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As recognised in Part 2, the field for the women's draw this year is probably the most competitive in recent years with all teams lining at-or-near full strength. Pool L looks like it is going to be rather fiery, with only the top three at the end of pool play still in the running for the title, and as many as five of the seven teams capable of securing one of those three spots.
SPORTING TEAM BOX ATHLETICO UNITED (2) Base: Melbourne, Vic Qualified: 1st in South Last year: 2nd
Twice now STBAU have been runners-up to Wildcard at Nationals. This year STBAU's training focus has been on fitness and conditioning to ensure they can maintain four days worth of pressure on the NSW teams and bring back Victoria's first women's Nationals. They finished 2nd at the BC Invitational this year to a veritable Sydney all star team. Now given that STBAU were at full strength at BCI, and the talent from that Sydney team will be diluted across three teams in Adelaide, I'd expect STBAU to overcome their Wildcard hoodoo this year. However Southside are now in their way.
The gun: Liz Edye. One of the most consistent and reliable throwers going. The workhorse: Michelle Phillips. Fast and fit, generates a lot of options on O. Will step up her D when she needs to. The X-factor: Clare Hussey. Can send better hucks than probably half (or more) of the open players.
WILDCARD CLUBS (3) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 2nd in East Last year: 1st
This year Wildcard have adopted a rather straight-forward method of dividing their squad - those going to World Clubs, and those not. If Eastern Regionals is a good indicator (and it usually is), Clubs are definitely stronger than Spades, so there is no need to try and separate them from each other a la Colony. Rather, we can look at history. Eight players (Rosalie Ashe, Ju Birchall, Bec Carman, Tara Carraro, Sarah Crossie, Megan Gamble, Fi McDonald and Loren Viswalingam) on the Clubs list were part of the winning squad from last year. Throw in, among others, two of the U23 team (Nicky Cotton and Silin Garfield) and you have a pretty damn good core squad. I think it's between Clubs and STBAU for top spot in this pool.
The gun: Sarah Crossie. Veteran of many Nationals under the Wildcard name, and anchored the 2006 WUCC tilt. The workhorse: Fiona McDonald. Similar style player to Michelle Phillips, but has a stronger D game than O. Will match up on key opposition players. The X-factor: Silin Garfield. Strode on to the Australian scene like she owned the place around 12 months ago. Now wearing the green and gold in Florence later this year.
SAND DUNES (6) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 3rd in East Last year: -
2007 we had Manly (aka no No NO), 2008 we had Hills Angels and 2009 we had...well, neither. But in 2010 we have an amalgamation of an area with a strong ultimate history, and a fast developing territory. Throw in some Brisbane reps and some Wildcard alums and it's looking more like the ultimate team equivalent of Voltron. At Eastern Regionals they surprised no one and took 3rd place and look to carry that momentum into Nationals. Most of the play will be generated from the work of Nikki Shires, Fiona McCrae, Natalie Roxburgh and Yvonne Shepherd so we can expect some smart, free flowing offence. Plenty of assistance on O will come from Peta McNaughton and Anna Haynes, with the Hills contingent running D. I have them tipped to take 3rd spot in this pool, but they will be under fire from Wildcard Spades and Black Betty.
The gun: Nikki Shires. Experience in all levels ranging from Worlds to stacked Stampede teams. The workhorse: Liesl Cornell. Two years ago was new to the sport. Now is on the U23 women's team. Should be looking to test herself here. The X-factor: Fiona McCrae. Been involved with many Wildcard tilts, so should know how to play against them.
BLACK BETTY (7) Base: Brisbane, QLD Qualified: 1st in North Last year: -
Fun fact: The last time a Brisbane women's team was in the top 6 at Nationals was in 2005. Since then, Sultry have languished around the 8-10 bracket, not quite able to break into the pre-semis. Since last year, the Sultry name has been put out to pasture and the Queensland women's movement has been reborn as Black Betty. They made an impressive debut at BCI, finishing 3rd ahead of Honey and took care of business in Northern Regionals. But how far can they go at Nats? The cynic in me tells me that Black Betty's lack of real competition in the north means that they haven't pushed themselves as far as they can go and they could be caught off guard on Day 1. Their first game against Terra will set the tone for the tournament. Lose, and they potentially carry a 1-2 record into games against STBAU, Sand Dunes and Wildcard Spades. A win though will give them a big confidence boost on Day 2 and keep them in contention for a pre-semi berth.
The gun: Kirsten Nott. Experienced Brisbane Premier League and Australian rep who will prey upon weaker opponents. The workhorse: Maylin Chuah. Has spent most of her career at the top level, with several Nats and Mixed Nats appearances to her name. The X-factor: Simone Ryan. Can negate a lot of deep attacks with her height. Will keep offence honest in windy conditions.
