8 Takeaways from: Open Tour 2 (A Tour)

Writer: Buzz
Editor: hazard
Schedule/ResultsThis weekend saw 39 Open teams take to the pitches of the Llanrumney playing fields of eastern Cardiff for the second instalment of the UKU tour series. Britain's recent track record of almost flawless weather conditions was put in jeopardy and in true Welsh style, Cardiff fought hard to uphold its reputation for grey skies and persistent drizzle. Thankfully the weather wasn't enough to deter the teams from producing a fantastic weekend of Ultimate.

Here we look back at the key points of OT2, the last major British event before the three qualifying teams of the division head across the pond to compete at WUCC.

1. Clapham domination

Clapham did split their squad into Offensive and Defensive lines at the Windfarm a few weeks back, meaning this was our first look at 21 of the 28-man squad representing CU in Ohio next month. Despite an unfamiliar makeup to the top 16, the West Londoners returned with the intensity and professionalism that they are renowned for. In pool play they found opponents in Devon, Brighton City and Manchester, coming out 15-6, 15-6 & 15-7 winners respectively in these match ups. One of these fixtures, the Devon game, is of course the most noteworthy as they to have also been invited to the USA in mid July. From their last encounter the Devonians had made a marked improvement against the country's elite. Despite this renewed effort Devon were still only able to muster the same scoreline they achieved twice in Nottingham when playing the split O & D lines. All in all, it’s fair to say the weekend provided a pre-windmill run around for Clapham and I'm sure they enjoyed stretching their legs. However if we are to assess in terms of competition, it was almost non-existent.

2. No Chevvy? No Irish? More Ka-Pow!

The absence of Chevron Action Flash, as well as the Irish contingent of the top tier, seemed to create a power vacuum effect on pool play. One team in particular, seemed to seize this opportunity and present themselves as a surprise package. I'm not sure what else you'd expect from a parcel labelled Ka-Pow!. Come 1pm on Saturday, the vigilante London squad had secured themselves a place in the semi-finals with wins over EMO and Reading. However, it wasn't to be plain sailing all day, Ka-Pow showed the Fanseat live stream how easily the wheels can come off if you're complacent in the later stages of pool play, losing comprehensively to SMOG in their last game of day 1. Despite making the semi-final difficult for themselves by dropping a pull late in the game, they ground a win out against Devon and booked themselves a place in their first tour final since their victory over Manchester in 2015 (also at Cardiff). The final itself didn't last long, just 45 minutes in fact, but we've covered CU and I think Ka-Pow! were just happy for an all London final.

3. Devon devowed mental strength?

We are 27 days away from first pull in the states and this is not a time I'd like to bring into question the mental toughness of any team representing the red, white & blue. Be that as it may, needs must, when you're receiving in galaxy point (7-7), turn and concede half there is concern. To then regain advantage and be receiving in universe at 14 apiece and do exactly the same thing alarm bells have to be ringing you have to question the mindset of a team. Now I'm hopeful that this was an isolated learning experience for the boys from the South West , but there are certainly things to work on before their international outing.

4. Where there is no Fire there comes EMOs?

In the not so distant past we had two Fire of London teams competing in the top bracket of play. While it was always going to be difficult to maintain, the complete removal of FoL from A-tour in Nottingham thanks to an impressive Reading 2 side came as a surprise to most, even after the departure of Alex Cragg and Will Routledge to CU. During the Cardiff event a massive 26 man Fire squad did break back into the top division ending the weekend with a top 8 finish. What will be interesting is if they can hold this status when the clubs absent return.

With FoL's slight demise from the high standard of years previous, the door for other established squads to promote second teams into the top bracket was left wide open, an opportunity which EMO took with both hands. Having split their squad for this competition it was impressive that the first team actually climbed two seeds finishing 6th. While many staple names of the East Midlands core played on this team the likes of Ben Poole, Tom Tongue & Phil Brunson to name a few took a trip down to B-tour to strengthen the seconds chances of promotion. An eventual 13th place finish for EMO 2 (including a convincing win against Brighton Gritty Legends) really highlighted the strength in depth this team has to offer. I'm expecting to see big things from the boys in blue as we get ever closer to Nationals later in the year.

5. Reading between the lines... (It's a homophone)

Another team that decided to mix up their rosters a little was RU, which continued it's Tour 1 approach by having Mark Bignal featuring on the third team and Sam Gunbie on the seconds. Despite this, a weakened Reading 1 outfit managed an impressive 2nd place finish in the pool stage before coming unstuck against the aforementioned rampant CU in the semi-final and a hurting Devon in the 3v4 final, which proved too much for them to claim a top 3 spot on this occasion. Reading's result this weekend is, I believe, yet another display of the unparallelled depth possessed by this squad.

6. Get off me son! SMOG resurgence

Having lost their opening two pool games against EMO and Reading, the team from the North East turned up in front of the cameras and blew away Ka-Pow! in their last game on Saturday. Unfortunately this performance came too little too late after having locked themselves out of a top 4 finish, finishing bottom of the pool due to their head to head result against the East Midlands side. What happened from here proves that for one reason or another they had performed well within themselves on Saturday as they went unbeaten on day 2 (for the second tour in a row) and ended up clinching 5th place, even getting their own back over EMO at the end.

