Today the European Club Championships kick off in Wroclaw Poland. Josh Coxon Kelly, Claire Taylor and David Pryce preview the UK teams looking to bring home some international silverware.
Clapham are chasing their fourth consecutive title in Wroclaw, and further consolidation as the most dominant squad in Europe. The squad has more new players than in recent years, but this didn’t slow down their unbeaten route to the final and a 15th domestic title in Southampton at Nationals. Retaining will be tough work with targets so clearly marked out on their backs, but this team are nevertheless still in the strongest position for gold. Their pool looks the kinder of the two groups starting at ‘elite’ tier, however the Belgian Mooncatchers have capitalised on building momentum at WU23 and EUC to win 15-12 over Bad Skid in the EUCR – C final, and CUSB will be as fiery as ever and mean that pool play may not be a completely straightforward affair.
Chevron Action Flash have recruited even more heavily for the 2015 season. Nationals was their first tournament together with a full squad, and whilst they were unable to overcome Clapham, they showed that they had quickly brought in their new connections (recruits Dom Dathan, and Sam Turner are joined by GB mixed team-mate Steve Kolthammer for this tournament) and looked their strongest in recent years. Their pool is nasty, facing up against Germany’s Bad Skid, Austria’s FWD and France’s Iznogood. With these team’s making up the bulk of their respective international squads, Chevron will be getting stuck in from the first game in Poland.
Brighton City beat Fire in their last match of UK Nationals. Neither of these teams have been able to break into the European elite in recent years, but remain hungry to do so and will take any opportunity given. Fire have had another turbulent year with strict attendance-based rostering, but will surely be sending their strongest possible squad for the final and highest level club tournament of the year. Brighton are in similar territory in terms of looking to break out into a European quarters/semi run, but may miss out on a couple of potential pickups due to roster clashes with Brighton Legends.
Devon didn’t qualify at Nationals, but welcome another European trip which will undoubtedly help their continuing presence as one of UK’s highest performing clubs. Richard Coward will continue to be a crucial part of the team’s offensive and defensive lines and will provide a thorny matchup no matter the opposition. Ben Hall returns to the roster to further contribute to the athletic mismatches.
EMO took the hardest route Europeans after a first game loss to Brighton Legends at Nationals. Clearly experience is something that this squad needs to regain after such a promising build up to (and including their performance at) WUCC 2014. Competing in Europe will be welcome, then, as an opportunity to test themselves against a wider and stronger field with the aim of restarting that momentum and moving back towards domestic semi-final and final contention.
Congratulations to Reading Ultimate and Black Eagles on qualifying for EUCF in Wroclaw. In what appears to have been the most competitive UKU Mixed Nationals we have seen in a while these teams stood out above the competition as the GB powerhouses in this division.
Reading have had a great year so far with plenty of domestic wins, ending the Tour season in third. They were hardly troubled during qualification with the final being their tightest game where Black Eagles pushed the champions 15-13. As the relative new kids on the block this will be the second visit to the continent for the men on the team, last year the Open team were lucky enough to qualify. This may in some part have led to their return to the big stage but you cannot ignore the fantastic players of both genders on show here. With a European champion Catherine Ashton and no less than five U23 Mixed players (Klima, Denniston, Palmer and Ryle from 2015, Hill from 2013) this team has a lot of class. Also on show are two of the potentially most stat-heavy players in this division: Mark Bignal and Sam Gunbie who stood out at Nationals scoring or assisting in almost three quarters of this team’s scored points. Sadly they are missing the twitter happy co-captain Dan Godbold and his absolutely incredible EUC champion fiance Ania Koscia, couple this with the injured Claire Baker, and any other team would be left short handed. However I can’t see that happening with Reading, which is a testament to the hard work and depth of this team. Let’s see if Europe can stop them.
The Nationals silver medalists can also boast a very strong team. Black Eagles have been in the higher echelons of the Mixed Tour for some time and, like Reading, were not pressed up until their tight game in the final. Their esteemed captain of GB U23 2010 and Fusion fame – James Glover – has brought together some of Scotland’s best (with some added friends from across the border). Notably Mike Noblett (EUC champion) and Niall Wilkinson on the men’s side with the Cambridge imports Frances Dathan, Lucy Barnes (EUC champion) as stand out women. Sadly they will be missing Niamh Delaney (GB Mixed captain and champion), Linda Gilmour (GB Women’s Masters, EUC Bronze) and Robert Anderson (Clapham, GB Open 2012). Having taken the Mixed Tour title this year from being on the rise over the last few, can this bunch of fierce Scottish warriors take Europe by storm?
Both these teams represent some of the work done by the UKU to create a stronger stand alone Mixed division and are taking two very deep, strong teams from the high end of the Mixed tour. In previous years one could argue that due to the choice of Open and Women’s over Mixed, a lesser representation of the UK’s Mixed division was being sent over to Europe. We can see this changing and our hope lies with Reading and Black Eagles this year. Good luck to them and let’s see if UK Ultimate can grab all three championships in Wroclaw this weekend. Stay tuned for coverage (internet dependent!) over the weekend and good luck to all teams taking part!