If you ask most players what they see as the pinnacle of ultimate is, they’ll say the World Games. It’s a multi-sport event, it’s quadrennial, there’s a very limited number of teams invited and even then, the rosters are hugely down on what you’d usually expect from an international team; it’s got the Olympic sheen on rarity of both occurrence and opportunity.
Great Britain has played in the World Games twice before, in 2009 and 2013. The last edition in 2017 did not feature a British team as GB was ranked below the top five teams – the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and Colombia – and the host nation always gets the last spot, which in that case was Poland. Getting a spot in this tournament isn’t a given, although the expansion to eight teams has boosted the chances a bit, so even sending a team is incredibly special.
So, this is about as big as it gets. Being in the running for the World Games squad is a badge of honour and something that people involved in all three squads can be immensely proud of, including those who were part of the training squad and those who travelled as reserves. With that in mind, and ahead of the World Games starting on Tuesday next week, I spoke to some of the players involved in this year’s squad.
Some of the players I talked to will be playing in Alabama and trying to secure GB’s best-ever finish (fifth in ’09 and sixth in ’13, both before the field was expanded to eight). Some will be travelling but not playing. Some will be watching with everyone else at home but with an added investment in the outcome, and added anxiety watching their teammates compete in such high-pressure games.
The interviews will be published over the next few days, and on Tuesday I’ll be taking a closer look at what I think might happen in the tournament as a whole. When the games start I’ll be posting on our social media channels and we’ll have reactions coming as well. Follow the ShowGame on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to join in the discussion and follow along on the hype!
In the meantime, you can listen to the podcast I did with GB coach Sam Vile below.
The easiest one to define yet! Offence is great but in almost every game you’re going to need blocks. These players get blocks.
Third place: Ben Wilson, Reading
Not to be outdone by brother Sam, Ben was a huge asset for Reading defensively this season. Taking on the most difficult matchups and generating turns is a rare pairing that he managed to pull off this season. The Reading defensive unit was so strong all year, and Ben’s breakout club season was a big reason for that.
Second place: Rachel Naden, SMOG
Rachel was one of the best defensive players in the country when she played for Reading in the mixed division in 2018, and has continued to dominate since then. She was phenomenal in the National League season and carried that form into Nationals, taking on tough downfield matchups and throwing bombs on the turn. Not only can she do a bit of everything offensively, defensively she’s a star.
WINNER: Bex Palmer, Reading
Bex won the Best of the Rest award and now adds another award to her collection. She’s always been one of the best handlers in the division but really showed her value on the defensive end this year. She was not only able to mark out handlers but was extremely effective on cutters too, showing hugely impressive versatility as she took on whoever was causing Reading trouble and made life harder for them.
Third place: Claire Sharman, London Masters
Claire’s work as a defender this season was incredibly impressive. Her footwork is impeccable and she’s able to block off the space that cutters are trying to attack seemingly with ease. She’s also a great help defender, peeling off her mark to muck up the space in front of the disc or to challenge a deep throw. Claire can do everything that good defenders need to be able to do, and does it all at a very high level.
Second place: Lynden Chiang, Bristol Women
Lynden emerged as a vital player for Bristol this season and showed that value on defence most of all. Versatile enough defensively to match against top cutters and to play in the middle of a hybrid zone defence, her speed, intelligence and positioning meant she was able to generate blocks but also able to smother her mark and keep them out of the game altogether.
WINNER: Amelia Kenneth, Iceni
Amelia has been one of the best defenders around for a while now, and this season was no different. Her speed and aggression mean she gets blocks against anyone, and that she’s a huge threat going long after the turn. One of Iceni’s leaders as they reached the final of Nationals, she had another dominant defensive season to add to her CV.
Third place: Joel Terry, Alba
Joel has been one of the top defenders in Scotland for some time, previously starring for Glasgow in the mixed division. Still only 24, he’s one of a number of Alba players capable of taking on hugely challenging matchups and making life very unpleasant for them. Pairing great instincts with rock solid fundamentals, he’s another to watch in the coming years as he continues getting better and better.
Second place: Nathan Wragg, Clapham Ultimate
Some defenders are all positioning and smarts, but some defenders bring those tools along with a dash of all out chaos. The ‘Peroxide Demon’ (shoutout Lorcan Murray, and yes I did see who I guess was someone in Nathan’s family say that the colour is natural but the nickname works too well to pass up) flew around fields all over the UK this season, ready to punish any throw that was even slightly off-target. His athleticism and quick reactions meant he caused plenty of turns, and he was a reliable asset once those turns were secured too.
