The votes are in and the 2018 European Young Players of the Year are SMOG’s Rachel Turton and Clapham’s Conrad Wilson. The pair both represented Great Britain at the World Under-24 Championships in Perth earlier this year – Rachel in the Mixed division and Conrad in the Men’s division – and represented their clubs at the World Ultimate Club Championships in Cincinnati.
Sean Colfer has done a bumper preview on all three divisions. They’ll all be coming this evening as he gets (most of) his picks on record for everyone to criticise once they’re proved wrong. Here’s his view on the Open division.
Nationals is the culmination of the domestic season, the final act on a long slog that started in Cardiff what seems like a hundred years ago. After hosting the first iteration of the new format last season, Birmingham will again welcome the best 32 open, women’s and mixed teams in the country to find out who’s best (even though we probably know) and who’s going to Poland to play Europe’s best.
Let’s get to the division-specific predictions.
Josh Coxon Kelly Reviews Devon’s Games from day three of WUCC
Bad Skid and Devon faced up this as part of pool play. Going on past placings, Bad Skid would likely be given the upper hand in this match – the two are generally separated by a fair few seedings at EUCF. Black, Green and White are the colours that both clubs share, and more than that, both center around a strong core of junior development. St Peter’s school in Exeter is the home of Airbadgers, a team that you won’t see at WUCC yet is utterly dominant in their scene – UK junior championships. Keep an eye out for paw-print tattoos on the Devon sideline, as it is this mark that many of the Airbadger alumni carry. Devon’s Luke Ryan was a recent graduate of Airbadgers in 2008, when he competed as part of the GB Men’s Junior team at WUGC 2008 in Vancover against Germany for the bronze medal, and in that game (which Germany won), many of the victorious side would go on to form the Bad Skid roster Devon now faced. Florian Böhler (who won the ‘golden arm’ for most assists in Vancouver, including all senior divisions), and Holger Beuttenmüller who was responsible for the majority of Florian’s goals and continues to be a dominant force on the international stage. Based in Heilbronn, Bad Skid have such a high representative count in the German Men’s National team that they’re often described as such colloquially. Between the two sides, many more years of experience were at play than suggested by youthful exteriors.
Matching up against the US teams is the main hurdle for every other team at WUCC. Sean Colfer watched Chevron take on Austin superteam Doublewide.
Chevron had a good first day at WFDF 2018 WUCC, winning both of their games and setting themselves up for a huge game first thing against Doublewide. The Texans, second seed at this tournament, had a very similar day and entered the game unbeaten too.
Chevron came out on offence, and slotted it in pretty efficiently. Both teams did so until Chevron managed to get a turn at 3-2, Issa Dualeh finding Jake Aspin for the first break of the game. Chevron were pumped, and they were loud. They had been building for this game and this environment all year; they were desperate to test themselves against a team of Doublewide’s quality and show off their own.
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.
Aidan Kelly scouts the second Irish team at WUCC, Limerick lads PELT. How will this new look squad do in Cincinnati?
How did they get here?
In what began as essentially an extension of University of Limerick’s college team, PELT have come a long way in their six year existence.
Even since their fledgling days, the team has had Worlds ambitions, as they directly competed in qualifiers against Rebel and Ranelagh for Ireland’s spot in WUCC 2014, coming up short.
Sean Colfer is in Cincinnati with the cream of the UK crop, but the Tour season continues regardless. This looks like the most wide-open Tour in years, so how might it go?
Tour 3 is going to be an odd situation for UK Ultimate. The best teams are all away in Cincinnati (we’ve been previewing it, maybe you’ve seen) and it leaves the field very open. No Clapham, Chevron and Devon means three of the top four teams from Tour 2 aren’t there, the Irish teams are both over in the USA, and then SMOG and Reading – who have been playing in the top 10 of Tour all season as Open teams – are both across the pond too. All told, it means that this is probably the best chance several teams will ever have of winning a Tour event.
Ka-Pow! come in as top seeds, a reward from their trip to become sacrificial lambs for Clapham’s unerring march to the Tour 2 title. They have a gigantic squad of very solid players with a few stand outs – they’ll be tough to beat because of sheer numbers but also because they have some players that can make things happen against anyone. They’ve beaten most of the teams in the UK already this year and will be feeling confident that they can repeat the feat from a few years ago and win Tour 3. They will be missing some people though, particularly Marius Hutcheson who is with Black Sheep, a Kiwi Mixed team, at WUCC.
EMO are second seed. They split their squads at Tour 2 and may well do the same again this Tour, but it would be very interesting to see how they fare against Ka-Pow! with a full team. They are chock full of excellent athletes and if they can all get on the same page they’ll be tough to stop. They used a new line system at Tour 1 and could well go back to that. Ben Poole gives them a lot of room for error because he’s an outstanding athlete and all-around player, but their defensive line will be the difference maker. If they can get turns and breaks then they’ll be the favourite in my eyes.
Fire are granted a third seed they’ll be familiar with, a good spot to build on what has been a tough year. They’ll be missing a couple of players through either injury or picking up with other teams at WUCC, but the squad they have is still going to be pretty tough to beat at this tournament.
Bristol are the other top seed and have had a solid season, but Brighton could be a tough nut to crack for them. They were given a very tough pool at Tour 1 and are a good side – although they, too, are missing several players to WUCC since James Wotherspoon and Tom Mannings are both with Mooncatchers. EMO 2 and Reading 2 join them in their pool, and will be difficult to predict. I think they’ll be battling for third, though.
Birmingham have a lot of good players but have a relatively small number of handlers. Still, their level of overall athleticism will allow them to at least hang with the teams up at the top of the draw. They will play Cloud City (who feature a lot of Herd players so will be familiar with Brum) and Brighton Gritty Legends (who have played Cloud three times this year already) in what could be an exciting pool.
Ka-Pow! will face Flump, who have had a decent season so far despite their relegation at Tour 1, LLLeeds and Camden. Leeds were promoted at Flump’s expense in Nottingham and Camden have been around A Tour all season, so this group could be a really interesting one to watch. Flump and Leeds should both have too much for Camden, but the match between them will be fascinating.
Manchester, SMOG and BAF join EMO in a group with lots of capital letters. Manchester have been pretty good all season and so will fancy themselves to finish in the top two – particularly since SMOG will be missing many of their top players. It’ll be interesting to see how SMOG do against BAF, but I think that’ll be for third and fourth in the pool.
B Tour features some decent teams at the top – Vision, Gravity and Purple Cobras have all been pretty good all year, and Glasgow 2 will feature some good Glasgow players not at WUCC. Tribe and Rebel come over from Ireland so it’ll be interesting to see how they do (Dublin Gravity as well, although they’re in C Tour so are either dramatically underseeded or not quite the force they are in Mixed) and EDI return after some time away – though they’ll be losing some players to Black Eagles.
Outside of that, it’s tough to find many storylines to look for. LED have been pretty good in Mixed but are seeded quite low, and Fluid have been one of the stronger C Tour teams so far. Cambridge will be intriguing since it’s tough to know who they have, but generally I see C Tour sticking to seed.
So, who’s going to win this most open of Open tours? That is the big question. Here’s how I see the top 10 shaking out, but to be honest there’s about five teams who could win. It’ll be fun to see how the tournament ends up without Clapham there to ruin everyone’s fun by winning.
10. Cloud City