7. Purple Pick-up?

Purple Cobras, having fought their way into A-tour, came into the weekend missing several key players that had played a big part in their rise to these heights last tour. I don't think this will be the last we see of this team but consistency is certainly critical if they want to regain and maintain top tier status. With more teams dropping out for Tour 3 (due to Worlds), they'll likely get another shot at proving themselves next time.

8. An unfamiliar A Tour
This weekend saw a lot of teams get their first taste of A Tour in a long time. Bristol almost pride themselves on being the 4th best team in B Tour, yet had a resurgent weekend and seized top 8 (winning their 5-12 crossover against Brighton City). 

It might also be the first time that EMO 2 and Cloud City have been in A Tour - that latter being particularly impressive as a club that has been building for years which is finally reaping their reward. With Open Tour 3 expected to see no Clapham, no Devon, and weakened sides from Reading and SMOG, you have to wonder who else in B tour may be eyeing this rare opportunity.

8 Takeaways from: Women's Tour 1 2018

Writer: hazard
Editor: none
Really sorry we didn't get a women's chat out this time - came close, but no dice. We've lined up some great people to do these takeaway pieces at Tour 2 though - but for now, I thought I'd fill in the gaps. This was written and published the first chance I had (and in a different timezone), so sorry if it's incoherent/turns up at a nothing hour/clashes with the preview piece/later than you'd like/another bad thing. 

Schedule

As demanded, here is a recap of what I believe are the main takeaways from Women's Tour 1 2018

1. Iceni are still good
In any year where there's a bit of squad turnover, everyone waits with baited breath to see if this is the year the top teams fall. Very happy (from a WUCC perspective) to say that Iceni are having no such problems. While they didn't get a chance to take on a full strength women's WUCC team, they seemed to easily dispose of a SYC split squad (and nearly everyone else down the schedule).

2. Reading will play four women at WUCC
All credit to Nads for predicting Reading as an option as the strongest competition to Iceni this season (and I believe u/RunJumpCash on reddit), but did anyone outside of Reading really believe the hype? Those inside the bubble know Reading have been strong for a while, and when they decided not to take a developmental split team to tour (as per Reading's usual style), we finally got a glimpse at their power. Victories vs both SYC teams, Bristols, SMOG and a 14-10 final loss to Iceni (let's ignore their first match-up) - Reading women are strong.

3. Never count Bristols out
I was lucky enough to get to commentate some games over at fanseat.com, but mainly only did first halves (as I had to run off to games myself). So, leaving SMOG vs Bristol with SMOG 8-4 up at half, I gave a warning into the mic - don't count Bristols out. Hearing that Bristols pulled back to an 11-10 victory was then definitely pleasing. They couldn't do the same when 8-4 down at half against Reading though (although they did draw that half). So, second-half Bristols looking strong for WUCC...

4. Split squads may have been a bad option for SYC
So, it is worth saying it is easy for me to criticise - I've never really been captain, let alone coach of a team. With that said, from an outsiders perspective, it didn't look like the decision to split squads for SYC was the right one. When the mixed teams split squads at tour earlier this year, they pulled in players to bolster the numbers. SYC 1 in particular seemed very short staffed this weekend, and it's a big injury risk this close to WUCC. With that said, maybe the added playing time will pay dividends. For what it's worth, I asked Bristol before their semi if they regretted the decision to not split, and they seemed to feel they had made the right choice.

5. SMOG don't go down easily
Here's a bit of a bold hypothesis - with a few more players, SMOG would have been in the semis last tour. SMOG women are a very athletic bunch and play a high intensity game (regardless of which division they're playing). With that in mind, I think they wore themselves out in their crossover at exactly the wrong time. With only one/two games a day at WUCC, this wont be an issue for them. But they were very strong, and we were not far off having a women-from-the-mixed-teams semi-final. Also, without the men, it was interesting to see some of the SMOG women take on a broader range of responsibilities on pitch than I've seen before.

6. Brighton/Hydra the best of the rest
All the 5-12 crossovers seemed to be comfortable margins, and so Brighton and Hydra earned their place amongst the top teams. Brighton are still rocking smaller squads this year (although were actually in double digits of players when I counted - a mild shock), and Hydra are soldiering on despite a small loss of personnel to WUCC teams. Also, with the chat about mixed teams coming into Women's Tour, it is potentially notable how much experience some of the Hydra players got across various mixed teams, but particularly Mighty Hucks. Considering lack of women was one of Hucks's main issues, I'd be interested to see if we saw a bit more recruitment.

7. Learn the team names Red/Purple Cobras
While I didn't watch it myself, I'm told the plate final between Purple Cobras and Red was a real sight to watch. Both teams have been developing for a while, and so it was gratifying to see their work pay off and for them to get a shot on stream. They won all their down-bracket games with fairly good margins, and fought their way up from the bottom too. Would love to see Red Cobras become an established match up at Tour.

8. Depth in Women's Tour
Last year, 24 teams total entered across the three Women's Tours. This year, 28 teams entered Tour 1 alone. (Note: 2015 & 16 actually had 27 teams total - so the point stands, but last year's drop is noteworthy). One of the main reasons for that is multiple clubs sent more than one team (last year only three did). Discie Chicks, SMOG, SWIFT, Hydra, Red and Reading (and SYC) all had multiple teams there. While in one sense it might be nice to boost the geographical range of clubs, right now having developed hubs that women can turn up and play for might be the most critical thing for development of UK women's Ultimate.

