion base. All seven UK teams are mentioned by someone, which really just goes to show how good and how unpredictable the division is. It’s the most exciting one by a distance, given the dominance of Iceni and Clapham. Gravity are the unknown quantity so it’s understandable that no one has included them, but they’ll surely still be a tough challenge for whoever they’re playing.

WOMEN’S

    DP

1. Iceni
2. SYC
3. Rebel
4. Bristol

    Sean

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. SYC
4. Brighton

    Hani

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. SYC
4. Brighton

    Aidan

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. Rebel
4. SYC

    Harry

1. Iceni
2. Bristol
3. SYC
4. Brighton

This is rather more uniform. Hani, Sean and Harry all see the tournament going to seed, while DP and Aidan fancy Rebel to break into the top four at Brighton’s expense. Only DP has backed a final other than Iceni vs Bristol, as he believes that SYC will ride their superb regular season to a UKU Nationals final. While there doesn’t seem to be scope for many upsets here, all that means is that they’ll be even bigger if and when they do happen!

OPEN

    DP

1. Clapham
2. Fire
3. Chevron
4. Ranelagh

    Sean

1. Clapham
2. Chevron
3. Ranelagh
4. EMO

    Hani

1. Clapham
2. Chevron
3. PELT
4. Ranelagh

    Aidan

1. Clapham
2. Ranelagh
3. Chevron
4. PELT

    Harry

1. Clapham
2. Chevron
3. EMO
4. PELT

Only DP and Aidan see Clapham playing anyone other than Chevron, and it should be noted that they’ve picked the teams they play with. Be that as it may, no one sees Clapham having their streak broken, even the most partisan or prognosticator. PELT and Ranelagh are strongly fancied to throw a spanner into the works of UK Ultimate with a number of appearances in top fours, and EMO are backed to continue a strong season by reaching the semi-finals by both Sean and Harry (who, in the interests of full disclosure, have both played with EMO before). Surprisingly few appearances for Fire, who usually close strongly. It’ll be interesting to see if they can overcome their customary slow start and finish in the top four as usual.

WHAT TO WATCH

    DP

Chevron have changed their lines this season, and are bringing a larger squad than usual. They played both Fire and Kapow recently and their offence in particular is looking very refined. This could be their best chance in a while to take down Clapham.

    Sean

SMOG have been building for a few seasons. This season all three of their teams looked great throughout the season, and the Mixed team is the jewel in the crown. Their men are almost universally tall, a very useful attribute in Mixed Ultimate, and their women are all confident, good with the disc and comfortable playing with each other. They have all the attributes you’d want in a Mixed Nationals-winning team; their challenge is overcoming two other such teams in the favourites, Black Eagles, and the reigning champs, Reading.

    Aidan

Ranelagh and PELT are both going to be looking to qualify for Euros here, and they’re both good enough to do it. What happens if they face off in the game to go? We promised an Irish invasion, and these lads (and Rebel and Gravity) are here to back that up.

    Harry

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a Brighton team in the Women’s division. This year, they’ve come back, and have had an incredibly strong Tour season, a whole new kit and a new identity with no Brighton Pretty pun; just Brighton. They were second only to Iceni at Tour 1. They’ve been playing with small squads all Tour, meaning they’re made up of a small number of very good, gelled players. If I were to put money on a big upset, it would be on Brighton causing it. Regardless, with players like Hannah Brew, they’ll be really exciting.

UKU Nationals 2017 – Open

news, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports

David “DP” Pryce returns from a successful EuroStars Tour to give his, and some of the team captains’, views on UKU Nationals from the Open division in Birmingham. 

With the regular season over and Regionals decided, we move to the business end of the post season. There was a little controversy ahead of Nationals; the EUF announced, after some confusion, that the EUCR-W would only have four bids in the Men’s division. 

This decision seems a little odd considering the Irish (who sent a team to Frankfurt last year) have been moved into the UK region. To take two bids away seems excessive even with the poor performances from the lower UK teams. 

But it is what it is and, with two Irish Open teams coming to Birmingham, the competition for the four EUCF spots is sure to be intense. Add to this that the exact number of WUCC bids is still unknown, and it becomes apparent that much is on the line this coming weekend.

When talking to Alex Cragg, Fire of London Captain, he remarked that: “It was frustrating to get the change in bid allocation so late and I feel our region is stronger than the four bids suggest. However, nothing has changed about our approach to Nationals, just beat the team in front of you.”

