It's probably about time I did this.
On Monday, 19 teams will descend on the at-times-questionable fields of Albert Park for the 2008 Australian University Games. It can be said that the competition is weaker than 2007, with many big name players and big name teams missing, but I'd disagree with that. I think the quality competition will be a lot better, with more "teams" and less "bunch of people that are going to have the same institution name on their Bachelor of Arts degree". This year sees a welcome return to the reclassification (ie: normal) format, so teams that show consistency over the week will be rewarded.
Unless they're consistently terrible.
Macquarie (1), Flinders (8), Latrobe (9), Edith Cowan (19)
There was a bit of discussion over whether Mac should get the #1 seed, since they have an almost entirely different line-up to the gold medal winning squad from last year. But as a wise man once said, "Seeding is not intended to be a predictor of results, per se. It is, rather, a reward and reflection for performance to that point." Both Flinders and Latrobe have remarkably stronger teams than last year. Flinders welcome back Joel Pillar and Erin Wallis, and Latrobe have some mystery imports plus Super Macca. With the top 3 going through, ECU have been very unfortunate to be landed in a pool with three high quality teams. Hopefully they can learn something from them and have a decent crack at success in Pool G. I wouldn't be surprised to see Fury and LaTuf top the pool, with Mac in 3rd.
Prediction: Flinders 3-0, Latrobe 2-1, Macquarie 1-2, Edith Cowan 0-3
Game to watch: Latrobe vs Flinders, 1030 Monday.
Players to watch:
Megan Gamble (Mac) - Will run most of the offense given her recent Worlds experience. Will be well supported by Tiger Webb and Neil Roxburgh, but should outclass any female marker.
Sean Lace (Fury) - Impressed many opponents last year, and now has a Nationals and Junior Worlds campaign under his belt. Will be able to mark high quality players, allowing Pillar and Alec Deslandes to run riot.
Lachlan McDonald (LaTuf) - It's Super Macca. Do I need to explain further?
Monash (2), ANU (7), Adelaide (10), UTS (15), Deakin (16)
This pool should see a bit more competition for the top 3 spots. Monash are coming to win, and their practice matches against Ballarat and Deakin last weekend showed this. They benefitted from the leadership of Booboo from the sidelines last year, and they should do again with O-Shep on the field. A very well drilled team that has a plan for every situation. Adelaide are quite similar to Flinders with key players returning - Rian Dutch and Karen Palmer. They have a larger squad this year, but would do well to avoid the late-week burnout with only 5 women coming. These two should comfortably top the pool, with the real fight coming for the 3rd spot. UTS and Deakin have both shown remarkable improvement over the last 12 months and have been playing and training with the same core squad for that time. However they may let themselves down - UTS are all capable on O, but always seem to play into the defence. They can never seem to break free and let their offence dictate the pace of the game. Deakin have a small squad (9 players!), no aerial threats and lack solid leadership. Unfortunately I don't see ANU getting the 3rd spot, so it will be between UTS and Deakin. I'm going with UTS.
Prediction: Monash 4-0, Adelaide 3-1, UTS 2-2, Deakin 1-3, ANU 0-4
Game to watch: Deakin vs UTS, 1030 Monday
Players to watch:
Tom Rocks (UTS) - Is their "token Nationals player" but at the same time isn't their only go-to-guy. Should be playing upfield, but will almost certainly handle all week.
Karen Palmer (Adelaide) - One of the best female handlers in the uni scene. We'll probably see her playing axis most of the time in a quaterback-like role, much like Huy Vu used to back in the day. Should keep room in her bag for a G&G medal.
Jason Gibson (Deakin) - Controls all of Deakin's offensive play and has the throws to pull that off.
Part 2 comes tomorrow.
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