Nick Byrne takes a look at the BUCS season and who stands a chance at taking home the regional title at the end of the year.
After a year of no competitive frisbee, we are all very excited to be heading back into BUCS competition again. There have been big changes across all of Scotland’s teams with some people moving universities, some big names finally graduating and rumours of a US club player joining the fray. All of this means that it is going to be very difficult to predict what may happen, and who will finish where, but with the help of this year’s men’s captains I have gathered as much information as I can on each of the teams competing.
Strathclyde are coming into BUCS this year as the reigning Scottish regional champions. A lot has changed in the two years since the last BUCS league finished, though, and it will be interesting to see how the Dark Horses have coped with maintaining their quality through the pandemic.
There are five guys who remain from the glory days who come into this year with a few extra years of training under their belts. Strathclyde are also benefiting from an exciting group of second- and third-year hopefuls who are itching to get out and make their BUCS debuts after training for so long with no competitive matches. Their captain Laurens Kok, who spent the summer playing and training with GUX, is extremely excited to develop the large group of freshers who have joined Strathclyde this year, and we will hopefully get to see them make their competitive debuts during this BUCS season.
There are a number of players to watch out for on the team this season, most notably the 6’6” Ian Tait and the muscular Aussie Stuart Jinks, both of whom played on the Alba team who came third at club nationals this summer. Gregor Forster and new signing from Dundee Nick Byrne also spent the summer playing with Laurens for GUX and so should have a strong connection.
Finally, there have been three big signings over summer. While their names are to remain a mystery for now, Strathclyde have stolen players from Birmingham University, EDI Ultimate, and from the now-defunct European team Ragnarök.
Heriot Watt have already started this season strong with very impressive performances from their freshers at Tune Up and Edinburgh beginners, getting to the final of both. The men’s captain this year, Angus Cook, is looking to for the team to be going out and playing their best frisbee at each match and hoping to prove that Heriot are a real threat in the league.
There is a good strong core of experienced players continuing with Heriot this season, who will be hoping to utilise the skills they have honed during the competitive break. These players will be backed up by two new players who will really be ones to watch; Gregor and Joao, both of whom are expected to be making big plays and influencing pivotal moments in each of Heriot’s fixtures.
While not the biggest university in Scotland, Heriot-Watt has impressively managed to maintain and build a large squad with a lot of depth, and this should allow them to develop and build throughout the season.
In my view, Heriot are one of the dark horses of this BUCS season and will be an important challenge for anyone wanting to top the league.
After winning the division two league before the competitive break, Stirling have earned their way back into the top BUCS league in Scotland and they mean to prove themselves here and have no intention of being demoted back to the second league.
While Stirling have lost a lot of their experienced players in the past few years, they are making up for this with a huge number of new players joining the squad. The depth and strength of this squad has already been proven at all the beginners’ tournaments this season and there is an expectation that this will translate to a strong showing in the BUCS league.
The key word at Stirling this year seems to be ‘potential’. With a young and developing squad there is a lot of opportunity for new players to step up and prove themselves in the top league. The men’s captain, Ethan McKee, has painted a big target on the back of his number 44 Greg Sargaison. Greg will be looking to develop the skills and potential he has already shown to become a big name in Stirling Ultimate and a big name in Scottish Ultimate in the future.
Overall, Stirling have a big task ahead of them to earn their place in the top league next year, but if they keep working hard and make good use of their large squad, they have every chance to take some big scalps this season.
Edinburgh strongly believe they are destined for a top three finish in the league this year, and they don’t plan on coming second or third.
They will come to this BUCS season as a team brimming with confidence and a desire to finally be the top dog in Scottish Ultimate. While they will have a challenge on their hands to do so, they definitely have every chance.
The main asset Edinburgh are bringing this year is Ireland U24 player Andrew Cleary, who spent the summer playing for Alba and helped them get their bronze medal at club nationals. He will be a very strong addition to the team and will add an element of spice to an already solid and consistent squad.
Speaking of spice, another player to watch in this year’s Edinburgh squad is William Luty. William has managed to reach a point of such skill at ultimate that he has decided to spend the summer training off-handed just to give some other people a chance. He is going to be a threat on the pitch, no matter what the force is.
It is difficult to say how exactly teams are going to come out after such a long break from competitive university frisbee, but with the confidence and the swagger that Edinburgh are bringing to the league this year, along with the competitive captaincy style of David Mercer, Edinburgh definitely could be a very difficult team to beat.
When asked how he thinks his team will do this year, men’s captain Ben Tang said he didn’t know.
Thankfully he did then elaborate. St Andrews have a very young squad coming into this year with most of their current first team never having played a BUCS game before. Because of this they will be coming into the season inexperienced but with a hunger to prove themselves and make the most of being able to play competitively again. In addition to this I have been told that they are probably the fittest university team in the UK at the moment having had a very strong focus on strength of conditioning over lockdown.
Due to some budget cuts for the team, Saints no longer have a full-time coach, but they do have someone who is studying at “the best university in the UK” (Ben’s words not mine) who will have to draw up the strategies and game plans. The team hopes to be able to show off a range of new systems and play styles which will accentuate their young fresh team and hopefully win them some games while looking cool.
There are quite a number of players to look out for at Saints this year (Ben seemed to highlight the whole first team as players to watch), but not least is Tom Box who an injured fresher once said was “the most explosive player on Flatball”. Kai is still good apparently; Fraser Park is an Alba MIP and so will be looking to bring that kind of dominance to the university stage (also watch out for all his hucks being a travel). Tommy Poskin and Nathanael Fagerson, yes that Fagerson, are going to be big players on the team this year. One is “not in a good place physically” and one is attempting to copy Hannes’ hairline, you will have to wait and find out which.
Finally, and most importantly, the rumours have been confirmed, a US Club player has finally made the move over to sunny Scotland and will be playing for St Andrews this season.
In all seriousness, I think St Andrews are going to be the team to beat this year, they have a very strong looking squad that won both Tune Up and Edinburgh Beginners, and the addition of a US player will definitely help their chances.
I have not managed to get in contact with Glasgow’s captain, but I have had the pleasure of playing with a few of their players over summer.
Robert Avontuur is coming in to captain the team on the back of a very successful summer of training with GU. He was one of the most consistent players on his summer league team and is sure to be a big asset for this season’s Glasgow team.
Lewis Grimmer has spent his summer playing on the GUX squad and he will definitely be able to use his height and athleticism to be one of the main players on Glasgow this year. Grimmer will be a difficult target man to beat in the air for most teams, making Glasgow’s deep game a real threat in each of their fixtures.
I don’t know much else about what Glasgow will have to offer this year, but I do know that they have an extremely strong recruitment and training program and that they will have a lot of depth throughout their squad. It will be very interesting to see how they use this coming through.
- St Andrews
- Heriot Watt