HONEY DS (10) Base: Melbourne, VIC Qualified: 4th in South Last year: 11th
As the name suggests, this team is a handheld version of Honey. Not really. They're Honey's "Development Squad" - girls who have been hand-picked from uni and league teams to train and play together. Which, on the face of it, is a B-team. Honey are a very tight-knit club and if anything, these girls are going to enjoy themselves for the whole tournament and I wouldn't be surprised if they took away the spirit award. While only three of this year's team fronted up in Perth, they still have some experienced hands in Nicky Smith, Nicky Taylor, Amy Meehan and Liz Blink. Will struggle to be competitive against the top half of teams but should give Terra, Black Betty and Spades a bit of a run.
The gun: Nicky Smith. She's the voice you'll hear the most. The workhorse: Alysia Roberts. Has played a fair bit at the top level and her experience should benefit this team. The X-factor: Jenelle Morton. Fast receiver who isn't afraid of a contest. Playing her first Nationals but could easily have played two years ago.
WILDCARD SPADES (11) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 5th in East Last year: -
Boasting probably the most clever team name at this Nationals, Spades have 7 of last year's champion team backing up for another tilt. Outside this starting line Spades are taking a relatively inexperienced team to Adelaide. When you look at this from a development perspective, next year Wildcard will have close to 40 players who have a Nationals campaign under their belt. It is this kind of forward planning that will see them be a powerhouse for years to come. So what about this year? Since their 5th place at Eastern Regionals, Keah Molomby and Kylie O'Brien have been added to the roster, which easily gives them another 3 or 4 points per game. How Spades start each game will do a lot for the confidence of the younger players - a quick early lead will settle them into a rhythm, but being behind after 6 or 7 points will see the workload fall on the shoulders of the senior players. A tough day 1 (vs STBAU and Sand Dunes) but they should bounce back well on Day 2.
The gun: Keah Molomby. No fear on the field and her team mates will feed off her intensity. The workhorse: Rach Brennan. Will steady the ship on O and play smart D. Showed at AUG with UTS that she can lead a charge if the team is down. The X-factor: Kylie O'Brien or Andrea Wang - take your pick.
SOUTHERN TERRA (13) Base: Australian Junior Team Qualified: AFDA allocated Last year: -
While I've seen them at training camps a couple of times this year, I'm yet to see Terra play under proper match conditions. Five of the 2008 silver-medal winning team (Emily Gibbs, Chloe McDonald, Sophie Murdoch, Cat Phillips and Nicky Sutton) are back for another World Juniors campaign and will be the lynch-pin of this team, particularly on O. It was their zone D that won the now famous semi final at Worlds last time around, and a fast and fit team has been selected that will implement that at crunch times again. One area that they could potentially be vulnerable in is a deep game. They don't have height for straight up aerial contests, and their inexperience at a National level could see them getting out-positioned. Expect to see them fight their one-on-ones on in cuts. Unfortunately I think there will be too many unrecoverable mistakes on offence to win games in Adelaide, but hopefully they will be able to go away, learn from those mistakes and defend their 2nd place finish in Heilbronn.
The gun: Cat Phillips. Stats, stats and more stats. Double if they're from hammers. The workhorse: Chloe McDonald and Sophie Murdoch. The Castlemaine girls don't get intimidated and will play aggressive D. The X-factor: Clare Hollebone. Matt Hill brought her along after seeing her at a couple of beginners clinics and she's straight into the team. Looking forward to seeing what he sees.
Well that's it for this year's Nationals predictions, and for Ballarat Ultimate. It's been a great run here at Blogspot, but as of tomorrow I'll be at a new home on the internet and keeping up the usual brand of idle speculation, unwarranted potshots and blissful ignorance that you've come to know and love over the years.
Surprise! You get two posts today. It certainly helps that I wrote this one before I had written the other two, but for reasons no longer known to me I held it off until today. In Part 3 we look at the other half of the open draw - Pools C and D. More commonly known as the pools where two teams get punished on Day 1.
HEADS OF STATE (1) Base: Melbourne, VIC Qualified: 1st in South Last year: 3rd
For the second time in their history Heads of State carry the number 1 seed into Nationals. After an impressive 3rd place last year, they are chomping at the bit to go one step further and make their first final and continue their run towards World Clubs. They take a relatively unchanged lineup into this year - imports Eric Reynolds and Michael Stout have gone home and Tarrant Meehan is taking time off. They have been replaced by Kendall Thorn (Sublime), Jarrod Cowan (Monash Uni) and Chris "Toffa" Kaliviotis (Happy Pig 2009), and prodigal son Ashley Button returning. As always, the question that hangs over HoS is their mental game - can they win the tight games and keep their cool when the pressure is on? In my opinion I don't think this is their year, as they will most likely peak for World Clubs.