This sentiment was shared by every team captain I spoke to.

It does, however, mean that there is potential for a team to not make EUCF but get to WUCC. In the event that the UK has three WUCC spots and both Irish team finish in top four at Nationals, then the third WUCC spot would most likely be the next UK team at Nationals. That means that every game in this new format matters – from pools, to power pools, and then on to elimination games. So, let’s have a look at those pools and potential power pools.

As is fairly standard, the top two in the primary pools will go into top power pools to reseed the top eight. But teams coming out of the power pools in third or fourth will run the risk of losing out in a crossover. I think these power pools will mostly go to seed (with the only change being a possible top two swap in some pools) with the exception of pool D with favourites Pelt lining up against Devon, Alba and giant killers Reading. Reading having demonstrated they can go toe to toe with the big guns this season, though will be missing some players who have gone to the Mixed team, and Devon are ever-present near the top of Open Tour. Alba are a new, young side from Scotland who feature a number of GB under-24 players and while they’re inexperienced you can bet they’ll also be fearless. This pool could end up very differently to how it started.

One other early match up that is definitely worth watching is the standard UKU Nationals Northern derby between Chevron Action Flash and Manchester in pool C. Both captains brought this game up as their big match up in the pools. Sion Regan, the leader for Manchester, told us that regardless of the opposition “our approach will be to remain focused throughout those matches and make sure we play through our structure and style”. 
And Chevron? “We usually enter the game with a shorter squad than the fellow northerners,” said Mark Penny. “But with numbers looking higher than usual for us we will be looking to really take the game to them with some high intensity defence.”

Power pools onwards is hard to predict with so many potential outcomes clouding things. But, having talked with a few of the captains, we can delve into some common themes.

Who will win overall?
In an ongoing attempt to not make predictions myself I put this question to the captains. Or, rather, I asked whether anyone can beat Clapham. Most captains, including Ranelagh’s Stephen Jones, were brutally honest and pointed out that Reading already have done just that. Jones said that they will “treat it like any other game but are looking forward to showing Hogi what he’s missing back home”. And, banter aside, that is how many teams will be looking to take on the 16-time UK champions. They are not infallible, with a small handful of losses in the past few seasons, but after a trip out to the US Open and another Windmill title in the bag they are undoubtedly strong and deep. This new format might give them some headaches but I would expect their athleticism and robotic structures to win out in the long run. 

Sam Luxa (GB Coach and long term Devon player) will be looking to take Nationals by storm. Photo by Claire Baker for the ShowGame.

A word from the reigning champs?
Ashley Yeo didn’t mince his words, saying “our aim is to win”. But he also showed his experience and mental toughness in noting that they have “certainly been pushed by teams this year at Tour.” And when asked about their recent trip to the US, he remarked that the team is “re-energised towards our push to improve and perform to our best so we’ve certainly improved since we last played most of the UK teams”. Watch out anyone who gets in their way!

Fantasy?
I did bring this up with the captains but most didn’t care so much for it, however Ash did provide a very in depth personal outlook on it:
“In previous years you wouldn’t pick anyone from a team you’d expect to make the top two because of getting four games as opposed to a possible seven out of your player. You’d also expect those teams to get plenty of D line stats in the first two games and O line stats in the last two meaning the points are way too spread around. With the change in schedule this year it does open it up a little more to picking someone from a top team, but I would try to pick solely offensive players from a group of teams that I expect to have competitive games. This is probably in the third to eighth range of teams. Outside of that I’d just go back to high usage rate players on other teams.”

However, no one has of yet stepped up to fill the gap left by the change in TD and website.

Not willing to give much else away …
As a Fire player myself, the captains were a little apprehensive to share much more but I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for answering as much as they did and encourage everyone reading to make sure to watch the two-field coverage from Fanseat of all three divisions here.

Feature photo by Claire Baker by the ShowGame

UKU Nationals 2017 – Mixed

Mixed, news, Previews, Tournament Reports

This weekend is UKU Nationals, where 32 of the best teams from across the UK and Ireland will fight it out for places at EUCF in Italy, as well as places for WUCC in Cincinnati next summer. Here, Sean Colfer previews the Mixed division, which is as strong as it has ever been. Get yourself a cup of coffee for this one – it’s long.

One thing bears saying about this field – every team looks to be chock full of talented players. The depth of Mixed Nationals has been up and down since the UKU made the change a few years ago to have Mixed involved as well as Open and Women’s, but this year the strength in depth is seriously impressive. Every team section talks about how bloody good the team is, so it might get a little repetitive, but one thing that it does show is that Mixed Ultimate is growing in stature in the UK.