WINNER: Andrew Hillman, Clapham Ultimate
Andy was one of the leaders for Clapham this season but that responsibility didn’t mean his level of play slipped at all. Long one of the two or three best handler marks in the country, this season he was able to completely smother the best disc handlers on the other team and pressure them into bad throws when they were able to shake free of his vice-like grip. He was also crucial once the disc had turned, his crafty lefty throws giving Clapham’s D line a reliable source of yards.
This is another fairly easy award to define. Some people pick the disc up a lot and do most of the work swinging and generating movement in the backfield. Those people are not the people we are thinking about today. There are some players on this list that you could call hybrids, but largely these players are the ones who start further down the field and generate big gains with both their legs and their throws.
Third place: Eddy Codd, SMOG
Eddy was metronomic and reliable for SMOG this season, using his height and huge catch radius to make a difference downfield. He was also consistent and safe with the disc in hand and was excellent defensively when needed. He hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of profile as some of his teammates in recent years but his role has been crucial in getting SMOG to the top of the tree in UK ultimate.
Second place: Leila Denniston, Deep Space
Leila was a dominant downfield cutter this season. She was unstoppable at times at Nationals, using her speed, height and great hands to bring down some grabs it seemed she had no shot at. Her goal in the penultimate point of the Nationals final was a great case in point; speed to run the disc down, great hands to catch it at full extension and a defender trailing with no ability to affect the play. A great season for a great player.
WINNER: Sam Wilson, Reading
Sam’s season was something of a breakout, as we discussed yesterday, and it was all based around his ability to beat his marks with his speed. He was able to live in the deep space and then beat people underneath once they started trying to take the long cuts away. He’s been a great addition for a Reading team that was already packed with talent.
Third place: Claire Sharman, London Masters
Claire was central to the LMU success this season, with her ability to keep churning yards and getting blocks when they were needed. Her ability to get open reliably always gave the LMU handlers an option and her ability to take away the best cutters on the opposition and challenge deep throws whether they were to her mark or not meant that teams had to account for her at all times on both sides of the disc.
Second place: Molly Wedge, Bristol Women
No new player made a bigger impact than Molly this season. She was a shutdown defender, a reliable source of yards as a cutter and a dominant force with the disc in the air. She was a huge part of the title-winning season for Bristol, as her POTY runner-up spot shows, and was one of the best downfield players in any division this season.
WINNER: Ellie Taylor, Iceni
You could talk about a lot of things with Ellie’s game. She’s a very solid thrower who rarely turns over, she’s able to go up and challenge in the deep space when the disc is hanging and she rises to the big moments, making plays when her team desperately needs them. The main thing, though, is speed. Ellie is probably the fastest female player in the UK and has zoomed around pitches making big plays for Black Eagles, Great Britain Mixed and now Iceni as they all played in huge games.
Third place: Cameron Agnew, Alba
Agnew was a vital part of the Alba team that has performed so well for the last two seasons and will surely be a part of the success they seemed primed to enjoy in the coming years. Pairing speed and shiftiness downfield with big throwing ability and great fitness, he’s as tough a cover in the open division as there is.
Second place: Justin Foord, Clapham Ultimate
Perhaps a victim of some voter fatigue, nevertheless Justin has had another imperious year this season. He’s still arguably the most vital part of Clapham’s O line and when things start creaking slightly and a play needs to be made, he’s still very often the man that steps up to the plate. His game-winning layout block at the Madrid Invitational was just one example of what he’s still capable of over a decade into his Clapham run.
WINNER: Ollie Gordon, Clapham Ultimate
Ollie was shifted from his longstanding role on the D line to play offence for the Clapham machine this season and was wildly effective. Not only did he show that his throwing was good enough to survive at the highest levels in Europe on the O line, but his height, athleticism and smarts meant he was open basically all year. Maybe the best season he’s had with Clapham after a long time with the team, he now has his sights set on Cincinnati and the prospect of a second World Games appearance.
We’re looking to recognise great throwers here. Most of the time these players are the ones entrusted to pick up a dead disc, the hardest spot in the game to throw from, but there’s a few people who are also fantastic first cutters who can cause damage to defences when they get the disc slightly higher up the field.
Third place: Sam Vile, Deep Space
Sam is one of the best handlers in any division in the country. A wide array of throws isn’t his only strength – he’s also got a lightning quick release and his give-go movement is probably the most difficult to stop in mixed. He’s played for and run Great Britain teams in the past, and with WUCC and the World Games both coming up in 2022 it’ll be a pretty big one for him.