Photo by Claire Baker for the ShowGame



10 Takeaways from: Open Tour 1 2018

Writer: Hazard
Editor: None

With thanks to Will Foster for suggesting this article style to me.

Want the lowdown for the watercooler? Here are 10 takeaways from: Open Tour 1.

1. Clapham are not unbeatable
At Open Tour 1 last year, one Clapham split-team suffered a loss to Reading. This year, both split-teams lost to Chevron. A one-off loss is basically ignorable. Both team losing in a WUCC year is really significant. I'd love to hear what the Clapham captains were talking about afterwards.

2. Chevron claim their first victories against Clapham against Chevron in a few years*
As far as I am aware, this is the first ever time a Chevron side has beaten a Clapham side. Context is needed. The Clapham sides were smaller, likely tired, and facing an in-form Chevron side training for WUCC themselves. With that said, they still weren't the favourites going in. Consider this a huge confidence boost for them, and a big spike in foreign scouts actually taking notice of them as preparation.
*This originally read first ever victories. Josh CK corrected us on TCLF's facebook page: Chevron won the Tour 2 final in 2010 against Clapham. Both squads were full strength, leading up to WUCC that year. Since then, there has been at least 2 Chev over Clapham victories, the two I remember both squads were very short sided (one in Nottingham, one in Cardiff). Earlier than that, in 2008 Euros Chev beat Clapham in quarters. I'm not sure about tour results that far back, but remember very close battles between Clapham against Fire and Chev from 2007-10. Clapham undeniably dominant since then, but certainly not unbeaten

3. Ireland is still strong
I wouldn't say Ranelagh and Pelt were unbeatable this weekend. Both Devon and Reading put in decent showings vs Pelt. Glasgow and SMOG only lost to Ranelagh in sudden death. The British sides do seem to be closing the gap after a slightly dower showing at EUCF-W (aka UKU Nationals) last year. But final results can't be argued - they finished 4th/5th, and only lost to Chevron/Clapham. They also may not have brought full strength squads for the weekend - it's only Tour after all.

4. The boys playing Mixed are still quite good
We didn't see any of the upsets we saw in Women's Tour, but SMOG/Reading/Glasgow still put in a respectable show for themselves. All of them ended up top 10. SMOG and Glasgow both won their way through the 9-16 bracket on Sunday (with SMOG taking the final game), and Reading came out on top after beating both sides on Saturday. Reading even finished above Devon, but since they didn't play them (and both had wins vs Ka-Pow! and losses vs Pelt in the 5-8 bracket), it'd be unfair to draw any conclusions.

5. Devon aren't at WUCC by chance
I don't think Devon will be overly happy with the weekend. They only narrowly beat EMO and Brighton in their pool stage games, and weren't able to put up the strongest showing against the Claphams. With that said, I think they were the 3rd best UK side this weekend (that wasn't going to WUCC in another division). This would have been the weekend for another team that was in the fight last year to make a statement against them. It didn't happen, and Devon came out with a decent 7th place.

6. Fire need to rebuild.
Alex Cragg provided good context to Fire's tough weekend (they ended up losing all Saturday games to get demoted to B Tour, and lost the B Tour final to flump).  Fire have lost a lot of players, and are in the midst of rebuilding. With that said, it wasn't too long ago that Fire 2 were a solid A Tour side. Seeing Fire 1 down in B Tour is a striking reminder of how tough tour has become, and how little you can take for granted as an elite-level side.

7. Ka-Pow! are looking strong
With all that said, Ka-Pow! gained a historic victory to start Fire's downward spiral this weekend (I'm not counting the loss to Pelt). The Fire vs Ka-Pow! rivalry is one of the most intense in UK Ultimate, and the fact Ka-Pow! managed to win out and then fight their way to top 8 is a real positive for the comic strip clan. Although with two Clapham sides attending, they can't claim to have finished as the second-best London team just yet.

8. Haydon Slaughter is good
I was lucky enough to see him get the greatest which kept Brighton City in A Tour. It was great. Purple Cobras put in a great fight against them to take it to sudden death, but sometimes you just have to stop and admire a great play.

9. Development works
We saw SMOG split their squads and put some WUCC players on SMOG 2 - something which is bound to help those players develop. But Reading are the real development story. With two teams in A Tour (the second team winning their crossover vs Fire), and an extra two teams further down the rankings, it is kind of clear how much depth that club now has. EMO 2 and Fire 2 also defended their B Tour status.

10. Tour is pushing its limits
With 57 teams in the Open division (and 28 in the Women's), the Nottingham venue felt crammed with Ultimate. The physios did a fantastic job, but told me they'd be working non-stop most of the weekend. The TD team always seems to be growing. The VC/Lookfly and Tokay stalls seemed to have a lot of traffic all weekend. The photographers were spoilt for choice. And I can personally say the Media Crew worked themselves ragged covering two pitches and trying to provide the best footage they could (getting highlight packages sorted with the games) - and yet there was still a call for more! So many people put in so much effort this weekend. More volunteers and/or more money could push it to another level, but right now we are pushing limits, and non-playing people putting their time into making it the event it is is valuable beyond measure.

Thanks guys! For further reading, I enjoyed Brummie's post over on Reddit, which I'd recommend you check out.


