Clapham just lost out on a semi-final spot in 2014 so will be incredibly motivated to reach that stage this time around. Here’s how Sean Colfer thinks they’ll end up doing.
How did they get here?
I don’t think I really need to explain this one, but they got here by winning. A lot. Specifically, they’ve won 17 national titles in a row and six European titles in a row to go alongside four Windmill trophies and plenty of other prizes. Most of their roster has played for Great Britain at some point, and a lot of those that haven’t have played for either another national team or age-group Great Britain teams.
Last season they won nationals again, defeating Chevron 15-11 in what was a reasonably competitive game that was still never really in much doubt once Clapham turned on the jets in the second half. They’ve brought in several younger players over the past couple of years to freshen up the roster a bit, but still retain a host of names that will be very familiar to most UK readers and many from further afield.
How has this season been?
They split their squad at Tour 1, fielding an O and D team. The O team lost to Chevron in the semi-final, and the D team lost in the final. Still, they were very competitive against the second-best team in the country and ended the weekend with very few legs given some knocks and tweaks along the way. Those teams consolidated into one for Tour 2, where they wiped the competition away – no one scored in double digits against them.
Windmill was tougher, though, with a 15-10 loss to CUSB leaving them in second seed going into the brackets. They managed to negotiate that path relatively comfortably, though, and avenged the loss 15-13 in the final. They reached the cap in every game other than CUSB and their semi versus Ragnarok, a 13-10 win, and conceded more than 10 just twice. It was a good tune-up for this team, who’ll have grand ambitions given their result four years ago.
How do they play?
Clapham don’t necessarily play anything that’s particularly complicated, they just do it all very well. They look to use the deep space as often as possible and will attack it aggressively, with one of their cadre of tall, strong receivers going long. They keep the break space clean, move the disc well and take advantage of defensive missteps ruthlessly. If you’re looking for a weakness, they can be a little risk-averse at times under real defensive pressure given the athleticism and ability of some of their receivers, and that means they leave themselves in some less-than-ideal spots on the field at times. Their talent means that they should be able to overcome those issues most of the time, but it’s something to watch.
On the other side of the disc they have a large group of smart, physical defenders. They’re generally tall, too, and will contest every deep shot. The pressure that they exert on the D line is too much for every European team – they look like they can get a break on every defensive possession when they’re rolling, and look like they’ll get turns on anyone. The only weakness here is that sometimes they can be a bit looser with the disc, but they come down with some big plays as well.
Can you give me three players to watch?
We all know about players like Justin or Ash, so there’s not too much point discussing them. Instead, here’s three other players who’ll play important roles:
AJ played for Australia at WUGC 2016 and has been with Clapham since. He’s settled in an as offensive handler this season and has been playing a vital role in keeping the offence moving. He has all the throws you’d need and is a strong athlete to boot, but his ability to execute and deliver the disc to Clapham’s playmakers downfield will be crucial to their chances later in the tournament.
Briggs has been with Clapham for a few years but is still one of the younger players on the team. He plays an important role on the D line, handling the disc a lot once they’ve earned turns. His notable skill is being able to throw it a very, very long way which pairs very well with the cadre of tall, fast receivers on his line. Capable of sending a flick huck the length of the field from any position, he makes quick transitions lethal. He’s no slouch on D either and will generate turns and excitement on both ends.
Robbie is a former university teammate of Ash Yeo and has come back from some significant injuries to assume a spot as a vital player for Clapham over the past couple of years. He plays with the O line and is a do-it-all, versatile threat in that spot, able to beat his mark downfield but also create with the disc, but his real value might be as a defender in the case of any turns for the offence. He’s an outstanding defensive player who’s able to match his opponent’s footwork downfield and get himself in a position to make huge layout blocks. He generates a lot of highlights and could be someone to keep an eye on in Cincinnati.
What do they say?
Captain Phil Garner said: “The team feels like we have reached a new peak and are ready for worlds to start. We had a great warm up game against High Five yesterday (15-7) with our offence having a perfect game and defence generating turnovers through the game. We have a strong pool and are expecting some tough competition from the beginning.”
How will they do?
Clapham finished fifth last time around and lost their quarterfinal to eventual winners Revolver in sudden death. They came closer than anyone to beating the superstar Californians and will want to reach that kind of game again to show they can turn it around. Their pool is relatively friendly as they are the top seed. CUSB is a team they know very well and who have beaten them in the recent past (pools at Windmill) but I’d back the Bullfrogs to top them in Cincinnati. In the power pools they’ll face Ring, from North Carolina and featuring some superstars like Jonathan ‘Goose’ Helton and Jon Nethercutt, and the team to come out of what looks like a bloodbath between Ranelagh, FWD (Austria), Family Ultimate (Germany) and Iznogood (France). The game against Ring is likely to be the one to determine who finishes top of that power pool. Their quarterfinal either way is likely to be either GOAT (Canada) or Colony (Australia). Neither team is going to be a pushover, but the fact that they’re going to be able to avoid the top Americans in knockout play until the semis is something they’ll be relatively pleased about, whether they say it or not. I’d expect that they’ll play Colony, with their superstar pickups Jimmy Mickle and Chris Kocher (and former Chevron player Ben Powlay), which will be a fascinating match up.
Clapham are deep and they’re going to be playing in the quarters, in my view. If they play as well as they can, and they get some lucky breaks, they can reach the semis. Who they face there doesn’t really matter – it would almost certainly be either Revolver or Doublewide, unless one of the Canadian or Japanese teams can spring an upset – since it’ll be incredibly difficult either way. Still, though, I can see them getting there so I’m going to say that Clapham will finish fourth.