There are some very interesting storylines to have emerged ahead of this tournament. The most obvious and seemingly most impactful when it comes to where the silverware will be heading on Sunday evening is the collision courses of two wildly successful teams – Black Eagles and Reading. BlEagles won every Mixed Tour event this season (two by Great Black White Sharks and one by Black Blackbirds) and were defeated by only four teams that weren’t each other – Chevron Mixed and Royal Canadian Goaltimate Society were familiar high-level Mixed pick-up teams, so you can barely count them. SMOG and Glasgow, both in sudden death, were the other losses. Reading, on the other hand, had their now-typical season over Mixed Tour. They were missing key players, experimented with different line ups and tried out new things knowing that, when needed, they had the kind of quality and depth that led to them winning the European title while barely being challenged from August onwards last year.

There are other very good sides to think about too, though. Glasgow did creditably at Mixed Tour while missing various players at different times, Deep Space had a positive first season and Mighty Hucks finished fifth at all three Mixed Tour events. JR may have had a challenging year but they won the Mixed Tour crown last season, and I haven’t even mentioned the rising power that seems to be SMOG yet. When you add in Gravity, an Irish team whose results have been mixed (no pun intended) this season but who feature several players with senior international experience, it truly is a field where any team could get hot at the right moment and make an unexpected run.

Since there are only eight teams to think about, let’s take a look at them individually.

 

Black Eagles

In many eyes, the Scots are the favourites. That tends to be the outcome of a Mixed Tour season in which you take all three trophies and both the first and second places overall in the standings. The club could reasonably have qualified two teams if they’d wished – the strength in depth they have is remarkable.

Their ‘secret’, if you can call it that, is that they don’t rely on any one player. They have some stars – GB Mixed players Callum Easton, Niamh Delaney, Lucy Barnes and Michael Noblett, as well as Irish Mixed player Lulu Boyd and GB under-23s of past rotations like Danny Strasser and Cameron Agnew – but they share the disc impeccably and play aggressive defence. There aren’t really any holes on the roster, so the key for them will be ensuring that they can execute during the high-leverage moments they’re almost sure to experience later on in the tournament. The plays to look out for are Agnew throwing deep, usually to one of their very quick female cutters. Their deep game is excellent and they can work it in any conditions – not something that should be much of a concern with low winds forecast.

The team themselves seem to be keeping their cards close to their chest. When asked about Nationals, the response was a number of football clichés and jokes about their teammates:

“Birmingham is a tough place to play away on the August bank holiday weekend,” said Lulu Boyd (on behalf of several others, I suspect).

“We’re not taking anything for granted. We have to treat each game as if it’s a cup final. Giving it 110%. It’s all still to play for and I’m sure there will be some big upsets. That’s the magic of Nationals.”

While that might seem reasonably coherent, their approach for avoiding complacency was rather less so: “We stay away from the bags. They might be full of complacency.

They top the pool of death here. Facing a strong SMOG team that’s given them trouble this season as well as a talented Deep Space squad and the unknown quantities in Gravity is harder than they might have wished for. I’d still back them to reach the semis though, and if I was a betting man I’d be studying their odds closely (if bookies were mad enough to take bets on fris, obviously).

 

Reading Ultimate

This looks more like the team that ran roughshod through Europe last August and September. Many of the male players are the same, although one significant addition is the return of former GB-under 23 and Clapham player Andy Mitchell. There has been some turnover with the female players but the additions are very good indeed – GB Mixed and Women’s player Avril Hunter, GB Master Emilia Cruz and under-24 Erin McGready stand out in particular and will offset the losses of players like Iceni and GB under-24 player Amelia Kenneth and SYC cutter Fi Rae.

This is another team without many holes. All of the players are good throwers and the level of athleticism across the squad is very high, so there’s no real weaknesses to play on; teams with obvious weaknesses don’t achieve what Reading have over the last 18 months or so, to say nothing of the solid foundations they were laying for years before that. Again, their ability to manage the game and themselves in crucial spots will be the key. They’ve done it before with resounding success so if you were going to back any team to cope with that pressure, it would be this one.

Captain Bex Palmer said that the development work the team had been able to do over the Tour season had made a positive impact on the team: “Tour is always about development for us and with Mixed, Open and Women’s teams going to Nationals I’m really proud of the people we bring through the ranks. Regionals was a great time for us to get our heads focused as a Mixed team though and I’m sure the player connections we were starting to see at the beginning of the year will tide over.”