I wasn't joking when I said I wouldn't be leading a chat for Open Tour. No one volunteered, so we're not getting one! Instead, I'm set myself a half hour limit and wrote as much as I could. I'm literally not at Open Tour 2, so consider this a glorified plea for volunteers, because I'm not doing anything for that one, and I'd kind of like to read what happened there too. Message the TCLF Facebook page if you're interested.

Friendly Arguments #1: In which division will the UK do best at WUCC? + Breakout Mixed player, Gender Equity

Editors: ali/hazard

hazard
Hello and welcome to a new type of article here on The Cutting Lane Floor: Friendly Arguments. We have some very talented players and reasonably talented debaters here to try to convince you their argument is the correct one.


We'll have three initial longform rounds. The debaters all got these questions in advance, and have prepared their points. We'll be spending the majority of this article discussing these points.

After that, we have a speed round. I'll announce the question, they'll quickly try to claim the best answer, and then have a short time to try to argue it.

At the end of each round, we'll gather everyone up. I'll say what I liked, what I didn't like, and then give some points. Our fact checker will also make any corrections, and cover a few points our debaters may have missed. Your job as readers is to make your own conclusions, claim I'm biased in the comments, and argue for whichever debater you happen to know best.

All clear?

First up, let's introduce the people arguing today! Go ahead guys.

geegee
I’m Geegee. I’ve been playing for 3 and a half years, mostly with Surrey and more recently GB U24 Mixed. I’m playing with Reading at WUCC (super pumped), and I will also be commentating out in Cincinnati!

nads
Helllooo I’m Nads and I’ve been playing for around 6/7 years, I prefer not to count. I played for Nice Bristols during WUCC 2014 and I’m playing for Reading Ultimate for this cycle.  I apologise for my debating in advance.

Axel
Heya I'm Axel. I started 5 years ago with Glasgow Uni and have played with the club team since then as well as GB U24 Open. I'll be playing for GUX at WUCC!

ali
Hi everyone, I’m Ali Thomas of UKU Sofa Sideline fame. I’m an NQT (Nearly Qualified Teacher) and I’m here as a real time fact checker. If our debaters make any claims that are unsubstantiated or just plain wrong, I will inform them in a non-aggressive and constructive way that positively impacts our learning journeys.

hazard
Excellent! And I will be your chair. I've played a fair bit in Mixed and Open, and am also going to WUCC with Reading Mixed. I'll be keeping people in line, watching timings, and judging which arguments I think are the best. I'm going to try to be honest and explain my reasoning, so the outcomes don't seem random.

Well, with three WUCC players, it only seemed natural to start with a WUCC debate.

What I want you to decide on is:

In which division of WUCC will the UK perform best overall (e.g. Mixed, Open, Women’s)?

Opening statements please.

Axel
So personally I think Open will probably do the best. I'll start by saying why they are strong cos that's probably nicer than arguing why the others will be weaker.

So Clapham need no introductions. But for comparison's sake: longstanding force in the UK, not many rookies, strong recruitment, Euro champions many times. Yeah they are good. Chevron have looked strong going in this year. A couple of games at Fog Lane with perfect O and a lot of great defenders on that team. They looks stronger than previous years, though we say that a lot, but I think they'll put in a good placing at Worlds. Devon I don't know too much about for this year coming, I guess we will see more at tour, but they'll give anyone a gritty game no matter whether they are a top seed or a 16th seed, so expect lots of close results. I back them to get on the right side of most of them.

That's why Open will do the best.

Why the others won't?  Judging on the biggest tourney each year (EUCF) one Mixed team almost seems to shit out on the big stage. Hopefully it doesn't happen at WUCC, the teams look strong, but who knows. Reading will probably turn up as per though. Women's, I don't see the strength in depth being as strong as in the Open division, not as strong in EUCF (can't match Clapham’s winning streak); the dominance doesn't seem to be there on the continental scale, but obviously there are two powerhouse teams for sure. Let's see what they can do.

nads
It has to be Women’s, not that I’m biased by the teams I’ve played for in the past. I’ve seen how far the Women’s division has grown in the past 4 years in the UK and I know a lot of the girls rostered on the teams going to Worlds. Results at Tom’s Tourney were incredibly positive for all 3 teams. Iceni 2nd, SYC 4th and Nice Bristols 9th (losing to both SYC and Netherlands U20s in sudden death). Plus the girls on all teams are locally based to their clubs giving them the time to train together at least once or more a week. Speaking from a team I know very well and love (will definitely be fangirling them at WUCC) is Nice Bristols! They have experience retaining lots of the ladies from the 2014 cycle as well as some talented ladies from WU24s on top of  keeping their development heads on too! Judging by how strong I know this team will be, I think SYC and Iceni will be an equal force to match. I’m excited!

geegee
The UK Mixed scene has blossomed over the past few years to become a strongly competitive division. Where many players had previously committed to Women’s or Open, we have seen a transition from a multitude of top-level players competing in the Mixed division, whether it is for WUCC or National events. For example, the formation of Deep Space in London has drawn in players from the other two divisions e.g. Ben Weddell ex-Chevron, Harry Slinger-Thompson ex-Fire, Alex Meixner ex-Iceni, Mara Alperin ex-Iceni. Whilst Deep Space are not attending WUCC it gives an example for how many superb athletes are taking the Mixed division seriously. Black Eagles have dominated in the UK Ultimate scene over 2017 and 2018, even with split squads, and they could cause some damage on an international scale from sheer athleticism and throwing prowess. Reading have established themselves in the European game for years, winning championship titles at EUCF (2017 saw them finishing third with the highest finishing UK squad). With these titles under our Mixed belt, not even scratching the surface on SMOG and Glasgow, the UK has a good fight!

