So we're a week out from the pinnacle of the uni ultimate season - Australian University Games. This year, the 12th time it's happened, is the biggest turnout ever, with 23 teams vying for the title. Well, actually it's 12 teams vying for one and 11 for another. In just a few days, the trash talk and training will no longer matter. So how does everyone look?
As per usual, I'm not going to blow my load in one post. Instead this will be a Indiana-Jones-style four episode epic. Hopefully without the fourth part being shitty.
Part 1 - A Look At Division 2
Each year we get the "random" teams. The ones who we're not sure who they are or where they come from. This year we have Australian Catholic Uni, Australian College of Phys Ed, and Uni of New England. Teams like this are usually written off pretty early, but are capable of causing upsets. It ought to be an interesting fight between these teams on Days 2 and 3.
Further up the chain sit newcomers Victoria Uni, UWS and Wollongong. While mostly composed of new players, each will have some experience under their belt. UWS has Ben Mortimer at the helm, who lined up alongside Tim Gee in 2007. Wollongong have components of last year's infamous savage team, so they will know what to expect this time around. Vic Uni are the better looking of these kids, with Tiff Mann (ex-Monash, Honey) and Chris Khoo being the key players. If they put together a good zone on D they should be able to roll most of their opponents.
The next notch up is the bronze medal fight between QUT, Uni of NSW and Charles Sturt Uni. QUT are a bit far removed from the glory days of Mike Neild, Beth Rougier and some kids called Wetnose and Jangles, but they have a enthusiastic and energetic team that learned a lot at the 2008 event. With the addition of Firestorm's Reece Stewart, they should factor in the top few.
In a similar boat are Uni of New South Wales. After 2007's bronze medal, they failed to have numbers in 2008 and are bringing a relatively fresh team. The two to watch out for are Bec Jiang and Evan Darmanin. What they lack for in height they make up for in pace and disc skills. Despite being a "new" team, they have played together a lot this year and should be a cohesive unit.
CSU were the surprise story at EUG, taking out the bronze medal. There is no doubt that Mark Evans played a huge part in their surge, but whether him and Michael Craigie can carry a half Bathurst, half Wagga Wagga team to another medal is a new challenge. What will work against them is the boys' tendancy to get a bit hot-headed when under pressure. They will miss the level-headed presence of Annaleigh Moore in those moments. I feel they might just miss out on a medal.
And that leaves who I think will be the finalists - Vic Uni Wellington and Adelaide Uni/Uni of SA. I don't think they will necessarily have an easy run there, but they collectively have a lot more experience. The bastard child of AU and USA has brought back Alex B-J, Tom Roden, Kaz Palmer and Sam Caon from last year's bronze medal team, and pick up ex-AU and now-USA Will Christopherson who will play a central role alongside BJ.
Vic Uni Wellington will be better known to all as the NZ team. Or the Kiwis. Or the All-Blacks, or sheep-shaggers or any other cliched name. The similarities in this year's team and 2007's is remarkable in that there aren't any. Only one player from the 8th-placed 2007 team is returning. The player to look out for here is Michael Connolly, who represented New Zealand at some tournament in Canada last year.
So now I suppose the thing to do would be to predict the finishing order.
1. Vic Uni Wellington
3. Uni of NSW
5. Charles Sturt Uni
6. Victoria Uni
7. Uni of Western Sydney
9. Uni of New England
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