Edward Roberts previews Junior Indoor Nationals for the ShowGame.
This weekend, the best junior teams in the country will fight it out to be crowned the U20 Junior Open Indoor champions. With teams attending from Exeter to Malpas the tournament is likely to bring not only surprises but the opportunity for young players to challenge themselves against the best the country has to offer. The defending champions from the last four years, the AirBadgers, are looking to cement their dominance over Junior Ultimate. However with the likes of Flux, Stags, Arctic and Evolution attending, nothing is certain.
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As with every year Junior Indoors Nationals will be held at the Aldersley Leisure Village in Wolverhampton. There are currently eight separate clubs entering the tournament, with the larger clubs such as Flux, Ocelots, AirBadgers and Arctic all bringing four strong teams. This is a testament not only to the many players that make up these teams, but also to the coaches and volunteers who organise the logistics associated with bringing so many players.
Air Badgers 1
Having won the tournament five times in the last six years, the AirBadgers 1 are odds-on favourite to retain the title. The first team is a close guarded secret until the night before, but will be full of Great Britain U20 players. With the likes of Macca ‘Muvaaaa’ Oldfield and Joshua ‘Gingé’ Awcock in their final years, they will likely be key individuals to an AirBadger 1 success at the weekend.
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Air Badgers 2
With most teams there is a significant gap between the first and second teams; not the case for the AirBadgers, whose second team consists of the squad that won U17 Nationals. This team (otherwise known as ‘The Mutants’) has height, speed and a desire to prove that they can be the best AirBadgers team since the formation of the club. Be sure to look for them causing shocks and surprises on Sunday morning.
An historic top four team, the current generation of Arctic 1 players have yet to achieve their potential. Littered with Great Britain players such as Max Craven, Alfie Bradshaw, Josh Eeles and Brad Shoesmith this team has never quite managed to perform in the semis and final. Arctic 1 are a team to look out for on the Sunday morning, however they’re likely to struggle when playing against the more organised and well drilled teams such as Flux 1 and AirBadgers 1. What Arctic might lack in organisation however, they more than make up for in commitment and desire.
Evo 1 has succeeded in recent years with the development of their junior players. Whilst arguably they lack the ‘X-Factor’ names that Badgers, Flux and Stags boast, this team has very few weak links. Four of the team played Open Indoor Nationals last weekend with Lemmings and will look to use this experience to sneak into one of the hotly contested semi-final places.
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Boasting two of the most highly anticipated young players in the country in Declan Cartwright & their captain Seb ‘Don’t Mention Lecco’ Allen (both Chevron Action Flash), Flux will undoubtedly have real ambitions of winning this year. Speaking to Seb, he stated: “Winning is the idealistic goal, however reaching the final and putting in a good performance is an aim we’d be disappointed if not achieved”. Flux will bring athleticism and experience to this tournament and it is highly likely that they will be in the final as long as their two main players stay fit and healthy.
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Flux 2 & 3
Seb Allen also mentioned that “Kate Gibson captaining Flux 2 has the athleticism of a county basketball player and some decent throws”. Kate was one of the stand out players last year for Flux 2 and will look to lead the team to a top eight finish. Flux 3, whilst not in contention to challenge the top teams, do have a “13 year old handler [Ethan Morrell] with serious potential and a pinpoint pitch-length knife in his arsenal”. This is exciting not only for Flux but also for the future of junior ultimate in the country in general.
Notorious for coming ninth, Ocelots have aspirations to challenge for the top four this year. Captain Olly Dodd will be vital to the team having any chance of challenging against the top teams. Olly has mentioned that we should look out for “13 year old Andrew Sweetnam” who will be playing for Ocelots 1; whilst he is young he will not look out of place with the big boys. Olly forgot to mention that his younger, allegedly better looking, brother Nick is also playing and it is he who is likely to be Olly’s receiver for the majority of throws.
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Rice 1 came eighth last year and will look to improve upon that in 2015. The Mill Hill County High Schoolers will have their work cut out this weekend to make the semi-finals, however anything is possible with talismanic player Rupal Ghelani. Rupal has not only lit up the Junior Ultimate scene but also the Women’s University scene, recently winning Women’s University Indoor Nationals with a strong Loughborough team.
This year Stags have a very strong team; with the likes of Simon & Brandon Gurney, Dom ‘Dropped the Pull’ Knight and Lochan Nowacki this team has the potential to make it to the final. Captain and father of the team Simon Gurney has confirmed that as a group Stags 1 “Have one aim and that’s first place at Junior Nationals”. With confidence, showmanship and the current Great Britain U20’s coach Sam Gunbie, this team will undoubtedly be well drilled and play smart, attractive ultimate.
Southern Tekkers 1
After only recently being set up by Amie Channon, Southern Tekkers as a club have gone from strength to strength and with young talent in abundance, they will undoubtedly be a dangerous team in the future. Unless both Conner Dodds & Bentley Moxham are on top form this weekend, it is unlikely that Tekkers will reach the last eight but almost certain that they will improve upon their thirteenth place finish last year.
Good luck to everyone who is playing!