hazard
Ok. Some good initial arguments. Snap judgement - I think Axel currently has the strongest arguments in favour, so let's start by debating Open. He also got some good jabs in on the others initially, which I liked. Good arguments from both the others though. I liked Nads pointing out training perspectives and Geegee's use of Mixed within the UK beyond the WUCC teams.

nads
I can’t deny that Clapham are an incredibly strong team and yes are likely to match the results of 2014, they do seem untouchable on the UK and European front. Not that I don’t think Devon and Chevron are strong teams but if you look at past squads and performances of both Devon and Chevron again European teams they just can’t compete at the same level than Clapham can and I think we’ll see that disparity at WUCC. Importantly, Clapham train weekly, the other two don’t.

geegee
The UK undeniably has strength and has further developed in the run up to WUCC. However we don’t know how they will perform against teams outside of Europe. Clapham attended US Open Club Championships last year and finished 8th, which is a fantastic performance against some of the best US teams - is that going to be enough to perform at WUCC? Devon and Chevron have boosted their squads even compared to last year, so they could give Clapham a run for their money. On an international stage, there are teams that just seem to have a slight upper hand. I agree with Nads on the training consistency, it is vital on further pushing the squad.

Axel
I'm not arguing for Clapham to go and win WUCC, but I think they are likely to place highest from any UK team in their division. An 8th place finish at US Open with about as many wins and losses shows they can mix it with the best in the world, which should be enough to beat almost any team from any other country. I think we may see a disparity between Clapham and the other two, alternatively we may see a disparity between the top two and Devon. Who knows how strong Chevron will be come WUCC. But I'm sure those two will have much more depth than Devon and that will carry them further in the tournament.
Not sure there were any other major disagreements...

nads
I think Devon could be dark horses, they performed well at Tom’s and at Fog Lane with a split squad. I do think they’ll be interesting to watch.

Axel
All the better for my prediction mwahaha.

geegee
Chevron have already scrimmaged against the Devon WUCC squad, and came out on top at Fog Lane and Tom’s Tourney. Chev have expanded their roster and trained a significant amount more than previous years so they could give Clapham a scare. But Devon could also still surprise us. This is all too difficult to predict.

Axel
So you are saying Chev may be as strong as Clapham and Devon will surprise? I'm now happy with the division I chose!

geegee
Potentially, if there were to be a year for Chev to overtake Clapham it feels like it would be this year. Devon will perform better than expected. However, this does not mean better WUCC results because there are other teams there unfortunately (they kind of get in the way).

nads
I think on the international stage, upsets are likely. Clapham have that experience as Geegee pointed out. The others: we’ll see which teams come their way.

Axel
I think we say that a lot about Chev, but maybe! Anyways I stand by my prediction and good luck to them all!

Axel
I think the Women's division has condensed their talent into fewer squads than before, with Bristols hoarding a lot of young talent on the roster. Iceni, like Clapham, will most likely be the strongest UK team in their division given their experience. I probably don't know enough about SYC to speculate accurately. But wild speculation anyway - they are weaker than before? They'll come third of UK women's teams? No idea how they'll do at WUCC. Came 8th at EUCF so maybe I'm completely wrong.

nads
I disagree, if anything, the SYC squad has gotten stronger over the past few years, they have retained players and have built strong connections. They had a solid performance at Windmill in 2017 and Tom’s in 2018 showing they are a team to be reckoned with.

geegee
Women’s could go anywhere at this rate and it’s very difficult to call. But I have to agree with Axel - there is not as much depth comparatively, but not to Open, to other international Women’s teams. The UK boasts some incredible female athletes from all three of our representing teams, but they are all so different that it is difficult to call year to year who will perform best. SYC pride themselves on their grit and unity as a squad. Iceni have experience and raw athleticism to give them strength. Nice Bristols have a lot of youth and guts. On an international level, they have all often fallen short to teams that are just more well-rounded. I am really excited to see all of them face off against the US teams though!

Axel
You are probably right about SYC, like I said, I was just wildly commenting. However I think the strength of the teams isn't as strong relatively as Open on the international level. Due to less depth, less experience and less reputation. Trading off reputation can be important in long slogging games and points. Clapham have that to their advantage over any UK team.

nads
I do think there has been a shift in Women’s ultimate within the last year or so. The amount of teams entering Women’s Tour (28) is testament to that. I’m excited to see teams like Swift, SMOG, Reading and Hydra presenting a real threat to the 3 WUCC teams, helping to push their development in the last 6 weeks before Worlds.

geegee
I completely agree with Nads on that point, tour is going to be a great kick off to their season. It is often limiting when the top teams tend to play the same players every time and it becomes predictable. Maybe that’s why we’re seeing some split squads!

nads
I do have to agree with Geegee that the Mixed scene in the UK is so strong right now! All four teams are well rounded, but perhaps Black Eagles and Reading have the edge when it comes to seasoned experience against European teams. Women and Open have the benefit of having experienced international competition at WUCC before (NB, Iceni, Chevy and Clapham), whereas only BE have been to WUCC previously. This could be a disadvantage to the Mixed teams, or play into their hands.