Second place: Helen Thompson, SMOG
Helen was a brilliant addition to SMOG in 2021, bringing disc skills and smarts to their backfield. She was excellent throughout the season but was particularly good at Nationals and helped bring the title back to the north. She’ll be captaining the champs during their WUCC campaign, looking to build on finishing 21st in 2018.
WINNER: Tom Bennett, SMOG
The main field-flipper for SMOG is the winner here. TB has a huge arm on both sides and can hit the endzone from pretty much anywhere on the field. His return from Chevron gave SMOG’s deep game a huge boost with his ability to hit one of their many extremely talented cutters in stride once they had roasted their mark. The national final showed very clearly how much of a weapon that is, and how useful it will be heading into 2022.
Third place: Jenna Thompson, London Masters
Jenna is one of the best of any kind of skill, really, but her throwing is really the skill that sets her apart. She can do whatever she wants with the frisbee, and remains one of the most dangerous throwers in the country.
Second place: Hannah Brew, Iceni
Hannah has been one of the best handlers in whatever division she’s played in for several years. Moving from Brighton mixed to Iceni and the women’s division has been a huge gain for the Londoners for the past few seasons, as she brings her composure, ability to break marks and throw long with equal aplomb and leadership skills to the table.
WINNER: Becky Thompson, Iceni
Going one better than her sister, Becky has been a huge addition for Iceni this season as well. She can play on both sides of the disc, she can push the disc downfield in a hurry and is also able to carve up marks in the shorter game (as well as pull pretty well too). She and Brew are two of an outstanding handler set for Iceni, a brilliant building block as they seek to get back to the top of UK ultimate in 2022.
Third place: Josh Kyme, Chevron Action Flash
Josh has been a central part of Chevron’s handling corps for years, with the relationship between him and Dom Dathan forming an important part of the offence. This season other players took on handling duties as well so his role shifted slightly but he remains one of the best mark breakers in the country and has added some big throws to his repertoire to round out the ways he can attack defences.
Second place: Andrew Boxall, Alba
Andy has a full range of throws, able to attack defences at every level with equal ability. His composure and ability to control points is huge for the Scots and has been a key part of their improvement. He’s shown that he’s one of the best handlers around and will get to show that against competition from Europe and wider afield next year.
WINNER: Josh Briggs, Clapham Ultimate
Josh’s backhand is an excellent throw, but it’s his flick that’s really the defining part of his game. He can throw it to any spot on the field with a rapid release that’s incredibly difficult to stop. It means that almost every team in Europe now forces the 10-time European champs backhand just to avoid being burned deep by Briggs’s bombs. Chevron tried more poachy looks in the Nationals final and Briggs duly obliged with three big assists on the flick side. Once they took it away, he obliged with a backhand one too, because that’s what great throwers can do.
This award is to recognise those who don’t make the final of Nationals. Team success is often wrapped up in the awarding of individual awards, when there are fantastic players up and down the rankings in all three divisions. This is our way of trying to recognise those players.
Third place: Kim Marsh, SMOG
Kim played for SMOG 2 this season and seemed to improve with every passing month. After playing well for the SMOG women’s team in the National League, she took that form into Nationals and was a key player as SMOG 2 returned to the semi-finals. With two SMOG teams going to Cincinnati in 2022, she’s sure to have an opportunity to test herself against the rest of the world.
Second place: Sam Wilson, Reading Ultimate
Sam has been around for several years, playing with JR in the mixed division and EMO in open before. This season was something of a breakout with Reading, though, as he had a huge effect on both sides of the disc with his speed. One of the fastest players in the division, he had dominant games downfield where he left defenders in his wake and emerged as a key player for Reading as they won the National League but lost in the Nationals semi-final to Deep Space. He’ll be looking to help Reading improve on that going into WUCC next season.
WINNER: Bex Palmer, Reading Ultimate
Bex has been a stalwart for Reading for years. Playing on the D line this season she showed that she’s just as adept winning back possession as controlling it, and took on some of the toughest match-ups in mixed with aplomb. She’s long been crucial to everything that Reading do on the field, and has been recognised with inclusion on Great Britain teams to boot. She’s one of the best players in the country, and a very worthy winner here.
Third place: Emily Potter, Spice
Emily was a dominant force at times for Spice, not only getting blocks but also being a fulcrum of the offence. Next season Spice will be heading to Cincinnati to compete against the best teams in the world and Emily will be one of the players they’ll be leaning on to make things happen on both sides of the disc.