The gun: Jake Angelovich. Has had a phenominal 12 months. When he flips the switch he is virtually unstoppable. The workhorse: Rueben Berg. A level-headed and smart player who also matches the athleticism and intensity of his team mates. The X-factor: Mark Isherwood. The barometer of the team's mental state. If he loses his shit, the rest of the squad follow shortly.
COLONY: PLUNDER (4) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 2nd in East Last year: -
"Hey, so if we take Thong who finished 2nd in Perth, and Fakulti who finished 6th and combine them, they'll come, like, 8th in Prague, right?" Well, no, but Colony - the result of the Sydney Elite Men project - are definitely going to make themselves known on an international stage in July. But until then, were are left with the traditional Sydney split - two even teams. And they're pretty damn even too. It's almost as if they went with the training scrimmage selection process of "stand next to someone the same size as you. Right, you're light and you're dark." But what matters on day 1 is who will win out of Heads of State and Colony: Plunder, because that is going to dictate who has a relatively easier run to the final. On paper, I think HoS might have the initial match-up but Colony will shine on day 2 onwards.
The gun: Ant Dowle. Can play anywhere, can match up on anyone. The man has it all. The workhorse: Pete Blakeley. Everyone around him seems to move in slow motion. The X-factor: Jonathan Potts. Some say he's past his best, and it's his first Nats since 2006 - can he still go out and win games?
FAKULTI (13) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 6th in East Last year: 7th/9th
Despite Colony plundering (top shelf punnery right there) most of Fakulti's top tier talent, the Sydneysiders have still managed to put together a relatively formidable lineup. With a decent mix of Fak veterans and enthusiastic newbies they should be able to challenge the mid-table, but I don't see them factoring in the top half of the draw come Monday. The disc skills among the handler set should be pretty consistent, but without a dominant receiver they will need to rely on a lot of run through the midfield, which the top level teams will be able to contain. Similar story D wise - they will need to work hard rather than rely on opportunity to get turns. I'm tipping them to break seed, but not by much.
The gun: Rhys Hearne. Has been with Fakulti for longer than most and will be taking the Captain Courageous role. The workhorse: Alex Wong. Will provide a lot of the midfield run mentioned earlier. The X-factor: Nathan Wong. Had a stellar 2009 with Fakulti and Macquarie Uni. Was unlucky to miss the U23s team. Very flashy player that will attract opposition attention.
AUSSIE THUNDER (16) Base: Australian Junior Team Qualified: AFDA allocated Last year: -
Last weekend I had the honour of being a Thunder punching bag in a practice game in Geelong. I had a shocker - more turnovers than completions and got totally bitched by several of the lads. But that aside, Thunder didn't exactly have a top performance either. To be fair they're still in the gelling stage of their elite development and know what improvement is needed. By the end of the game, they were playing like the team I expected to face. One thing I noted was a virtual absence of endzone gumbys - the 6 footers can be counted on one hand. They more than make up for this in pace and fitness and they are more than capable of an upset. Day one of the tournament will see them shaking the nerves off against the big teams, and on paper they should account for Fakulti. Sunday onwards will be their real test before Worlds. They will make mistakes but better to do it in Adelaide than Heilbronn.
The gun: Lochie Wise. Already has a couple of Nationals under his belt and going toe-to-toe with the country's best won't intimidate him. The workhorses: Abraham and Isaac Stone. I was never sure which one I was looking at, but they both ramp up the intensity on D but know how to reel it in when playing O. The X-factor: Marc Delgallo. Already has massive wraps as a receiver and willing to put the body on the line to get blocks.
COLONY: PILLAGE (2) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 1st in East Last year: -
And so here is the other half of the Colony brigade. I thought I'd be a genius and measure the difference between these two sides by how many of their contingent are actually on their World Clubs team. Pillage has 11 of them and Plunder has 10, so clearly Pillage are the better team. They also have the upper hand in training matches so it makes sense that I tip them to overcome their other half at the show. However that's not the point of note here in this pool. The Colony versus Chilly game at 5:00pm on Day 1 is likely to be the preview of the final. Whoever wins this game gets a sweet run through to Tuesday, so both will be rather hungry for early bragging rights. Pillage's key strength will be their defence and their ability to capitalise on any mistakes. Learn their names so you can heckle them in the final.
