Sean Colfer met up with five players from the Great Britain Masters Men’s team who have been playing together for over 10 years to discuss their memories of successes together and their aims for the future.
The Great Britain Masters Men’s team is here to win. They are clear that their expectation is to come here and win the gold medal, not to simply make up numbers and try to compete against the North Americans.
“We aim to get gold, to win,” said Dave Povey, one of the captains of the team. “Pushing Canada close in the pool (15-13) was great and I think we’ve shown that we’re one of the best teams here when we play our game our way, and that’s what we’re here to do really.”
Dave is one of the leaders of the team, and also one of the contingent of players from Loughborough University’s team, Haze. In fact, there are five members of the 2005 university national champion Haze team on this GB squad – Dave, Daniel ‘Colonel’ Furnell, Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone, Matt Stead and Will ‘Caesar’ Cornelius.
Dave joined in 2005 after starting off at Portsmouth University, but the other four have been playing together for 15 years. In 2005, Colonel and Brummie returned from a summer playing for national powerhouse Clapham with a renewed focus and drive.
“Before we started back at university we had a team meeting and talked about how we wanted to train and what we wanted to get out of the season,” Colonel explained. “We knew we had a great team and we just took it more seriously than anything we had done before. We held attendances at practice and we worked really hard, we had 20 great players and it was just an awesome team from day one. It was really focused.”
The team culture was emphasised above all else, to ensure that all the members of the squad bought into the collective effort that would be needed to achieve their lofty aims.
“We made it clear early on that it was more important that people bought into the team than whether they were spectacular players,” said Brummie. “So there was pressure, people who had always been first team players knew that if they didn’t pull their finger out they would lose their spots to people coming through.
“When we went to regionals and indoors I deliberately picked teams based on attendance and effort rather than necessarily the best players. So, we had a very strong second team with some of our best players on it, because they hadn’t been at trainings. That really gave them a kick in the right direction so by the time we hit outdoors we were very, very solid.”
That establishment of a culture is crucial in any team, and while this Master’s team have been keen to create something similar from a buy in and team synergy perspective, the dynamics required have been very different because of the nature of Master’s Ultimate – everyone is older, has been playing much longer and has very different demands on their time to a university student. Still, these players who have reunited after their success together over a decade ago can see some similarities.
“It’s been very different to that university team,” agreed Colonel. “It’s not been as intense. At university we lived in each other’s pockets but this has been a softer approach. The best thing that I think is similar is that we’re good with each other. There’s no shouting at each other, there’s no getting each other down, it’s just positive stuff. We can have an adult discussion around talking about things that don’t go right. That might sound easy but when it’s in the heat of the moment and it’s really energetic, the adrenaline is high, people are still relaxed and can talk to each other and treat each other with respect.
“I think last season we didn’t get to the heights that we wanted to get to as a team, we didn’t perform how we wanted to at Euros so I think that opened the door for us to be a bit pushier this year and say let’s have a go with a slightly different, more EMO-type offence this year.”
The EMO offence, which was largely built on the Haze offence, is an interesting point because of the usual influence of Clapham and Chevron styles on GB teams, particularly at the Master’s level.
“We have had a lot of say in how we want to play,” explained Dave, “and it is those principles and fundamentals that Colonel and Brummie built Haze on. Simple, effective offence and hard defence. There is a lot of legacy of Chevron and Clapham players and we’ve built all that together. The Master’s environment is very much you have to take what people want to do. Having the principles there is what has gotten us this far.”
“There was always a very established order and it was Chevron and Clapham, that was it,” Brummie went on. “We’ve all put in a lot of energy at points over the last 11 years or so into building EMO into something that is a well recognised and well respected team that played in a different way. Certainly we’re seeing influences from different clubs now at Master’s that get a lot of buy in and respect from our team mates that have always been Clapham or Chevron players. It’s really nice, it all coming together and bringing different influences in.”
As for their aims for this tournament, as mentioned, they are confident. Matt summarised why they’re feeling so confident:
“We’ve had some good warm-up tournaments heading into this that I think have gotten rid of some of those kinks and built up some good relationships. It’s probably taken until that Canada game, which was an awesome game, for us to come together. As long as we keep it at that level then we should be competing for the top spots.”
Before they were tested here, it was unclear to the team how good they could actually be.
“I think if we’re being honest the training we’ve put in compared to previous years of playing open was very different and not as intense,” admitted Colonel. “So, coming into the tournament, we weren’t confident that we would be pushing for gold because we didn’t know how we would fully gel coming into that tournament environment. Now we’re here and now we’ve competed against who I think are the best Master’s team here, Canada, I think we can really compete and we can win. Obviously we’ve got to play well and we’ve got to take our match-ups and win the important points but if we do that then we’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of the week.”
So have they enjoyed coming together again on a new team, with new stakes, over a decade later? Colonel says yes, and the amount of sniggering and joking around during the interview would suggest that he’s right:
“I think we all like to play the same type of Ultimate,” he said. “Although we’ve gone back and played different teams, we’ve then tried to influence those teams that we’ve played for and we’ve come back together all wanting to play the same way. It’s been easy to play together again.”
That leaves only the big question: what’s been more fun, building up for student nationals, or for Worlds? Brummie took the final word:
“The nationals run is job done. This is job still to do. Our focus is on this, and going to get a medal.”