Second place: Jenna Thomson, London Masters
Jenna was the best female player in the UK in the 2010s, and it appears the only thing that can slow her down is not playing as much. She was dominant when she needed to be at Nationals; running points with the disc, roasting people downfield and skying them when they caught up. She’s always been an all-around player, and is absolutely still one of the very best around.
WINNER: Rupal Ghelani, SYC
Talking of an all-around player, Rupal has been building her reputation as one of the best players in Europe for years. She’s a solid handler, she’s a great cutter and she’s a smothering defender. Pairing dedication and work ethic with technical talent and a sky-high frisbee IQ, she has very few chinks in her armour and yet is only getting better.
Third place: Ross Nugent, Alba
Alba had an excellent season, only losing to Chevron and Clapham all year but making those games very tight and competitive, so it’s not surprising to see one of their players here (and stay tuned on that). Ross is another that has been developing his reputation over the last few years, earning a bronze medal with Great Britain playing mixed on the beach and solidifying his position as a defensive handler with Alba after starting with Fire. Another name to watch over the next few years heading into WUCC and the next Great Britain cycle.
Second place: Cameron Agnew, Alba
Cammy has been one of the best players in Scotland for years, starring for Black Eagles before Alba. He made the Great Britain Mixed team that was going to play in 2020 before the pandemic and is one of the best downfield weapons in the division. He’s led Alba to third place after finishing fourth in 2019 and will be looking to crack that top two in 2022.
WINNER: Andrew Boxall, Alba
Completing the Scottish sweep of this award, Andy has been one of the fastest risers in the last few years. He made the Great Britain Mixed squad that won gold in Gyor in 2019 and has been a crucial part of Alba’s rise. A brilliant handler who can play on both sides of the disc, he’s another who’ll be looking to continue improving heading into a huge 2022 season.
This award is easier to define. The best young player is the best player in the division that’s eligible for the under-24 teams. This is the best player this season, so where there were some players who we thought were all fantastic, the tie-breaker was how we thought they performed in 2021.
Third place: Josh Hanham, SMOG
Josh was an important part of SMOG 2 this season, and is another player who seems to be developing rapidly on SMOG’s roster. They have a knack of taking talented university players and helping them become effective operators in the club scene, and Josh’s performances this season indicate that he could be one to watch for next season as SMOG send both teams to WUCC.
Second place: Ollie Tanner-Smith, SMOG
Ollie, another young SMOG player, was a handler on team that won Nationals this season so seems to be doing pretty well in his young club career. Another who could make an impact during SMOG’s Worlds campaign despite having a lower profile than some of their established stars, his ability with the disc and versatility stand him in good stead as he keeps developing his skills.
WINNER: Amelia Edwards, Leamington Lemmings
Amelia picks up her second award of the year here, and this is one she might have a chance at for a few years yet. Still only 19, she’s just started university and so has plenty of time to play under-24s and to play even better than she did in her outstanding 2021 season. Given her impact so far it feels as though it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see her in the running for other awards before long.
Third place: Katie Trim, SCRAM
Katie was an important part of the SCRAM D line despite being early on in her career. Still a student at St. Andrews, she uses her height to affect throws both on the force and downfield and is an effective target for deep throws. She’s also able to make tough catches when needed, as her layout grab against LMU at Nationals showed. Still very early in her career, she’s yet another very promising player with a bright future to come out of the productive Scottish ultimate pipeline, already making the GB Women’s indoors team.
Second place: Chee Ling Wu, Iceni
Iceni have had several valuable imports in their storied history and Chee is the latest in that line. Another on these lists from Hong Kong, Chee was a valuable part of Iceni’s D line all season, getting blocks and also moving the offence after the turn as one of the handlers. She had a great 2021 season and is set to be a central part as Iceni try to wrestle back the national title in 2022.
WINNER: Nat Oldfield, Bristol Women
As we talked about in the Best Newcomer write up, Nat has been a vital part of the Bristol D line this season. Not only is she in a great position to continue developing with defending champions Bristol, she’s captaining her university team this season and so will be taking on even more responsibility there. An exciting 2022 lies ahead for her and for all on this list.
Third place: Seamus Turvill, Smash’D
Seamus is one of the better defensive players for Smash’D, bringing athleticism and physicality to the field as he helps shut down opposition players. He’s also an asset with the disc after the turn, being one of the handlers for that unit and helping to progress the disc after winning it back, and was a real miss for the team in Bruges. He will have benefitted hugely from playing a prominent role with Smash’D rather than perhaps going to a different team and playing fewer points and is in a great position to continue getting better.