The gun: Pete Gardner. There isn't much the Garden Hose can't do on an ultimate field. The workhorse: Abra Garfield. Must have the lung capacity of a horse, given he can sprint and scream simultaneously for six consecutive hours. The X-factor: Tom Flanagan. Hasn't been to Nats since 2007, but still belongs there. Crazy throwing ability. By which I mean "crazy throwing" ability, not crazy "throwing ability".
CHILLY (3) Base: Melbourne, VIC Qualified: 2nd in South Last year: 1st
The club that everyone loves to hate is gunning for their 5th national title, which would surpass the record of Pembroke High School in the late 70s and early 80s. However Chilly's efforts are probably more notable given that Nationals back in those days probably had two teams in bare feet. Chilly have their usual mix of stalwarts and fresh-faced rookies. Chilly's preparation always sees them reach their peak in the final two days, so expect a close loss in the early days, and a small rotation on Day 4. Their best performance usually comes in the final, so don't write them off early if Colony get up on Day 1.
The gun: Tom Rogacki. Has the ability to grab a game by the balls and make it his bitch. The workhorse: Troy Booth. One of the fastest players in the game, and can keep up the pace for four days. The X-factor: Shane Vuletich. The Franchise was a key part of their win in the final last year, and is being brought over for the same role. Fires when it counts.
UMLAUT (14) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 7th in East Last year: 14th
Thanks to a wildcard, Umlaut get to have a second crack at Nationals. Last year in Perth they managed to topple a few opponents on the first two days but ended up in last spot. This year I believe that the Nationals field is of a much higher quality than last year, so will Umlaut be better in 2010? This year's lineup looks remarkably different, with a bigger squad for starters and more experience than last year's team. I don't see Umlaut being able to stand up to the top teams, but may be able to upset one of the mid seeds in the second phase of the drawer. That will be their best hope of beating their seed.
The gun: Wally Crocker. Intelligent player who will control a lot of the offence. The workhorse: Dave Hayes. Will get plenty of under cuts and keeps the disc moving. The X-factor: Michael Connolly. The Kiwi import should attract a bit of opposition attention.
BAD APPLES (15) Base: Hobart, TAS Qualified: 5th in South Last year: -
With their backs to the wall in the game-to-go at Southern Regionals, Bad Apples managed to win themselves the first open Nationals berth for a Tasmanian team in 3 years. After a few days of speculation following the tournament of whether they would have the numbers to make it to Adelaide, they confirmed their attendance with a few players coming out of the woodwork to go to the big dance. Two players they will sorely miss from the Southerns team are Mike Dunne and Tim Stoneman, who got most of their blocks and goals. Bad Apples' chances of success don't hang purely on Mike Baker's ability, but whether he gets the support he'll need.
The gun: Mike Baker. Holder of the Australian record for most tournament MVP awards ever. The workhorse: Felix Kennedy. Fast defensive minded player who thrives in the open game. The X-factor: Russell Nassim and Ahilen "G" Gankadharan. Two crossovers from Chilly B who work well together in the midfield, but will probably play further downfield in Adelaide.
Just over a week away from the opening game. For those who won't be in Adelaide, I'll be covering Monday and Tuesday games on Twitter. Today we look at the first half of the women's draw. Since the division isn't fully booked out, the 13 teams will play in two pools, with the top place being rewarded with a free pass to the semi finals. Given the standard of the teams involved, I'd see the key games being Southside vs Honey (3:00pm on Sunday), STBAU vs Wildcard Clubs (same time), and even Sand Dunes vs Wildcard Clubs (9:00am Sunday) and STBAU (11:00am Saturday). But before I go predicting winners, let's look at the teams.
SOUTHSIDE (1) Base: Sydney, NSW Qualified: 1st in East Last year: -
After an absence from Nats last year, the sky blue (light blue, pale blue, baby blue? Whatever) jerseys are back in action this season and stamped their authority all over the dominant East region in March. Southside's hiatus has done nothing to slow them down and they enter the tournament as near-favourites, with cross-town rivals Wildcard and pesky Victorians Sporting Team BAU being their main rivals. So what to expect from Southside? Expect a long game, which is only effectively used by the top teams at Australian Nationals, so against the mid to lower level teams there will be aggressive D followed by run and gun O. Southside will aim to win games to 15 early and often.
The gun: Sarah Wentworth. Chosen in the interest of keeping this section short. The workhorse: Carlie Ryan. Again, most of the squad could go here. They all work well together. The X-factor: Lisi Moore. Prior to Regionals, Moore hadn't lined up for Southside since 2006 World Clubs in Perth. Will be interesting to see if she brings a new style to the team.
