Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reflections on Nationals

So it's been a few weeks, I've let the body heal and am slowly working my way into mixed season, where I'm continuing to look off BUUF training because, dammit, I'm a Nationals player now. There's been a bit of talk around the place - are Chilly the best ever? Was the trip to Perth worth it? Should drunken shenanigans flow over into on-field repercussions? I thought about doing a journalistic review of the tournament, but after milling over a few various ideas I've chosen to just have a bit of a ramble on various matters.

Personal performance
Out there in the ultimate blogosphere there's numerous personalities giving their thoughts about on-field performance, and I try to avoid making this blog another one of them, especially since I'm not really a beacon of talent. But this tournament meant a damn lot to me. Every sport I've ever played has given me aspirations of stardom. Particularly basketball and soccer, where in my younger years I was told I could be a bloody good player, if only I bothered to put in a bit of extra effort. Back then, sport was something I did because I enjoyed running around with my mates. My horror run of knee injuries in my late teens and early 20s made me value on-field/court time even more and to finally apply myself to a sport and reach the highest level domestic competition I feel...I dunno...vindicated? Nah, not really. Just proud of myself that I applied myself and made it. Even so, I reckon I could do better.

Scratch that...I know I could have played better.

In the two weeks leading up to Nats, I developed a crook back and laid right off the fitness training. And it's amazing how much fitness you can lose in two weeks. I'm not blaming that (and the cold) for a poor performance, but it had a severe impact on my confidence on day one. It wasn't until day two that I hit my stride and started to hit tricky throws that I could do at training a thousand times, but just wouldn't back myself to do on day one.

I didn't play many points. I tended to come on more frequently once games were as good as decided. I always kept in mind the best advice ever given to me - "Don't turn it over, then you won't have to play defence." Conservative throws, basic cuts, smart decisions - all the way. I'll definitely be back in 2010, and with 12 months to work on my fitness, I should be a better player.

The tournament - yay or nay?
I really wish I could switch my brain off at events, particularly social events, and not critique what's going on. But I couldn't help thinking about various matters and what I would do if I was running the show.

Player packs - no disc! This annoyed me because I collect discs and missed out on buying one. While a cleat bag and hat are good souvenirs, I wanted a disc, dammit!
Lunches - Not enough. Every team got the same amount of food, whether they were a team of 22 guys or 14 girls. There's no such thing as too much food at a tournament. And when are other TDs going to get on board the Subway bandwagon?
Dinners - Missed out on night one, so didn't bother with night two or day four. There's probably a better way of distributing food to 400 hungry people at once short of dropping it from a helicopter or crane, but I haven't thought of it.
Party - I'm not gonna start. There were all sorts of OH&S and liability risks coming out the yinyang.

It's so much easier to condemn than it is to compliment. The TOC did a great job with everything other than my personal gripes. You can't please everyone all the time.

My predictions
As I've said before - can pick a winner

The hits
* Picking both winners and runners-up. To be fair I thought they were both quite obvious.
* Honey crack the top 4. I thought this would be their best chance with their strongest squad. Still a while off winning.
* Karma in the top 8. It was their time, and they can only improve from here.

The misses
* HoS in 3rd. I had them at 6th. They surpassed everyone's expectations except their own.
* Both Fakultis up high. Perhaps their time has passed?
* Primal up/Bush down. I'll admit it - I was just plain wrong.

The "intermediate" class
There were the obvious stars at Nationals - Tom Rogacki, Johnno Holmes, Ant Dowle, Chris Warris, Claire Hussey, Megan Gamble, Cath Matthews and anyone else who has worn the green and gold. But beyond that, there didn't seem to be any breakout stars - just the usual suspects. Some teams even demonstrated a lack of depth outside their top stars. A Pete Gardner-less Fakulti X fell to 9th, a Mike Neild-less Firestorm went winless on day one, a Joel Pillar-less Karma failed to register a win on the last two days.

There is a lot of talented players being produced by the clubs, but an international player is still so valuable to teams. Look at two of the star players in the open final - Mark Junker (Chilly) and Andrew Jackson (Fyshwick). Both imported talents. Even go a bit further down the list and take note of Michael Stout (HoS), Søren Ravn (Fakulti X) and Tom DePree (Sweet Chilly). These players aren't the big names in their home countries but can come and be stand out players down here.

We still seem to be missing that link between the elite and the rest. Is this because the commitment of the elite means they train more? Or they have the benefit of training camps and games against the best in the world? In either case, the top shelf of development personnel are placing their bets on development camps being the answer. But is this going to attract the raw talent - the ones that could very well go on to 2010 Dingos/Firetails/Mundis? There is a breed of ultimate player who just wants to play ultimate, or even only with their mates.

The level of intra-club development going on in Australia is getting more intense. Eight open clubs and four women's clubs have taken two teams (A/B or X/X) to Regionals and Nationals. And clubs are stretching their recruitment nets further. Rather than waiting for players to come to them, clubs are actively going out and finding players. This is a good sign because I firmly believe there are a lot of talented players out there in leagues and unis who don't know they are good players. Until we can really tap into that group of players we are still going to struggle to have that link between the "elite" and the "rest".

Where to next year?
Nationals comes to Ballarat the South region next year, which means a return of more players and teams, which means there are going to be some good competitive teams at Regionals who will miss out on a ticket to the show. Throw in the whole World Clubs business and some clubs are going to be less concerned about development and more about winning so they can book flights to Prague. Fyshwick and Team Box are going to be hungier than ever after losing two finals, Chilly may or may not go all in for a fifth title, Fakulti may look at returning to A/B and Wildcard will probably continue to dominate the women's division. Overall I believe there won't be any new rising power (Thong not withstanding), but we may see the emergence of some new faces at the lower end of the scale as the efforts of junior development over the last couple of years start to shine through.

I'll probably still be floating around, too.


Ash said...

Andrew Jackson is 100% home-grown Canberra talent.

Twatson said...

Yeah....just because the fella lists to one side because he has so many sweat bands on one side doesn't mean he is a Yank :P

Simon Talbot said...

I stand corrected. I heard people among the crowd say he was a seppo.

JdR said...

So when's your Mixed Nats preview coming out? ;)

As someone who didn't, I appreciate your blogging and twittering, Simmo.

wetnose said...

Nice work Pissy. Although Firestorm didn't go winless on day one - we beat Sublime O

Simon Talbot said...

Fact-checking is for homos.