Jordan Brown previews the UKU 2016 C Tour.
Once again the UKU Open Tour is upon us and players from around the country descend on St. Albans for London Calling. With the amount of pitches restricted due to prep for Worlds, C Tour has taken the brunt of the hit (aside from A Tour missing the usual international sides) as a few new teams were unable to make their Tour debut on the stunning pitches of this world-class Ultimate venue. Still, the regular faces remain and C Tour is pretty much wide open this year.
Looking at Pool J, EMO 2 sit at the top as first seeds. Having previously done a fair whack of damage in the middle of the B Tour table, there would normally be little reason to doubt their dominance of the division. However, with rumours suggesting that a fair few of the club’s players have opted to play for Flyght Club this season, a reshuffle could see the second team missing some big hitters. Still, EMO remain a big outfit and when the entire club is firing on all cylinders, a few players missing here and there isn’t going to stop them. You’d expect them to top their pool against Black Sheep 1 and Camden 2, however Sheep have been doing well over the past 12 months and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Pool K features Flyght Club as second seeds. Having spoken to a few of them, they’re brimming with confidence going into London Calling thanks to the return of some big players and the previously mentioned influx of players from EMO. While it remains to be seen quite how many they’ve got from them, Flyght’s hype would suggest that it’s going to at least be a significant factor in their campaign this year. With University of Nottingham currently holding the BUCS title, I’d be very surprised if they don’t hop up to B Tour with relative ease. Joining them in the pool is Red Leicester and Hampshire 2. While Hampshire’s seconds are unlikely to push for the top of the table, Red are more than likely filling the gap left by a second JR team. If they’ve got a number of their former players on board, including Neil Humpage and Keir Watson, they’ll not only be a bit of a unit but one that’s made the C Tour final previously – it all depends on their team’s cohesion.
Pool L sees Rhubarb in third seed. Forever yo-yoing between bottom of B and the top of C, the South Eastern outfit will know their opposition well and should make the quarters with relative ease with players like Jack Salzman leading the charge. While Reading 2 will be well drilled under the tutelage of Mark Bignal and the club’s coaching team, for them to rumble at the very top of the division would be a huge step up. The interesting team in the group is the Devon 3 Steamroller. Led by Jam Banks, the club’s third team consists of a lot of former second teamers that haven’t made enough training sessions to qualify for the seconds. With Josh Meeklah, Afro-Peat and Jeremy Moore on the roster, they’ll be stronger than they look. If they’ve got Chris “Mop” Griggs-Trevarthen again this season as well then opposition should proceed with extreme caution as they could give Devon 2 a run for their money.
You’d expect Hampshire 1 to top Pool M as seeded, however with a few of their superstars having left for more Fiery pastures they’re likely to be a touch weaker than usual. YOpen join them in the pool as do Bristol 2. York could very well smash their group up but I wouldn’t put money on them taking down the group’s top seeds – especially if Hampshire still have Ben Ladd and Chris Whittle. As for Bristol 2, they had a fairly strong squad last year but I doubt that squad will do particularly well in London. Their first team is likely to have taken the cream of the crop and so they’ll have recruited freshers from the local universities to bolster their numbers.
In Group N, Brighton Shiny have enough strong players from their massive club to prove a problem for anyone playing them. Having said that, Glasgow 2 were incredibly strong last year. Despite only entering the one Tour event in 2015, they pushed C Tour 1 winners Gravity in their quarter-final to a greater extent than their opponents in the semi-final and final did. I’d back them to not only win the pool but to possibly make the final. Black Sheep 2 will benefit from their large player base and do better than a lot of C-Tour second teams but they’re jammed into a pool with two big teams.
NEO will have a point to prove after dropping from A Tour to C Tour over the past two seasons. St. Albans will be tough opposition for them, however NEO’s experience in A and B tour should see them through. North Western mates’ team Fluid are likely to be fairly underseeded. While it’s tough to predict where they’ll finish, I think they should ease their way to the middle of the table at least – especially with Cameron Burgess at the helm.
Pool Q is a veritable pool of death. Cloud City have trained a lot in the past year and have gelled very well, Pier Pressure have added a number of Thundering Herd’s first teamers (and will be called Thunder Pressure for the rest of the Tour season) and Heat, being a uni team, will have more training under their collective belt than either of them. While it’s likely to be a scrappy affair, I think it’ll go as seeded but won’t be easy for anyone. [ED note – I’m backing Thunder Pressure here and for a top eight spot.]
In Pool R, Devon 2 will be aiming high as always. Led by Alec Church, the squad will feature most of the best players from Picnic and Uriel and is likely to be a cohesive outfit going in. Having milled around at the top of C Tour for years, occasionally breaking into B, they won’t be easy for Sneeekys 2 and Brixton who join them in the group stages. While Edinburgh will undoubtedly be strong, they’ll have to pull something special out of the bag to take down the green machine. As for Brixton, Angels are still in the process of adapting from being an indoors-only club.
Looking ahead to the quarters, semis and finals, I’d say that the tops of each pool are most likely to proceed except for Brighton Shiny – not because they’re not good enough but because Glasgow are likely to crush most opposition. From there, I’d expect Glasgow to meet and beat Hampshire while EMO, Flyght and Rhubarb hold position. My predictions from there would be that Glasgow could knock out EMO and end up facing Flyght in the final making the top eight look a little like this:
1. Flyght Club
2. Glasgow 2
3. EMO 2
7. Devon 2
8. Cloud City
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