HONEY (4) Base: Melbourne, VIC Qualified: 2nd in South Last year: 4th
How long does it take to build a club from scratch into a national champion? Five years? Six? Longer? Look at it this way - in 2006 Honey took 2 teams to Nationals and finished 11th and 15th. Last year their A team finished 4th, and with WUCC looming they are looking to go one step further and make the final. Trouble is, Sporting Team BAU have been in their way of winning Southern Regionals, and Wildcard have been an obstacle at the national level. Throw Southside into the mix this year and things aren't looking good based on history. So what is different this time around? Only 5 of the 2006 team remain (Jo Creswell, Mel Gangemi, Cath Matthews, Michelle Rogers and Marcy van Blaricum) however they are missing key receiver Lauren Brown from their 2009 tilt so they may reel their long game in slightly.
The gun: Cath Matthews. Plays aggressive O and will be looking for power position a lot. The workhorse: Jo Creswell. I figure seeing three months of "doing more hill sprints" status updates on Facebook is leading to some sort of payoff. The X-factor: Kerry Justus. Will be the first look on deep shots in the absence of Lauren Brown. Has height and can take a high grab.
KAOS (5) Base: Perth, WA Qualified: 1st in West Last year: 5th
After arriving on the scene in stylish fashion last year, now it is time for Kaos to prove they belong in the top half of the draw. Without the home bed advantage and a much stronger field this time around, the WA girls will have a much harder time making the top 5. Unfortunately I don't think this crop can do it. That being said, 2009 was not a fluke. This time around without Charlotte De Latte, Lou Delane, Esther Barter and Simone Ryan leaves them without the experience that is needed in April. Couple that with the Firetails, Barramundis and as-yet-unnamed-u23s players that many other teams will boast and Kaos lack, I Kaos will be mid-table at best.
The gun: Danya Meakins. Has been a standout for UWA at Uni Games for the past few years. Expect her to be on the end of a few hucks. The workhorse: Sally Ray. Fulfilling the captain role and will lead by example on the field. The X-factor: Sarah McKerracher. Spent some time playing in the eastern states in 2008 so should know a few of the tricks others will get up to.
SUGAR MAG-ROLL-IAS (8) Base: Newcastle, NSW Qualified: 4th in East Last year: 3rd
Well last year I horribly underestimated the Newcastle ladies so this year I will paint them with a more optimistic brush. The Sugar Mags have a smaller squad (14) than most teams, but the sheer pace and fitness of their squad won't make this a relevant factor if we ignore the possibility of injuries. However the Mags have two big losses - Lisi Moore (to Southside) and World Games rep Katie Bradstock (probably to some other sport). The gains of Hope Watson and Sarah Jones will give the Kings some handy assistance on O, but the team could be exposed deep on D against the likes of Southside, Wildcard and STBAU. Should beat their seed, but top 4 might be just out of their reach.
The gun: Katie King and Leanne King. There isn't much these two haven't seen on an ultimate field. The workhorse: Ellie Sparke and Liz Dodd. Have played side-by-side since way back when. Work incredibly well together as handlers or mids. The X-factor: Tegan Sneddon. Instead of looking at the loss of Bradstock's pace, teams should be wary of Sneddon's.
INDIES (9) Base: Adelaide, SA Qualified: 4th in South Last year: 10th
Fun fact: The best performance by an Adelaide women's team at Nationals is 7th in 2005, however the more astute (and cynical) readers will remember that there were only 8 women's teams at that Nationals. Their performances under the Indies banner aren't that remarkable (2007 - 13th of 14, 2008 - 12th of 14, 2009 - 10th of 11) but I sense a change of fortune for the Ade-ladies in 2010. You see in the last 12-18 months there has been a concentrated effort on elite development in SA, with development camps, single gender leagues, WUCC tilts, AUG medals and the like. There were early rewards for the men last year with their 8th place finish, so can Indies expect similar payoffs this year? My tip is that with Nic Footer and Anna Rogacki on board, they will improve, but not extraordinarily.
The gun: Anna Rogacki. The elite player Indies have needed. The workhorse: Karen Palmer and Alison Clarke. With Rogacki and Footer to anchor the offence, these two are freed up a bit and can run riot. The X-factor: Lara Dyus. I am yet to see her play, but U23 selection warrants some attention.
FACTORY GIRLS (12) Base: Canberra, ACT Qualified: 6th in East Last year: 7th
Canberra women's teams are perennial mid-tablers. Not since the runners-up glory they enjoyed in 2003 have they finished outside the 4th-7th bracket. This year fACTory Girls carry in a squad of 14 and the number 12 seed. Having a look at the rest of the pool, I don't see this team overcoming the three teams required to have a crack at the pre-semis. Interesting (and possibly masculinity-threatening) to note is the age of this squad - the youngest is Erin Wallis at 24 years old. Many of their battles could become level-headed experience versus youthful exuberance. I think fACTory Girls could thrive in bleak weather conditions, but on perfect days they may be outgunned.
