Oscar Nolan will be previewing Scotland’s university scene this year – here’s his introduction to the season, and our first preview of the year.
It’s that time of year, the university Ultimate season has rolled round once again. Club season is closing up shop for another year until the summer, Euros are over while the GB U24s are slowly getting their act together for their trip down under. Beginners have been recruited and engrained into the clubs at universities across Scotland. The graduates are deeply missing university Ultimate and thinking about masters, PhDs and the like. The opening game of the BUCS league is fast approaching and I couldn’t be more pumped to discuss this. Scotland is a region known for its excitement and a deep history of shock results. This year promises more twists and turns along the way so sit back, relax and let’s delve into the preview of the Scottish BUCS region.
Benji Heywood is now a “full-time” coach for St Andrews, the big cheese of UKU is now on a salary from the university and even has a desk, I hear. This can only mean one thing: St Andrews are just going to get better and it’s not clear whether anyone in this region can stop them. Over the past two years, winning has been the minimum expectation at St Andrews, their results prove this – UMIN champions and a top eight finish at UMON.
Some losses in the team include Lochlan “Goldilocks” Fisher (now at Edinburgh), Hugo Turner and Keith Fingland. Gabe “GB” Schechter is the man with the plan at St Andrews. Backed to the hilt by his SU with new training wear, logos, and merchandise they are attempting to open their own mega store for us to buy their brand. Connor Rock is looking to make a name for himself while Robbie Jones has achieved his lifelong ambition of becoming a first team player. Also, look to see Hannes Ludewig back in the side and vice-captain Aidan Steer backing Gabe all the way.
Connor Rock (Gabe was apparently too busy to give a preview) downplays the losses of the team and claims he doesn’t need them for greatness. A quick glance at the fixture list shows a packed schedule with Glasgow up first, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Heriot Watt. A stiff training regime has been implemented and confidence is high in the camp. It remains to be seen whether this team can continue this rise to stardom or crash down like a falling comet, with many looking to scalp them.
Gone are the days of Rory Curran, playing against Glasgow last year was a strangely enjoyable experience. Ex-captain Axel “Blondie” Ahmala saw his spirit scores improve greatly last season which undoubtedly surprised all in the community. A solid season for Glasgow saw them finish second in the table, third at UMON and a top four placing at UMIN.
Captain Joel Terry would do well to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps this year. The ever-present Christopher Chan is a doubt this year with doctor-hood well on the way. Fortunately for Joel, Alan Jeuken is there to lend a hand while the two ginger all-rounders Iain Campbell and Sam Finlay provide questionable comedic “banter”.
Losses include Duncan Webster and Axel himself but coming through the ranks include Doug Fraser, Fraser Kelly (ex GB juniors) and Julian Grant (ex-St Andrews). The first two games are arguably the toughest Glasgow will face with St Andrews and Dundee coming up. The reading for Glasgow does not get easier with the rest of their games are made up of Heriot Watt, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. It will be a real test but should they perform well in these, you could see them well on their way to Division 1 Nationals.
Asif Arshad takes the helm of Dundee for this season. This team saw a difficult start to last year, losing to both St Andrews and Glasgow. They learned from these results beating both Strathclyde and Edinburgh while getting good points from other teams. This all resulted in third place and a trip to Division 1 Nationals placing sixth, and with a bronze medal finish at UMIN.
So, what’s new at Dundee then? Due to a diminished Women’s team Beth Hall will be hoping to play with the guys this year; yeah, you read that right. BUCS is technically an open sport so anyone can play including excellent female players of her calibre. Joe Hill and Angus Milliken have both departed the team in different ways. Fortunately, they have replacements in the form of Johnny Tofalis, Nick Byrne and James McGrath.
The fixtures for Dundee include Glasgow, St Andrews firsts, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh. A busy and hard fixture list, but Dundee won’t be fazed. Their goal is to go out and win everything including all Nationals events and the BUCS league. There will be some stiff competition, but I’m confident that this team will provide good entertainment for all concerned and make it to Nationals.
Word on the street at the end of last year was Strathclyde looking to put in a second team for BUCS. Controversial, right? You would have thought Edinburgh or Glasgow would stake a claim on the next second team. In the end, they decided not to risk it instead sticking with only the first team, which has done well. Having lost the game to go to Nationals, they ended up fourth in the league last year and will strive to do better this year. Indoor Nationals was a disappointment but Outdoor Nationals was a great success of fifth in the country. In store for the boys at Strathclyde include Aberdeen, St Andrews 2 and Glasgow away with Stirling at home.
Youth appears to be the theme of the team this year with Andrew Warnock (GB U20s) leading the way. Backed by the steady hands of Cameron Mackie, Jonny Shaw and Gio Cabrera (Heriot don’t like to hear his name), he hopes to make a strong push for anything and everything in sight. Having lost only Jack Hughes and Ricky Deng, this could potentially be the strongest Horses team to date. I look forward with great interest to seeing how this team develops. In the words of the captain himself “we may be the Dark Horses but you should never count us out”.
