Devon are our final team, with Sean Colfer analysing their potential at Worlds.
How did they get here?
Devon have been a top A Tour team for some time now, often finishing in the top eight and making a challenge against the best teams in the country. They have a really solid pipeline of young talent from local Junior powerhouses Air Badgers, and have done a very good job of retaining those players despite moves to universities across the country (and bringing them back after a few years away). They’ve qualified for Euros a few times, always surprisingly, and have maintained a strong core throughout the last five or six years.
Last season, though, was the biggest surprise yet. They finished seventh overall at Tour, but given that Reading and Glasgow focused on Mixed they went into Nationals as one of the teams with a shot at a WUCC place. Still, though, EMO (third at Tour) and Fire (fifth) were considered favourites to be competing with Ranelagh and PELT for the third WUCC spot and the two Euros spots available below the top two teams. They defeated EMO 13-10 in pre-quarters, then beat Brighton in a very tight game , 12-10, to move onto the qualification semi-final. They played Ranelagh and were strong underdogs given that the Irish team had been impressive all season to that point. They won, though, 13-11, and given that PELT defeated Fire with a huge second-half comeback on the adjacent pitch, there were wild celebrations when the final point went in. The final game against PELT was a dead rubber that neither team went full speed for, and Devon had qualified for WUCC for the first time.
How has this season been?
They’ve had a good lead-in to WUCC, currently sitting second in the Tour standings. They finished seventh behind the other four Open teams going to WUCC (Clapham 1 & A, Chevron, Ranelagh and PELT) as well as Reading at Tour 1, and finished third at Tour 2 after losing their semi-final in sudden death to Ka-Pow!. They look in a strong position, and have clearly been preparing well – just check out their Instagram.
They went to Tom’s Tourney and finished a very creditable seventh, losing to both Ragnarok (Denmark) and Freespeed (Switzerland) quite heavily, as well as to Chevron in sudden death and CUSB (Italy) by two. They won their final game against Iznogood (France), another WUCC team, so they played quite a few teams that will be making the trip to America with them and performed, on the whole, pretty well.
How do they play?
Devon are another team that play very aggressively. Their handler movement is based on trying to get into power positions to send deep shots to their young, athletic receivers and they’re very creative with the angles they throw from. They’ll have their handlers moving early and often trying to manufacture those shots, and their under throws will very often be to their receivers with the biggest arms to open those deep shots up. They have a number of players who can do that job, so shutting down that deep game is much easier said than done. They’ll make some decisions ranging from speculative to poor at times, and there are sometimes slight miscues further down the field. They live with those turnovers, though, because the high risk, high reward style is one that’s worked for them for years.
Defensively, Devon are incredibly physical and competitive. Their level of athleticism, across the board, will be able to match up with almost anyone at this tournament and their willingness to throw themselves at discs for a block will be unmatched. When they get blocks, they’re another team that look to push the pace and they celebrate those breaks en masse, usually with someone taking their shirt off. They’re an intimidating bunch when they get rolling, as they clearly enjoy each others’ company and have a great team bond, which lends itself well to very vocal and enthusiastic support. They will switch things up with zones, but tough man-to-man defence is their hallmark.
Can you give me three players to watch?
There’s lots of fun players to watch on this team because there are so many who put everything into every game, but here’s three who’ll be making an impact down the field:
Paterson is a tall, rangy receiver who is able to go up and bring down any discs that might look a little bit sketchy at first blush. He’s also a good thrower and can either keep the offence moving or make things happen himself. Defensively he’s also very good, using his long reach and quick feet to good effect. He’s someone that opposing defences are going to have to account for on every point given his ability to go deep and catch bombs from one of the many Devon players willing to throw them.
A former GB Mixed and Chevron player, Coward returned to Devon a few years ago and has been a crucial part of the team ever since. He’s an excellent deep receiver who can take down high discs under intense pressure, but his central role on this team is as one of the main cutters who can come under to get the disc and send accurate shots to receivers downfield. He led the team in assists at Nationals a few years ago and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise for him to do so again in Cincinnati.
A GB under-24 Men’s player in Perth this year, Awcock is one of the tall, young, athletic cutters on this team. The thing that makes him stand out is his throwing ability, as he’s able to create the play as well as make ridiculous grabs on offence and huge plays on defence. He’s still young, but he has the potential to be a complete player and is already a vital cog in the Devon machine.
What do they say?
Captain Richard Coward is clearly excited by the challenge WUCC presents. Here’s what he said:
“Our preparation has been unlike anything that the Devon first team has done before. We started our training programme in 2017 and had monthly trainings from January 2018. We’re all very excited to see how we match up against teams we’ve never played before, and looking to cause some big upsets. We’ll leave nothing out there and give it our best shot. As always, we’re probably first seed for the party.”
How are they going to do?
Devon have been seeded fairly low after qualifying third from the UK. Their pool isn’t too unfriendly though, as they’ll see Bad Skid (Germany), Nomadic Tribe (Japan) and Wildcats (New Zealand), as well as Daione Kumay from Chinese Taipei. If they finish third or fourth, as seems likely (although if they have a good result against one of the big teams early on they could certainly build some confidence and momentum), they’ll be in a power pool with two teams from Pool A. That pool is pretty even outside of Revolver, and Devon will probably feel quite good about their chances against third and fourth in that pool. I think they could reasonably finish first or second in that power pool. That would give them a top-16 play-in match.
That match would probably be against someone like OTSO (Finland), Flying Angels (Switzerland) or Juggernaut (Australia). That would be a very, very difficult match and one I’m not sure Devon would win, but they certainly stand a chance. Given those tough possibilities, I’ll say that Devon will finish 23rd, but their confidence and playing style means they’ll be tough for anyone to handle.