David Sparks previews the North East & North West and Yorkshire & East Midlands regions
North East & North West
The 16 team men’s regional tournament for the North East and North West will be held this year in Liverpool. The fact that Durham, Newcastle and Manchester did well last year (in the overall university standings they came 5th, 12th and 17th respectively) means this new, smaller region has a lot of spots up for grabs: three Div 1 and two Div 2 places. With the top university teams in the region consistently proving their worth, there will be a good fight for the top spots. The steady increase of new and upcoming talent within some of the smaller universities however could see some upsets.
After a great finish last year, some of the experienced players on the Durham team have graduated, leaving the less experienced players to try and hold on to their second seed spot. The high quality of players coming through Durham over the last few years will have had a positive impact on the quality of their trainings, and hopefully the less experienced players will have felt this impact. Durham managed a top 8 finish at Sheffield Beginners, six places behind second place Manchester. Captain Edward Ward will have his work cut out at regionals, but still has tall receiver Carlo Hill to bring down discs in the endzone.
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Manchester never seem to lose many players of their team, and this year is no exception, with only two main players leaving: Jake Aspin and Mathew Codd. The rest of the team however is hardly changed. Captain Steve Dixon (Chevron) will still have Hamish Rankine (Manchester Ultimate) and Andranik Barsegjan (Manchester Ultimate) to work the disc up the pitch. Their playing style at Sheffield Beginners earlier this season where they just lost out in the final was hard work and regular long discs into the zone, with their tall players bringing these down. Manchester are unanimously picked to top their region by their peers; lets see if they can live up to all the expectations.
With Andy Garner (Vision), Sion Regan (Manchester Ultimate) and Captain Don Lindop, Liverpool have retained some key players from last year. Include recent pickup Nick Brownbill (Vision) and you have a strong and experienced team eager to get a spot at Div 1. Expect Sion to be directing play from the back, but watch out for his quick cuts up the field to get the disc moving.
Third seed Newcastle ‘Too Many Pies’ have retained a number of players from their team last year, and captain Alex Mazzon will be looking once again to get a spot at Div 1 Nationals. With their (very) tall squad consisting of players such as Eric Webber and Andrew MacGill, be prepared to have to jump a lot.
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Chester have retained a few experienced players from last year, the likes of Ben ‘BSR’ Smith-Richards (Vision) and Gareth Berry, and have picked up Matthew Lloyd (Vision) to strengthen their squad. After a 10th spot at regionals last year, prepare to see them battle it out for a regionals spot this year. Workhorse BSR will do all the heavy lifting on the team, so marking him out of the game will be a tactic most opposition will look to employ.
UClan might be the surprise team this year after beating Liverpool, Lancaster and club team Catch Those at a recent friendly tournament a few weeks ago, so make sure to keep an eye on them!
1. Manchester (Div1)
2. Liverpool (Div 1)
3. Newcastle (Div 1)
4. Chester (Div 2)
5. Durham (Div 2)
Yorkshire & East Midlands
The regional qualifier for Yorkshire and the East Midlands will be held at The Edge in Leeds. This 24 team tournament will be the largest of all the regions, and with only two Div 1 and three Div 2 spots available, there will be a lot of disappointed faces at the end of it. At recent warm-up tournaments the teams that have shown themselves to be gearing up for a spot in the final are Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Loughborough.
Leeds have only lost one or two players since last year and still have a strong team. With key player Nicholas ‘Lad’ Moss (LeedsLeedsLeeds) and new pickups Robert ‘Cracker’ White (JR) and Nicolas Peter (Cork) they certainly have a team capable of going all the way. With tall receivers in the likes of Moss and Cracker, they should have no problem with any wall thrown up before them. With the help of their very own coach James Mead (Chevron), Leeds have adopted a playing style that values the disc, and takes every open option. Although at recent warm-up tournaments they haven’t exploited the air dominance of Cracker much, he is a player to watch out for.
Sheffield have held on to most of their experienced players, and with players that include captain Joe Crellin (Manchester Ultimate), Dan Sumner (Manchester Ultimate), Matthew Aspin (Pingu Jam) and Andre Lioe, they have a team who know how to play together as a team. After the debacle of not qualifying for Nationals last year they will be going out strongly to get revenge. Quick movement with the disc on offence coupled with an aggressive zone on defence takes advantage of the athleticism of all the key players on the team and should see them safely through to the semi finals. Making it to the final and taking home a Div 1 spot will come down to whether or not they manage to create synergy within their team when they take on the other big teams in the region.
Nottingham have lost a couple of experienced players from the team that took 9th place at Nationals last year and are struggling with injuries on the team. They do however retain star player Ben Poole (EMO) and veteran Liam Reddy (Birmingham). Together with coach Brodie Whittington, they have introduced some improvements to the weave tactics that Fling have been using for the last few years. This will be the debut on the first team for some of the players, but with Poole in the endzone coming down with almost anything thrown at him, they will have an easy bail out if things are getting hot.
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Haze will be playing the Loughborough way, which is all about ‘athleticism and defence’ when they bring their predominantly young team to the tournament. Handlers Chris ‘Pudding’ Anderson (JR, EMO), Chris ‘Melon’ Peploe (JR) and aerial threat Andrew ‘Pumba’ Sellers (JR) will be leading the way with their new offensive tactics, whilst defensive players Matty Hart (JR) and Thomas ‘ST’ Bailey will be key within the defence. After almost missing out on Nationals last year, Loughborough will have their eyes set on the top spot.
As there aren’t many qualification spots available, Div 2 spots will be equally coveted, with teams such as York, Leicester, and Hallam trying hard to make it to Nationals. Since York’s fourth place finish at regionals last year, players like Callum Spiers and Josh Briggs have graduated leaving captain Conrad Wilson with a difficult task of qualifying. Thankfully with the tall Max Moseley still on the team, not all of their height advantage has disappeared. Leicester Jesters captains Ciaran ‘Chef’ Welland, just back from an exchange from Arizona uni, Julian Neo and Jonny Singh (all of whom playing JR) have a long road ahead of them after losing players Alex ‘Medic’ Charlton and Edd Carmichael, but have all the faith that they can get a Nationals spot with their current squad.
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1. Leeds (Div 1)
2. Nottingham (Div 1)
3. Sheffield (Div2)
4. Loughborough (Div 2)
5. York (Div 2)