Dynamic Loughborough duo George ‘Jungle’ Webb and Dan ‘Jess’ Hillman have teamed up to preview the Midland region this year, which features some of the best teams from last year facing off regularly. Here’s how the Haze boys see it shaking out.
With all three Men’s Outdoor titles being taken by teams from this region last year, it’s safe to say there is a buzz around the Midlands region this year. Division 1 champions Nottingham will be chased by third place finishers Birmingham, ninth placed Warwick 1, a Cambridge side who were one sudden death game away from the Division 2 final, a newly promoted Loughborough side with Division 3 gold medals fresh around their necks, and a Warwick 2 side that shows immense strength in depth. With many big names leaving the region after last year, it’s safe to say that the midlands title is up for grabs now.
Birmingham (aka UBU)
Birmingham would have been a bookies’ favourite for winning the title last year. Halted in the semi by a powerful Nottingham side, UBU will have spent the summer knowing they have something to prove. UBU have lost a few players that have been dominant in the university scene in recent history, including Ben Burak, Thomas Hodgett (both Chevron Action Flash, GB U23 Open), Steve Gilman, Will Collier and their captain from last year, Andrew Potter. Despite losing many key players, UBU have done well to hold on to players such as George Waldon, Adam Vaslet, James Firth, Mike Chapman and with some useful pick-ups, their captain Josh Chapman is still gunning for gold this year at Nationals: “As a club we did quite well last year although we missed out on the clean sweep. 5/6 ain’t bad though…predict #1.”
Writer’s prediction: First
After finishing third at Division 2 last year, Cambridge will be looking to go one step better and qualify for Division 1. However, this may not be as simple as capitalising on other teams losing key players. With over three quarters of the first team graduating, including Rolo Turnell-Ritson and George Anegg (both GB U23 Mixed), some new faces such as William Peach and Henry Mattinson will be making an appearance and hopefully a big impact for the team. In addition to these, star players such as Jonny Slaughter, James ‘JR’ Richardson, Perry Hong (all Cambridge Ultimate) and Niall Jackson (Fire 1) will be looking to help the team to a top three finish in the league. After a rough transition into the new BUCS Wednesdays format last year and with one season under their belts, Cambridge will be out there to cause some big upsets. As long as they can move all their games to Saturday again.
Writer’s prediction: Fourth
Loughborough (aka Haze)
Loughborough’s Division 3 title from last year means nothing as they finally join the top league. Coming in to this year with a 16-0 record for all outdoors matches last year, shocks could occur as the relatively untested Loughborough team is pushed to compete at the highest standard. With a core set of EMO players, Haze will look to use their athleticism to grind out games. Having Alex ‘Walshy’ Walsh (GB U23 player, twice) in his final year and then only losing three players from their entire club moving in to this year, Loughborough really will be pushing for top spot in the region. Picking up Ben Davies (New Zealand U23 Open) on a Ph.D. has given Loughborough a real boost that could make all the difference.
Writer’s prediction: 3rd
With Nottingham winning Division 1 last year, the team will be looking to build on their success as they come back to a very different looking Midlands 1A league. Graduation has forced Ben Poole off the field and into coaching duties and last year’s UMON final MVP Tom Tongue (both EMO) is only around for the first game of the season. As such, the team will be looking to players such as Theo Rutter and George Gayton to step up and fill the gaps on field. However, with great overall player retention, there will be plenty of players looking to move into the first team. With a well drilled offence and an effective zone up their sleeves, they will definitely be looking to show the county that they still are the team to beat.
Writer’s prediction: 2nd
Finishing third in the region and going on to ninth at Nationals last year, Warwick would have known that the two teams finishing above them in the league were immensely strong. As the Midlands league kicks off, Bears will have Division 1 Nationals in sight and know that if they can start strong, Coach Andy Hillman (GB Open) can push them even further later on in the year. With experienced players such as Jack ‘Frigate’ Skipper, Matt Kirk and Adam Carver (all EMO) looking to fill the void left by now-graduated star player Romit Patel (EMO), it will be exciting to see if any of them can step up.
Captain George Siddens is confident in the ability of Warwick 2: “Our club has a lot of depth this year, with around 40 players regularly attending our experienced sessions there will be a lot of competition for spots on the first and second teams. Hopefully our several pick-ups only look to improve the quality in our depth.” After being promoted from the Midlands second league last year, the boys in Bears 2 could cause some upsets later on in the year when they have their systems drilled and nailed down.
Writer’s prediction: Fifth (Warwick 1), Sixth (Warwick 2).
With such a large outflux of talented players from the region, many teams will be looking to players to fill the empty boots that they have on the team. The region itself is more open than ever. As well as being interesting to see how the teams do against each other, it will be interesting to see how they can match up to the rest of the country. At the end of the day, it could well be a race to see who can step their game up the fastest.
Summary of predictions
- Warwick 1
- Warwick 2
Feature image by Andrew Moss.