Axel
So I think Mixed will do great but I am worried about how well they will perform in brackets. I think all the UK mixed teams have shown they can beat each other, Eagles maybe being the strongest. But when missing a few key players at EUCF they looked a very different team. At WUCC those top players will need to rest at some point. But at the same time Eagles have a lot of strength and can push any team at the tournament.

All the teams in the UK on their day can push Eagles. So it could be a strong showing. But none of the teams show enough consistency for me to know that they'll do well. It's likely going to mean some brilliant days and some shockers at Worlds...

geegee
It’s also worth mentioning that SMOG are still relatively new as a Mixed team, they only committed to the division in 2016 and have crawled their way up the rankings to get to WUCC.

Axel
I'm also going to throw in now that a large portion of Glasgow’s guys played EUCF with the open team and large numbers of SMOG have played on other established teams, so they also have a fair amount of experience. Eagles and SMOG have the advantage in terms of Mixed experience, but the others aren't lacking in know-how.

Glasgow also have only been truly Mixed for 2 years. Before that was their Open focussed campaign where they finished 10th in their European debut. Compared to Open though where Chev and Clapham are always present, Mixed don’t have that.

Also having mentioned Deep Space earlier with all their strong players, what's up with their finishing places at all these tournaments? Weren't they touted to storm the Mixed Division last year...

nads
Axel do you think that’s what might lead to inconsistency?

geegee
Open has been a consistently strong division, I agree, however we can see how much Mixed has grown in recent years. On the international stage this could be our chance to really storm our way through.

Axel
Yup exactly Nads.

hazard
Time! Ali, drop some facts on us.

ali
Open - facts
Chevron now have biweekly trainings, split into Chev north & Chev south
Devon beat Chevy 12-11 in a recent friendly (although that wasn’t Chev’s final squad). Chevy also lost to Clapham on universe in that friendly.
What you could have said
Chev Euro results: 2017 – 13th; 2016 – 9th, 2015 – 8th
Last WUCC, Chevy did worse than EMO (17th and 15th respectively)
Devon came last at EUCF-W, only winning one game against the team who came 8th

Women’s – what you could have said
SYC has the longest serving coach in UK women’s ultimate (James Burbage), whereas Iceni lost their coach (Paul ‘Voodoo’ Waite) earlier this year.
SYC lost to Bristols at Tour 3 last year
SYC beat Iceni at Nationals
Iceni have lost some strong players

Mixed – what you could have said
Black Eagles only got a wildcard place for WUCC
BE finished 37th/48 at 2014 WUCC
SMOG came 25th overall at Mixed Tour 2015, so couldn't have entered Nationals with that team. They've entered Mixed Nationals every following year

hazard
Alright. Snap decisions for time. I've liked all the arguments. Nads, I don't think you managed to address the performance of the teams outside the UK, although I liked the arguments within the UK. Geegee, it was a good initial pitch, but didn't really see any defence or pushing back on some of their points.

I think Axel won it with the consistent strength argument in the end. So, 1 point to Axel currently.

hazard
Next debate. You may not believe it on how passionately they fought the last round, but all of our players are indeed going to WUCC in the Mixed division.

Who will be the breakout Mixed player at this year's WUCC?

Opening pitches, and we may allow a couple other players to be mentioned as we go.

nads
It has to be Ellie Taylor. Have you seen that girl....? Probably not, because she’s so damn quick! Not only does she have speed on her side but also experience from WU24s and is arguably one of the strongest girls on the Black Eagles side. I expect her to be making plays all week!

Axel
I'm not entirely sure what is meant by breakout, but I said Ali McNeil because he will be more important this year to his team than he has been to his teams before. He has played EUCF a few times I believe, went to U24s but has never been THE player on those teams. But the progression is strong. 10th at Euros with Glasgow. Made the Clapham (training?) squad, may have won EUCF with them? Now part of a Reading team that needs male athletes. That team can throw but Ali is definitely different to most of their players.

geegee
This was a really tough decision to make - Black Eagles’ Chris Habgood will be the breakout Mixed player at WUCC. Having played for University of Edinburgh who championed at Div 2 Nationals this year, GB U24 Open finishing 7th and now a pivotal player for Black Eagles, he is impressive to watch. I remember seeing the Open team playing in Perth - he played on a very injured hand still getting Ds, running super hard and his hand didn’t stop him. He’s always a threat playing against BE.

Axel
See I would argue Habs is established. It's not that much of a breakout if he has been touted to be a top top player for ages and led his uni side, everybody seeing he is their top player. Playing on BE and being important for a while. I love Habs and he is great but I dunno if this is a "breakout" as such. Whereas Ali wasn't considered THE player on his uni team (yes they were stronger than Edinburgh) but still.

Also YAS for every breakout player being based in Scotland for their uni years (and some club).

I also threw in Hayley as a breakout girl, but again same caveats as for Habs. Also a top performer for Women's U24s, uni team leader who finished top 5 at nats.

I also have nods to Iain "Toilet" Tait and Andrew Warnock to actually breakout. Rather than ex-U24s.

nads
His stats seem pretty impressive, I’m going to agree with Axel as he seems pretty established on the scene already.

geegee
He may be established in Scotland, but not necessarily in the UK. Many don’t actually know who he is if they are outside of the Scottish Ultimate scene, so he should be considered a breakout player.

nads
Although I’m not sure who he is.