She also spoke of the team avoiding complacency while remaining confident: “I think every team this is strong this year, Mixed is the division to watch as I’m sure there are going to be some upsets! For us, we are gonna take it one game at a time and enjoy every one. Personally, I’m in it to win it but the team focus is to go to worlds and medal. If that means taking a loss at Nationals to spur us on to our goal, then I’ll let it slide!”

Their pool is relatively kind – they’ll be confident they can repeat their Regionals win over JR and both Glasgow and Mighty Hucks will struggle to contain such a rounded team. If all goes well, they should be in a semi-final on Sunday morning and they’ll avoid an extra game by winning a spot in the final. I can’t see things going any other way, really, and I think they’ll defend the title.

 

SMOG

The North East has long had some very talented players, but have not had a team quite like this one for ages – if ever. Not only have SMOG built a Mixed team of outstanding skill, but they have a whole club with growing Open and Women’s teams as well. The women made a semi-final and the men managed to maintain an A Tour position for the whole season. The Mixed team, though, is the main focus of the club, and they have been excellent this year.

SMOG finished second, third and a surprising eighth at Mixed Tour 3. The women have all played with each other a lot this season and are all solid fundamental players. A few individuals stand out, though; Tessa Hunt and captain Lucy Hyde were both GB under-23 players in London and are as good a cutter/handler pair as you’ll find in this division. The male players are, in a word, tall. Outside of GB under-24 handler Alexis Long, everyone is at least six feet tall (and if you except Carlo Hill they might all be at least 6’2”). They’ve also added Alex Mazzon, who was on the Clapham squad earlier in the season, and Manchester star Tom Bennett to the team that did so well earlier this year.

Hyde discussed the depth of talent in the north east and shared her, and the team’s, hopes for the tournament: “The north east has a lot of talent in it and SMOG has been a great platform to help university and university college players develop into more experienced club players. We want to support geo Ultimate and are hoping to improve our efforts in the seasons to come. SMOG has never finished higher than fifth at Nats, never been to Euros, never been to Worlds and never won a National Championship. Hopefully we can tick at least one of those boxes.”

Overall, this is a team that know each other inside and out, and feature the athleticism and experience to make a huge mark in Birmingham. They’re my dark horse for the title – a tough pool should set them up well for the semis if they can make their way past Deep Space and Gravity. A potential semi-final against Reading would be a spectacular start to Sunday for the neutrals.

Deep Space take off at Regionals. Where will they land? Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.

Deep Space

The London-based team was established just this season, so it’s been a learning experience for them. Founded to provide the UK Ultimate scene with its only totally dedicated Mixed team, the results at Mixed Tour improved throughout the season – first ninth, then seventh and finally sixth. At Regionals they struggled against Reading and split games against Thundering Herd, but won the one that mattered to qualify for this event.

Captains Sam Vile and Matt Hodgson have a lot of experience in Mixed Ultimate, as both were members of the GB Mixed team in 2016. They have a lot of players who experienced that tournament as well – Nancy Rawlings, Ange Wilkinson, Leila Denniston, Lauren Bryant and Nick Wong among them – but their most important players might be two young male cutters. Deep Space, as their name might indicate, love the deep game, and both Andy Turner and Gus Morse are vital to it. Both can stretch the field and use their height, on O and D, to affect things hugely. Wilkinson, Hodgson and Dom Norton won’t hesitate to throw bombs to either of the young guys.

Hodgson went into detail on what Deep Space were looking to build this year, and how they’ll look to continue that growth in future: “Something that seems to have been lost in communications this season is that Deep Space was not set up with one year or tournament in mind. We were set up to establish a Mixed-exclusive club, aiming to build for the future. We are definitely not a “Worlds team”.

“Setting up something from scratch will always be difficult, but we’re pleased with the culture that has grown during the first season of this club. When setting it up, and throughout this first season, we have been very open with all our players, through Captains communications, strategy decisions, training plans, etc. We’re happy with how this openness has led to our club feeling like it’s gelled well and with a trust that every player is trying their best to create something we can all be proud of.

“We have had a varied season results wise, but we have been focusing on processes over results for much of it. Obviously, Nationals is a big deal and we’re really happy to have qualified in our first season. We’re going there looking to take it one point at a time and continue building as we have done all season. We believe Euros/Worlds is achievable, but we want to build a club for the long term so if it doesn’t happen this year, we keep improving until it does.”