Second place: Ethan Morrell, Chevron Action Flash
Ethan has been a fixture for Chevron since 2018 when he attended WUCC and marked Kurt Gibson on a must-score point. Since then he’s become a more rounded offensive player and was a crucial cog for Chev in their campaign to the final of Nationals. Offensively mature and intelligent with great throwing ability, he has the potential to be one of the defining players for Great Britain for the coming years.
WINNER: Joshua East, Chevron Action Flash
Josh has been playing for Mighty Hucks and Chevron for a while despite his age. He’s more focused on the defensive side than Ethan and has made a name for himself with flying layout blocks and stifling downfield defence. His layout catch in the final of Nationals gave Chevron a glimmer of hope, but the potential of Josh, Ethan and several of their teammates is much more than a glimmer for the future of both Chevron and Great Britain.
The Best Newcomer award is designed to award the best player who arrived on the elite scene in the last year. Some of these players will be brand new to Nationals, others will have played at Nationals for a lower-ranked team in a very different role before and others might have moved here recently. Anyone who played at an elite level in places like the USA, Canada or Australia before moving here is ineligible, as is anyone who has played a prominent role on a team that’s reached the Nationals semi-finals before. While this award is probably the hardest to nail down, what we’re most looking to recognise is people who played a role that they weren’t necessarily expected to play and who improved throughout the season.
Third place: Grisel Jayapurna, Oxford Ultimate
Grisel was a total beginner when the season started, but became a solid role player for the Oxford team that finished sixth at Nationals by its end. Despite having only four months of experience, she packed in as much work at extra sessions as possible and progressed impressively in such a short amount of time.
Second place: Megan Daly, Leamington Lemmings
Megan, one of the Lemmings captains this season, is one of the players who was able to continue developing during 2020 and that work paid dividends in 2021. She previously played on the Bristol Women’s development squad before making the Great Britain under-24 women’s team that went to Heidelberg in 2019, but this was her first full season playing club ultimate and she was a vital part of the team as Leamington Lemmings made a statement on a national stage.
WINNER: Amelia Edwards, Leamington Lemmings
Amelia has been playing for Great Britain since making the under-17s team in 2016. This season she played a central role for Lemmings after previously playing with Mighty Hucks, and was named female MVP of the season for Lemmings at only 18 years old. She also made the Great Britain mixed team that was heading to Denmark for the European Indoors Championships, so 2021 was an excellent season for a player that looks to have the ability to join the very highest level in the UK sooner rather than later.
Third place: Nat Oldfield, Bristol Women
Still a student at Bristol University, Nat was a crucial part of the D line for Bristol as they won the national title this season. She took on tough matchups downfield and was an important deep cutter after the turn, using her height effectively on both sides of the disc.
Second place: Emily Potter, Spice
Emily played with Great Britain under-24s in Heidelberg and has become one of the best defenders in the women’s division. Her performance in the National Cup final against LMU was particularly notable as she got block after block against players with bags of experience at the highest levels in Europe, she’s one to watch in the next few years starting with Beach Worlds in LA where she’s playing with GB Women.
WINNER: Lynden Chiang, Bristol Women
Lynden took on many of the most difficult match ups in Bristol’s title-winning season, match marking some of the best cutters in the country as well as playing in the middle position in some of Bristol’s zone looks. She has played for Hong Kong mixed before but didn’t make Bristol’s team for the postseason in 2019, and from there made a huge impact on the division in 2021 by becoming one of Bristol’s go-to players.
Third place: Rhodri Williams, Devon
The next in a long line of Airbadgers to make an impact on the club scene, Rhodri’s game is best defined by one word: athlete. He played on the D line for Devon as they made the semi-finals of Nationals this season and will be on the training squad for the GB Mixed team ahead of Beach Worlds next season. Now at university in Sheffield, his ability to get blocks will only get better as he continues getting experience at the highest level.
Second place: Eddie Mason, Chevron Action Flash
Eddie played a significant role on Chevron’s D line this season, his first with the team, as one of the handlers controlling points after the turn and one of the two main pullers alongside Canadian import Sam Cameron. His defence on handlers was another asset as Chevron reached the final at Nationals, and it looks like the feeder path from Birmingham University is still a fruitful one for Chev.
WINNER: Chun Lee, Smash’D
Chun, a national champion at Sussex University, has played for Brighton before but his emergence this season as a steady, reliable leader for upstarts Smash’D has shown a different side to his game. He was one of the main O line handlers for the youngest team in the division that also finished fifth at Nationals and performed well in some big games at Euros; the future is bright for both player and team.