The gun: Vickie Saye. If you're going to tag anyone, you'll be tagging her. The workhorse: Mica Hartley. Provided a lot of ANU's run through the middle at AUG last year, and I imagine she'll play a similar role here. The X-factor: Erin Wallis. A solid anchor on O who will initiate a lot of play. Very handy on D as well.
Ok, so my new site probably ain't gonna get a big fancy launch until after Nationals, so I thought I'd dust off and load up the old Ballarat Ultimate Commodore 64 to crunch some hard data and predict what is going to happen at this year's Australian Ultimate Championships. It all kicks (or pulls) off on Saturday April 24th in glorious Adelaide. This year nearly all of the best players in the country have made themselves available for the tournament, so it is sure to be one the highest quality Nationals seen in quite some time.
First off, we look at two pools in the Open Division - E and F.
FIRESTORM (5) Base: Brisbane, QLD Qualified: 1st in North Last year: 5th
Once again, Firestorm have to battle their way out of a cusp pool in order to have a crack at a semi finals berth. And Pool E is, if you will excuse the cliche, the POOL OF DEATH. Any of the four teams are capable of going through to the power pools, so expect some very close, hard fought matches on Day 1. With a slightly smaller roster than the other teams, Firestorm's best bet is to close out their second game against Eastern Greys early while Karma battle Fyshwick and hope that they are fresher going into the showcase game. If they can avenge their loss to Karma in the pool stages last year (they were also Mike Neild-less for that game) they should be able to fire in the power pools.
The gun: John McNaughton. Best lefty forehand in the country. Firestorm's key D man. The workhorse: Adam Beu. While Liam Gillions is off being married, Jangles will be doing a lot of the receiving work. The X-factor: Rob Trachter. Canadian import who impressed at BCI.
KARMA (8) Base: Adelaide, SA Qualified: 3rd in South Last year: 8th
Let's have a look at the last few Nationals and where the home team has finished compared to the previous year.
2009 - Perth. Sublime finished 6th, 8th the year before
2008 - Coffs Harbour. Doesn't count, no one's home town
2007 - Melbourne. Chilly won. Same as the year before
2006 - Sydney. One of the Fakultis came 2nd again, but the other went from 11th to 5th.
So as you can clearly see, science is on the side of the home team. There is no such thing as a home ground advantage in ultimate, but there is such thing as a home bed advantage (you play better if you sleep in your own bed the night before) so one would expect Karma to improve. With Huy Vu back on board, Karma should shake up some of the tournament favourites in the power pools. In any other year I'd see this lineup make the pre-semis however with the strength of this year's field they may have to settle with their seed.
The gun: Joel Pillar. Everyone knows him. I shouldn't need to explain. The workhorse: Alec Deslandes. Can play O or D as required and gives Pillar an option other than Brett Middleton. Will rack up the D stats as well. The X-factor: Tom Tullet. Already a club whore at age 19 (this is his 4th), Cupcake will work well with Vu, sending Pillar downfield.
FYSHWICK UNITED (9) Base: Canberra, ACT Qualified: 4th in East Last year: 2nd
After two runners-up placings two years in a row, Fyshwick will be hungrier than ever to bring the shield back to the nation's capital. On paper, FU can do no wrong. We know they have the list to win Nationals, but on the day they can't seem to be able to find the formula. But given their placing at Easterns with a relatively full strength team, has their chance for a title passed? If the Mighty Ducks movies have taught us anything, it is that you should never count out an underdog. But can you really give a team that boasts the likes of Jonno Holmes, Matt Dowle and Warwick Shepherd an "underdog" tag? Fyshwick should safely negotiate their way out of this pool and their tournament will begin on Day 2.
The gun: Jonno Holmes. The man is a freak. Expect to see him marked by the opposition's number one defender. The workhorse: Max Wheeler. With the tall timber attracting a lot of attention, Wheeler will do a lot of damage on O. The X-factor: Andrew Jackson. Made everyone stand up and pay attention in the final last year. Can he replicate that performance?
EASTERN GREYS (12) Base: WUCC Masters Team Qualified: 5th in East Last year: -
Usually there is a token team that fulfill the "wily veterans" quota of an ultimate tournament, but rarely do they actually boast themselves to be a masters team. With the WUCC tilt in full swing, the Greys will be looking to take some of the younger teams down a peg or two in what I assume will be some sort of ploy to steal their energy stocks. A telling factor in Greys games will be the weather - expect these guys to thrive in shit conditions, and given the fields' proximity to the beach an afternoon wind is almost a given. And if you'll allow me to consider a stereotype, expect a lot of shouty foul discussions as well.