Axel
He played U24s though....

geegee
As did Ali…

Axel
Agreed... hence my other two.

hazard
U24s is impressive, but I'm going to straight up admit I don't know all the players on those teams, and I follow Ultimate fairly closely. A good argument, not conclusive. Give me more.

nads
I think breakout can be defined in different ways I don’t necessarily think it needs to be a new kid on the block, it might be someone who doesn’t get mentioned a lot but always performed well... I put Lucy Hyde forward for this reason. She’s a pivotal member of the SMOG side, she’s difficult to mark and has incredible throws. Dominant on WU23 in 2016 and Newcastle Uni.

geegee
I agree with Nads, there are many that perform consistently well but get little credit because they don’t make so many “big plays”.

hazard
We've been mentioning a few people. Given what we've said, chose one player and give me a paragraph. Why we'll notice them, and why we haven't before.

Axel
I'm going to go with Warnock purely because he is a definite breakout player. Is a big grinder, can do anything and will be surprisingly important. Ali is a top shout for an established player to show how good he is to the rest of the field.

geegee
I’m going to stick with Habgood as my choice. But I also want to mention Katie Armstrong in this. She is still relatively unknown in Ultimate because she is somewhat new to the sport. She has played for Lacrosse for years and shows raw athleticism unlike most. Her defence is so difficult to manoeuvre from and I love it.

nads
Sticking with Ellie Taylor, she has all the assets of an incredible player, has led the Aberdeen Uni side and I think WUCC will be a chance for her to really shine.

hazard
Anyone want to give a quick shout for a breakout player in the other divisions while I consider?

nads
It has to be Andy Paterson for Devon Ultimate, he’s rapidly risen through the Devon ranks and is a strong asset on their O line (having joined them a year ago). He didn’t make WU24s and will show them what they missed out on.

hazard
Ok, making a ruling. When I made this question, I was thinking in terms of Will Rowledge in GB U23 2015, or Amelia Kenneth in 2017.

I think for that, I'm going to give it to Geegee for Chris Habgood. The fact that the Scottish are so aware who Habgood is, but even in the rest of the UK we aren't aware of him yet, shows he has that potential. Axel and Geegee both have one point.

Other good answers - I think Bella Tait is going to get a huge highlight reel block for BE, Tall Jamie Rabbetts is going to be noticed by everyone and hadn't really even played high level tour before this year, Andy Turner is a similar big player for SMOG (with a winning smile), and I did really like Nads's argument for Lucy Hyde - I think if you'd stuck with that you'd have got it.

Axel
Warnock got Juniors to change a chant from Wrexham to Glasgow, that's how big he is.

hazard
Right. Onto our final big topic -

What is the most major Gender Equity issue the UK currently needs to address?


Axel
Gender Equity is the process of allocating resources, programs and decision-making fairly to both males and females. This requires ensuring that everyone has access to a full range of opportunities to achieve the social, psychological and physical benefits that come from participating and leading in sport and physical activity. It does not necessarily mean making the same programs and facilities available to both males and females. Gender equity requires that girls and women be provided with a full range of activity and program choices that meet their needs, interests and experiences. Therefore, some activities may be the same as those offered to boys and men, some may be altered, and some may be altogether different.

Taking this into account, I think there is a lot that is going well for the movement in the UK. I also think there is a lot of interesting assignment of problems to gender if that makes sense.

Having said that the thing that will help the most in most grievances and therefore in my eyes the biggest issue will be placing even more effort on retaining women (maybe recruiting in some areas) when they begin playing and encouraging self development.

geegee
A topic that has started to gain a bit more traction in recent months, as fuelled by a fabulous GE talk run by UCL - the BUCS League system in UK University Ultimate. For those unaware Ultimate was introduced into the BUCS League in 2015, in which teams earn BUCS points the more successful they are in weekly regional scrimmages. This reaps benefits including points translating as funding for the Athletic Union, and those who play improve at a faster rate than without.

However BUCS is purely a Men’s league; women are not allowed to play at all. On one hand it is understandable that there isn’t a Women’s league for the sheer fact that there aren’t sufficient numbers to create a Women’s BUCS league. To therefore deny women any opportunity of taking part in what is an Open sport is against the rubric of the sport itself. Until then we have female athletes with reduced opportunities wishing to play at the same level as their peers, and few places to go. This leads to reduced player retention and often social division between BUCS players and non-BUCS players.

Many universities have already been connecting with local teams to provide women a platform to play competitive frisbee outside of university trainings, and there may be discussions of finding appropriate solutions to a seemingly unfair sports league from the UKU level. Si Hill has already noticed the frustrations many players are feeling, again brought to light by recent GE discussions, so a solution may arrive soon.

nads
I think there are lots of contributing factors to the GE issue, but I think the largest issue is opportunity. For a lot of women, they don’t have access to a Women’s team which makes playing and self development difficult, as Axel said. You can see areas where Women’s ultimate really grows due to opportunity, e.g. Nice Bristols, or Merseyside. I can attest to this by having been developed through Nice Bristols, if I didn’t have that opportunity then I wouldn’t be going back to WUCC a second time.

hazard
So, we have:
Retention and self-development during the initial stages of an Ultimate career. (Axel)
Reformation of the Women's Uni system. (Geegee)
Increase the range of places women have the opportunity to play and develop (Nads)

Axel
Geegee, in Scotland we had a question sent out to all unis asking whether they would want Women's BUCS and all but one answered no it isn't feasible. Just as a point I guess against the BUCS league. Obviously it'd be great if there was the player base and commitment for it, but most don't. That is the root issue.