Deep Space have a nice blend of youth and experience, athleticism and throwing ability, and have gelled together well in a pretty short time. Their results have been getting better all season and, despite a loss against a strong Reading team in Edenbridge, they’re set up for a good showing at Nationals. Again, their pool is the tougher of the two in my opinion, but with this kind of talent they have to think they can push SMOG and Black Eagles as hard as anyone.

 

JR

This might be the most difficult team to read in the UK. JR have a team that have mostly been playing together for years, and never train together. They can be maddeningly inconsistent and make some baffling, impossible-to-justify decisions, and they can also be smooth, confident and unmarkable. Sometimes you get the feeling that’s because they don’t know what’s coming next themselves, but it works for them because of a strong team chemistry and trust in each other.

George Hudson has been the leader of the team for as long as it’s been around, but this year has ceded some control. Charlotte Kennedy has taken over some of that responsibility and is a key cog in the offence from a handler position. Ally Lead, who played for GB Mixed in Royan this year, also seems to have taken on some of the load. The team will rely, as always, on athleticism and big plays. They’re missing some important players by the looks of things – Alex Charlton and Rupal Ghelani are outstanding individual players and offer huge grabs on O (particularly Charlton) and lockdown, spectacular D (particularly Ghelani) that is very difficult to replace.

Hudson discussed the difficulty that JR have had in replicating their Tour win from 2016: “Mixed Tour was really tough. We took a bunch of new players, a new offence and crucially there was not much in the way of wind. No one looked comfortable; it was like watching JR do a bad impression of a team that plays horizontal. I’d say it was the least anyone enjoyed playing for our team and it showed. I think the major lesson learnt this season was to trust ourselves a bit more and not overthink too much. The fault is with us, we are a nightmare of a team to start playing for. You basically have to learn each handler’s style and adapt cut to cut.”

When asked what he hoped for ahead of Nationals, he was succinct: “Wind would be nice. Obnoxious, scrappy, turnover promising wind. I’d argue we are one of the best teams in the UK at dealing with it at the moment.”

JR will be a horrible match up for anyone because they know how to grind out results. If it’s windy they’ll be even tougher to play against. I see them struggling a bit this weekend, but I’m sure they’ll delight in the opportunity to prove to any doubters that winners do indeed wear pink. Their pool gives them a chance – the game against Glasgow at 2.30pm on Saturday looks crucial.

 

Glasgow

This is another team that had a mixed Mixed season which is pretty difficult to use as a gauge for Nationals. Often bringing a team with very short lines, Glasgow managed to defeat Black Eagles (GBWS edition) at MT1 but finished sixth, eighth and tenth successively. They were missing different parts of their squad at various times this season and so the team that will be in Birmingham is one that we haven’t necessarily seen yet.

On their day, the players on this team can be a real handful. Captain Katie Flight is an excellent handler with loads of experience on various GB teams – she’s an under-24 in this current rotation. Also bringing experience are Shaun and Philip, the Webb brothers. Both have played for GB Masters, and both played for Fusion before Glasgow formed. Flight and the Webbs headline yet another team with excellent athleticism and disc skills, but there do seem to be some weaknesses. For one, carrying only six women according to the squad lists available leaves them open to difficulty if any one of the ladies succumbs to an injury.

Flight explained why Glasgow are feeling so optimistic in their build up, and how they’re targeting an all-Scottish final with frenemies Black Eagles: “At Tour we never brought our full squad as a ‘first team’ as such. We had a large development squad of 40 people, which we cycled through allowing developing players to play side-by-side with established Glasgow mainstays. This improved the overall depth of our squad, but realistically Mixed Tour was a long way from Nationals so we have focused more in training camps and sessions.

“Regionals was an interesting format, and we gave BlEagles the tightest game, so read into that what you will. We are happy with coming third and are looking forward to some non-Scottish opposition in our pool. We haven’t had ever our full-strength squad against southern teams so far so that will be interesting for us and with all of our GBU24 players back on our lines we have our sights set high. We’re hoping for an all-Scotland final to show England what’s north of the wall!”

Glasgow are a team that believes in themselves, and in their ability to win any game. Beating Black Eagles with a really short line at MT1 proves that, and in one-off games they’re definitely good enough to cause a surprise. If they can grind their way into the top four they might be able to create an upset. Personally, I think they’ll be thrilled with their pool and I can see them taking the third seed and earning a semi-final on Sunday morning depending on the outcome of that game vs JR.