The gun: Nathan Chan. Southside stalwart back when they existed, and a veteran (lol) of the Greys' last WUCC tilt. The workhorse: Geoff Doty. Has never claimed he still has it, but he'll still try and do everything. The X-factor: Piers Truter. Has embraced his masters-ness, but still played AUG last year. Go figure. I really hope a Thunder vs Greys match happens.
SUBLIME (6) Base: Perth, WA Qualified: 1st in West Last year: 6th
It has been ten years since a Western Australian team finished higher than 6th at Nationals. The 5th/6th playoff seems to have been a bit of a hoodoo for Sublime, having lost that game four times (2004, 2005, 2007 & 2009). Will 2010 finally be the year they break through to the top 5? How do I put this gently? Erm...no. A home state Nationals last year afforded Sublime the best team they could field. This year they have lost Jason Carr, Paul Denyer, Tom Tulett, Kendall Thorn and Lochie Wise to other teams, plus Tim Delane, Max Daube, George Wong and Hamish Pope aren't coming for reasons unknown. Expect Sublime to slide down a bit, but not by much.
The gun: John Damiani. The "get the disc to JD" offensive structure has worked for quite some time. The workhorse: Glen Fowles. Another player who had a great 2009, with Beach Worlds and U23s now on his resume. The X-factor: Andrew Craig. Naans sightings at major tournaments have been few and far between lately. Let's see if the big man can still fly.
I-BEAM (7) Base: Newcastle, NSW Qualified: 3rd in East Last year: 4th
Every year Newcastle seem to stay shy of online trash talk and speculation in the run to Nationals, and yet they always seem to figure among the top few. Very few changes have been made to the team that came 4th last year - most notable is the loss of Gav Moore. I-Beam have always been a team that operate as a collective rather than a bunch of dudes who studied a playbook. Just looking at their warm-ups in Perth in 2009 - mini scrimmages all the time - showed that there is not much left for them to learn about ultimate. They just need to take advantage of any vulnerabilities they find in opposing teams and perform on the day. Despite rolling FU at Easterns, I don't see them being a better team than FU in Adelaide.
The gun: Tim Lavis. Equally adept as a handler and a receiver. Will be filling in gaps everywhere. The workhorse: Chris Hill. Since 2007 has steadily progressed from a rookie with assloads of raw talent, to an elite ultimate player. The X-factor: Jon Tatham. If Tats is in form, I-Beam is in form.
ULTIMATE EVOLUTION (10) Base: Adelaide, SA Qualified: 4th in South Last year: -
Thanks to the 5th qualification spot in the South, which they didn't even need, Evolution have broken through the Chilly-HoS-Karma-Chilly glass ceiling to line up for their first Nationals since 2006. However don't expect this team to be full of Nats virgins - most of them have seen action with Karma at some point in their careers. For the last few years Evolution has been viewed as easybeats at Regionals but so far their season has been their best. They notched up a win over Karma at Golden City Classic and nearly took down HoS as well. Evolution prefer a long game, with Denis Shine and David Sanderson aiming for tall receivers Kristian Pash, Morgan Llewellyn and Adam Dowley in the endzone. Expect some D antics from Sean Lace as well.
The gun: Denis Shine. I was tempted to say their "team game" is their best, but this isn't under 10s footy. Shine controls a lot of the offence. The workhorse: David Sanderson. Will be the primary under cut most of the time, looking to hit receivers early. The X-factor: Sean Lace. Wildly inconsistent, but if he gets a few D blocks early in a game, he will be a nuisance for opponents.
GENGHIS (11) Base: South East QLD/Northern NSW Qualified: 2nd in North Last year: -
Hmmm, I don't remember seeing this team registered for Northern Regionals. Non-qualifying bitterness aside, the Slamtown/Barbarians hybrid is basically a who's who of Queensland and Byron Bay ultimate who doesn't play for Firestorm. Despite the success of the Brisbane Premier League, Queensland seem to lack the depth at elite level that New South Wales and Victoria boast, so a 2nd North team that isn't Firestorm historically hasn't done well at Nats. In fact we have to go back to 2006 for the last time we saw two North teams in the top 10 (Dojo Mojo and Moreton Bay Buggers). Also having a small squad doesn't help - they're likely to run out of legs by the end of Day 3.
The gun: Andrew Badman. Also has the best surname in ultimate. The workhorse: Jordan Stone. Otherwise referred to as "Hey let's make the kid do all the running." The X-factor: Jason de Rooy. Because I know he'll read this.
