Going back a couple of years, if you were from Victoria and wanted to play at Nationals, you'd try out for Chilly or Ishtar. But this year you could have tried out with Chilly, Heads Of State, Team Box or Honey. More choice than before, sure, but the dynamic of these four clubs are markedly different, especially when looking at where future players are going to come from.
The seeds for Heads Of State were planted in 2003, when Highview College students Dan Rule and Lachlan McDonald started playing ultimate. In 2004, Dan was picked to play with Chilly, and with the Australian Junior Open team. In 2005, the boys went off to uni - Dan to Ballarat and Lachlan to Swinburne. Here they met several future players such as Mark Isherwood, Dave Timmermans, Andy Moroney, Seb Barr, Dave Lockhart and Cletus Johnson. In 2006, several of this crew played for Thunder at the 2006 World Junior Ultimate Championships. Some also played for Chilly B/Chilly C at Nationals in Sydney.
In 2007, Dan and Lachlan pulled the trigger on their plan to build a new club - Heads of State. They attracted most of the young talent available in Victoria, plus experienced players who had recently moved to Melbourne. They went to their first Nationals and finished 7th. In 2008, they attracted enough young players for a second team at Regionals - Heads Of State Youth. HoSY missed out on Nationals (5th at Southern Regionals), but HoS went on to finish 5th.
But the big difference between Chilly and Heads of State this year was where all the young Victorian players wanted to play - they all wanted to play for HoS.
There's no questioning that the HoS boys put a lot of work into not only their own training and development, but also the training and development of players around them - friends, younger siblings, friends of younger siblings, etc. This led to a new batch of youth players who were prepared to make the step up to club ultimate, and of course they wanted to play with their friends at HoS.
In the past, there wasn't a lot of youth development in Victoria, so I suppose Chilly didn't really see it coming. However, HoS have now taken over one of Chilly's best recruitment grounds - universities.
In 2003, there were two uni clubs in Victoria - Melbourne and Monash. Chilly got their rookie players from those clubs as they gained experience at SUG and AUG. Fast forward to 2008, and there are now six uni clubs. Melbourne Uni is Chilly ground - Chris Freise, Fei Meng and John Liddicoat. But now Monash (Andy Moroney, Seb Barr, Cletus Johnson), Ballarat (Dan Rule, Sam Kuchel, Nathan Job), Latrobe (Lachlan McDonald, Tim Wise, Dave Lockhart) and to a lesser extent Deakin (Nick Parks) have been claimed by Heads of State. There's no steadfast rule saying that players from these uni clubs have to go to Chilly/HoS, but that's the natural progression that's going to happen.
So where does that leave Chilly?
Many of Chilly's 2008 rookies came from Wednesday night Social League at Albert Park. They managed to score two junior players (Dave Spencer and Jeremy Katz), but it is particularly evident that their recruiting avenues have been substantially encroached upon by Heads of State in the last two years. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next two years - whether new players are attracted by the youthful, highly structured and competitive environment of Heads of State, or the more relaxed and easy going, but incredibly experienced and talented mix of Chilly.
In the next two years we'll be seeing a similar story in the women's clubs. Currently, Honey has the run of the university clubs (except for Ballarat) and Social League, but Team Box has a monopoly on the youth players. They both have a good balance for now, but where are the "next batch" of elevated rookies coming from? And who is going to get them?
Another thing for clubs to consider - untapped recruiting grounds. It is incredibly difficult to break new ground in this regard, but there are a few untapped resources left in Victoria - the newer university clubs (Deakin and RMIT), and Geelong. I'm a betting man, so I'd predict Chilly and Honey picking up the uni teams (through Bec Wallbridge at RMIT, and Deakin's regular presence at Social League), while HoS and Team Box will get Geelong (via Lewi Broad, Jake Angelovich and the Ballarat girls).
Probably another interesting aspect about this discussion is how it works interstate. Many states are still one-city-one-team areas - Perth has Sublime and Primal, Canberra has Fyshwick and Factory Girls, Newcastle has I-Beam and Sugar Mags, Adelaide has Karma and Indies, Hobart has Tiggers and Bush, and Wollongong has...erm, Wollongong and Wollongong. The two cities of note would be Sydney and Brisbane.
In terms of elite club development, Sydney is around 2-3 years ahead of Victoria. They have two established and successful clubs in both divisions (Fakulti/Barefoot and Wildcard/Southside) plus some smaller clubs (Hills, Manly, Western NSW). From an outsiders perspective, it seems as if Fakulti and Wildcard are the desirable clubs to play for - winning Nationals helps, but it would be interesting to see why else they attract the attention.
Brisbane is around 1-2 years behind - they have an established men's club (Firestorm) and women's club (Sultry), but we are seeing hints of new clubs emerging. On the women's side, Minx made their debut last season, but in the men's it's still all about Firestorm. However with numbers almost at critical mass (three teams at Regionals), there would almost certainly be some thought given to a second men's club in Queensland. But where would it come from - a Buggers resurgence? A rise of Dojo Mojo? The Pass coming from nowhere? Or maybe even UQ?
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