This year, Chris “Habs” Habgood captains a team that could really do some damage in the league. Last year there were difficulties against Strathclyde and Dundee, but positive takeaways from the St Andrews and Glasgow losses, which overall resulted in fifth place. Outdoor Nationals saw a Division 2 silver medal, and strong performances indoors. This season opens with Stirling and Dundee away while Glasgow and St Andrews 2 will come to the Burgh.
Christopher “Rocket” Burrows, Ian/Duncan/Bella Tait, Erasmus “Moose” Haggblom and Graeme Leamy have parted ways with the team, big shoes to fill here. Long serving Miroslav “easy options” Stankovic returns after a shoulder injury while Ben “Housewife” Preston is still around. There’s a multitude of second years pushing for places, leading the charge include young Teddy “King of the Lefties” Pilgrim and Joe “Sax” Pennington.
One hopes there won’t be issues with a random football team (c’mon eh corn) for pitch time this season. With fifth place finishes over the last two years, Habs sees a strong push for Division 1 indoors and outdoors but only time will tell if this is a team that is capable of living up to their capabilities.
Injury central, problems with fitness and not listening to medical advice. This appears to be a running trend within the Watt experience. It paid in the form of a few unfortunate losses and some scores that would worry any captain. The news does not improve from here with the likes of Cammy Dick and Andrew “MVP” Boxall graduating.
Leading the line is captain Fraser Stewart backed by Mike Carrell, Callum McLoughlin and ex-captain Gavin Nicholson. I hear Jonny Ridley is still kicking around Watt, keeping him fit may be the key to the Division 2 lock. Fraser is looking for a rebuilding year this year and finding the freshers to lead the charge up the table in years to come.
Their opening semester games sees away games at both St Andrews teams and Glasgow with Dundee at home. A stiff opening list where I see difficult games ahead, Heriot will not be fazed. The defying cry of “You Watt?!” will ring loud and clear across the pitch throughout Scottish ultimate once again.
St. Andrews 2
St. Andrews who? Last year was a good season for the only second team in the league, they came out on top of the three-way fight at the bottom. Apparently one of their targets last season was Edinburgh, that didn’t go quite as planned. These boys have a lot to do this year and I look forward to seeing if they can beat my prediction.
At the time of writing this article, St Andrews had yet to select captains for the season, showing their real investment in this team. Notable absentees from the team this year include Connor Rock, Aidan Steer and Robbie Jones who have both nailed down first team places. Coming through into the team include Matt Devendran (layout grab at trials) and Jack Symonds (full pitch throws, shock, right?). The Saints are hoping to bring a plethora of young talent into the team this year.
Their first semester games include Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde at home with Edinburgh away. These are tough matches; the seconds will look to take a chunk out of Heriot but the other two games will potentially not go so well. I don’t see this team getting the best of Aberdeen and Stirling at the bottom of the table but I have been proved wrong before.
The former men’s writer named this team “Aber-doomed” last season but they snatched themselves from the jaws of relegation through a victory against Stirling and achieved a better points difference. They ran Heriot Watt and Edinburgh close last year, but came away with unfortunate losses but were crushed by Dundee, St Andrews and Glasgow.
It seems that it will take a while to rebuild the team back to the glory days but captain Edward Payne is looking to make in-roads this year. Aaron Roberts will be a major loss to the team but he is the only graduate. Edward looks to bring a few young names into the squad this year and push for Division 2 Nationals.
Aberdeen will look to make the BUCS league less of a struggle this year but we all know that the BUCS league is never easy. Up first for the boys in red include Strathclyde, St Andrews first team and Stirling. A short fixture list which includes two difficult opening games and a potential easy winner. Look for Aberdeen to get their Mojo back this year in the BUCS league.
Hold the press folks, Fraser MacDonald is still at Stirling, remarkable. Instead of Australia convincing him to stay forever, he elected to come back and take on the presidency role. The role of captain falls into the capable gloves of Finlay Watson/up who has decided to take a break from highlight reels and trips to the disabled bathrooms to focus on Ultimate this year.
The intensity at trainings have been at the highest ever, due to the experienced setting examples left, right and centre. According to the cap, this is the largest squad that has ever played over at Stirling. Finlay will look to Fraser “Franchise” MacDonald, Peter “Clutch” Glasgow, and Daniel “Ding-Dong” McBride to lead the charge. Throw in up-n-coming Ryan “GU” Hill and you start to think this Stirling team might mean business this year.
With Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen and St Andrews up first, this is a tough opening fixture list for the boys at Blaze. Aberdeen should be certain points but Stirling will be looking to avoid drubbings from the other teams. Will they make fifth place this year to climb into Division two or will it all go up in a Blaze of glory? Only time will tell.
This is the bit where you get a laugh in derision because my predictions will not match yours. But let’s get down to it. I genuinely see St Andrews choking at the last minute and Strathclyde storming through to the top. Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh will have a tough three-way showdown for the third division one spot. I see it coming down to the final day with Dundee just pipping everyone to that precious Division 1 spot. Glasgow and Edinburgh will play in Division 2 this year along with Heriot Watt. The former two teams will likely be in the Men’s Outdoor Nationals’final with Heriot piling into the top eight. Stirling will come out on top of the bottom three with Aberdeen in at second last and St Andrews seconds ending up with the proverbial wooden spoon.
2nd St Andrews
6th Heriot Watt
9th St Andrews 2