As the fat bloke from Staind once said, it's been a while. Couple of reasons for this - the first being that my employer has decided I'm much to valuable to ever not be at work, and the second being a new project in the pipeline that will spell the end of Ballarat Ultimate in it's current form.
So yeah, this could be considered a hiatus from thinly-veiled heckling and idle speculation, but there is something new on the way. Hopefully before Nationals.
Until then, I'll try and find 20 spare minutes to write up the Ballarat Ultimate Awards. After that, stay tuned.
It was bound to happen as our sport grew, but teams are going to miss out on qualifying for the Australian Ultimate Championships this season. One or two might have missed out in 2008, and no one who could afford the trip missed out in 2009, but in 2010 I feel we're finally going to have teams in both divisions whose season will be over in mid-March.
The AFDA punched the numbers into the trusty old Amiga500 at their headquarters and released their regional allocations for this season during the week.
Open North - 1 South - 5 East - 4 West - 2 NZ - 1
Women North - 1 South - 4 East - 4 West - 2 NZ - 2
In addition to these allocations, both divisions will have the national junior teams competing by way of the AFDA allocated spot, plus there are two wildcards up for grabs based on how many players (not teams) take part at Regionals.
So, in my ever so humble opinion, I think the following teams are relatively safe...
Open North - Firestorm South - Chilly, Heads of State, Karma, Sweet Chilly East - Sydney Elite, Fyshwick United, I-Beam West - Sublime NZ - Auckland Open?
Women North - Black Betty South - Sporting Team BAU, Honey, Bush, Indies East - Sydney Womens, Sugar Mags, Factory Girls West - Primal, Kaos NZ - Raging Wahine
This all depends on a few things. Firstly, that the NZ choose to come. NZ teams are often found at Nationals in years ending with an even digit as part of their Worlds preparation. Auckland Open are attending the BC Invitational this year, so seeing them make a second trip over the Tasman seems unlikely. Nationals is a very happy hunting ground for Raging Wahine so it's really a matter of personal choice as to whether they come across. I don't think a 2nd NZ women's team is likely to come.
Also in consideration is the Perth teams. I think Sublime, Primal and Kaos will make the trip, but the 2nd West spot in Open is up in the air. A second Sublime team is not out of the question, and they will have to beat out Fear and Happy Pig for that spot, remembering that if a Regionals doesn't happen then they lose the second spot.
Now the cleverer folk among you will notice I have not quite filled all the spots in my "definitely should be there" list. And that's because the final spot in some of those regions is up for grabs between a few teams.
Open South - The last few years have seen the regular four teams from the South - Chilly, Sweet Chilly, Karma and Heads of State. However this year there is a 5th spot allocated because of last year's performance by the South teams. Sweet Chilly's last day win over Happy Pig in 2009 gave the South this spot. I think the usual four teams will be safe, but the 5th spot is going to be a pretty fierce battle between Heads of State B, Tassie Tiggers and Evolution. Karma B and a rumoured 3rd Chilly team may have a case but will probably fall short. GFUC will have most of their players taken by the Thunder team. Given the importance of the game now, I hope the organisers of Southern Regionals make the game-to-go the "final".
Women's East - There's all kinds of rumours coming out of this region. The Sydney Womens team listed for WUCC qualification is pretty much Wildcard plus friends so that team is a given. Sugar Magnolias and fACTory Girls should also be there. But the 4th team? If rumours are to be believed, there could be Wildcard, Southside and Manly teams all going for this spot. Plus there's Hills Angels to be considered. This is very much a "wait and see" spot.
Open East - Sydney Elite should be safe. Fyshwick United should be safe. I-Beam should be safe. In fact, these three teams should be in the top few at Nationals, let alone Regionals. But what of the 4th spot? Fakulti, although somewhat depleted, will be on the scene, but will they be one team or two? With most of their top players on the SE list, a X/X split would be very risky and may result in the first Fak-less Nationals since the clubs inception. Umlaut, Hills and some sort of Manly concoction will be snapping at Fakulti's heels for this spot.
What will certainly make things even more interesting are the wildcard spots. With only 1 allocation in each division, North are in prime position to take a wildcard in both divisions if they have more than 50-odd players at Regionals. East are also likely for a spot, given they have around the same number of Open players as the South, but one less allocated spot. The women will also pick up another spot, since they have always had the largest regionals.
So my early predictions say that in Open, North will get a wildcard and Slamtown will make their Nationals debut, and East will get the second with Hills also debuting. In the Women's, East will get one, but who actually goes is another story. I'll go out on a limb and say Hills Angels (a Southside/Manly conglomerate taking the original 4th spot. Hey, it could happen). South may catch a lucky break for the second wildcard, giving Honey Bee another chance.