 

Mighty Hucks

Hucks are an odd one – another team that doesn’t train, captain Ben Bruin assembled a team of friends that fancied playing some Mixed last season and it went better than anyone could have hoped. They finished fourth overall on Tour and decided to focus more on it this year. Three consecutive fifth place finishes gave them confidence going into Regionals that they were in a good place to challenge for the top spots.

Since then, they’ve experienced huge roster change. They lost a number of key male players, which forced a bit of a shuffle. Their women are very good – Kat Cheng has played for Iceni, Grace Owen for Bristol and pretty much every single one of them for GB under-23 or -24 at some point or another. They’re missing Dutch national team player Sarah Harrison through injury which will hurt their depth but the women here are good enough to match up with anyone. The only vulnerability might be long speed, but they still have players like Tiff Anderson who can run with anyone. The men, too, are good, but it’s a very different line up. Bruin is joined by Nick Smith and Dec Iles who have played for Hucks for some time. Several other players have been drafted in to fill the roster and overall the talent level is very good. Whether veteran Merrick Cardew, who’s nursing an injury, can play will make a big difference to the complexion of the team.

Bruin feels good about their chances, and their ability to pull things together for Nationals. He said: “We have had new players join throughout the season, at least one new player at every tournament. I think our confidence has always been fairly high, but after losing a few key players to other teams, carrying a few injuries and having a disappointing Regionals, we have definitely taken a knock.

I think we can better that if our offence clicks at the key moments. We have always been very strong defensively and generate a lot of blocks, but due to our constant roster changes we have struggled to build connections. We are going to be stricter on lines at nationals with a fairly set O line that is built on some previously made connections. This should hopefully only see us improve as the tournament progresses.

The one thing that Hucks have had at Mixed Tour over the past few years is relative dominance in the air – the presence of Rollo Sax Dixon has seen to that. He’s with Chevron here, though, so they might be vulnerable to the long game. This is a really good, really experienced and really talented team, and yet I see the weekend being a long one for them. The depth at Regionals this year really is outstanding, but unfortunately someone has to miss out.

 

Gravity

I’ll be honest here – I know very little about Gravity. I do know that their women recently won the All-Ireland title and they had a pretty good showing as a Mixed team at Golden Cup a couple of weekends ago. The Dubliners will be coming over here looking to cause an upset, particularly in the first year of Irish teams using UK Nationals as their qualifier for Euros – something that seems to make a lot more sense than them trekking over to Italy or Switzerland to play there.

The women, I’m reliably informed, are the main strength of Gravity. Four of them played in London for Ireland – Sinead O’Shiel Flemming, Aine Gilheany and Claire Pugh for the Women’s team and Jessica Chambers on the Mixed team – and, as mentioned, they ran through the opposition with relative ease at All-Irelands last weekend. The men are no slouches – there are a couple of Ranelagh squad members here and a few under-24 players as well – although a cruelly-timed injury has prevented Daniel Purdy, an Irish Mixed player, from taking part.

O’Shiel Flemming is one of the captains of the team, and she spoke about how excited the team are to face some different teams: “We’re lucky in that we’ve had the bid to go to EUCR since last year’s Mixed All-Irelands, and so have been able to plan accordingly. However, we’re also at a disadvantage because many of our players also play competitive Women’s or Open club Ultimate, and as a result we’ve had to find a balance between preparing as a Mixed club and not exhausting our players. I think we’ve found a nice balance, and we were lucky enough to be able to compete in Golden Cup two weeks ago, which I think was a great way to round off our preparations. EUCR has always been the focus of our Mixed club season this year, so we knew we were using that as preparation.

“Many of our players have a lot of experience in Open and Women’s competitions, including against UK teams at Tour. So, to play in a new division against new teams is a really exciting prospect for us.”

It’s tough to predict where Gravity will place, but their pool does them no favours. Starting out against SMOG is a tough one, but that result will be a strong indicator of how well they’ll do. Black Eagles and Deep Space are also very tough teams to be drawn against, so they might find it a struggle. It’s a great first step for Irish Mixed though, and I’m sure they’re going to be far stronger at future Nationals/EUCR tournaments for this experience.

 

CONCLUSION

So, those are the teams. If you’re still reading at this point, you’ll no doubt expect a prediction for you all to hold against me and gloat about when it proves thoroughly incorrect. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for a stand-alone piece later this evening for that!

See you all in Birmingham.

Feature image by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.