Nads has a great point there, again I think that is hard until you have enough players. Which means areas that do recruit NEED to retain those players and some of them will naturally move to areas with less players and they can recruit or develop those that exist and/or form a new team.

geegee
The solution is not necessarily having a Women’s BUCS league - right now it just is not a viable option without the numbers. But to completely deny athletes the opportunity to play is quite frankly unfair.

Axel
But they do get to play... not week in week out, but they have the same structure as men had prior to the BUCS league...
If you want week in week out games then it's BUCS which as you say is probably not the immediate solution.

hazard
I think I would like a bit more (briefly) on how you would all tackle the issues you mentioned. Axel, how can we do more to help women in the early stages? Geegee, what would a more equitable uni structure look like? Nads, how do we go about increasing the number of places women have to take themselves to the next stage?

nads
There is a lot of responsibility and effort for women to start teams in new areas while still trying to develop themselves in the process. Unless you have a strong core to push a team then it can often be a struggle to keep it going, which falls back to Axel point on having enough players to start with.

Axel
Get them in responsibility roles early in training. Ask women who left why they stopped playing. Try target recruitment to athletic competitive girls as they often leave after uni as club is a bit intimidating. Bring them along to club training somehow that seems casual. Introduce them to gym programmes and more training sessions in a way that eases them in and isn't scary.

nads
I’m not sure it’ll happen, but I’d be interested to see a geo-based system in which you play for your local club rather than commute to play for a team (something I’m guilty of).

geegee
From the Gender Equity forum a few months back we discussed potential structures for a more equitable system such as eventually being able to form a Women’s league when viable, transitioning into an Open league so women can play alongside their male counterparts, or even making BUCS a Mixed league. It is fair to say that not all universities have suffered in player retention as compared to others as a result of a Men’s only system, but it has still discouraged women from playing with a team or even joining socially. We as a sport pride ourselves on further equity for gender, sexuality, race, religion, and disability, so we can always do more.

There was also discussion of joining university teams together to compete regionally on a regular basis from an anecdotal case in the US, whereby two high school teams joined together to compete and their participation grew dramatically.

hazard
Alright. Continue, but if you make a really good argument for someone else's point (e.g. a good thing for early development) I will, in this discussion only, count it in your favour.

geegee
I agree Nads that many women are falling behind in being able to train regularly as they are out of reach from certain teams. UKU has done well in aiding these women to find teams by creating the ‘Find a Team’ initiative, which has given women a platform to contact the most local team to them and begin regular training again.

nads
I agree with Axel in that we need to be more welcoming to women, give them a space they feel confident to perform in and I think the want for self development will stem from there. From here the need for opportunity is important. If you create a space women aren’t afraid to try new throws etc, the standard will improve and disparity in level should drop.

hazard
I'm closing it off there.

Geegee, I think yours is a very practical and worthy point that would have won over nearly any judge. However, you happen to be at the mercy of someone who hates the BUCS league with a burning passion, who believes it is actively toxic for the sport, that a league structure isn't all the great for development, and who is maybe just a little bit bitter at the fact his team won Div 2 and got relegated to Div 3.

So, that one is out. I'm sure the readers will think otherwise.

hazard
Between Axel and Nads - both very good points around the core issue of development.
I said I'd reward good points for both arguments, and with that I think Nads swayed me in the end by formulating the most things we need to think about. I do like Axel's list though, some very good points. You all have one point each, it comes down to this.

Ok. For time purposes I'm only doing one speed round question. The way this works - I post a question. You all post an answer first. If two people say the same answer, whoever puts it first wins that answer.

You have ninety seconds after the last answer is posted to make your case. Any answers after that time I won't count.

hazard
Your question is:

What is the most likely UK Women's team to beat Iceni this year?


geegee
SYC.

Axel
Bristols.

nads
Reading.

Axel
Bristols have the athleticism to hurt teams. They have the hunger with their youth. They could surprise and come out the blocks hard in one game and take it. Iceni will win more than they lose against them but one could swing Bristols’ way for sure

nads
Reading have strength and depth of squad to really hurt teams this year and have some of the strongest women in the UK. Pinching a couple of Iceni’s stronger players will help our cause too. Currently Reading are unknown and I think that may come as a shock to some teams.

(Not that I’m biased)

geegee
SYC have been edging on Iceni’s heels for years, and building up to the season where they can champion. They beat Iceni last year at Nationals during pool play to give a taste of what they’ve got. Iceni have lost a little bit of the depth they’ve had in previous years and that will hurt them.

hazard
Ok, we're at the end. I'm going to say Axel got that last one because I liked the specifics of why Bristols will win (athleticism and youth), although the SYC victory last year was  a very good argument. And obviously Reading are going to win tour in every division, so there is that.

Thank you all for taking part! Let me know if it's something you'd be keen to do again.

Well done to Axel for winning. Final score:
Axel: 2
nads: 1
geegee: 1

If you have any thoughts on this format, on any questions you'd liked to hear argued, or if you'd be keen to argue or chair in future, drop the TCLF page a line. Thanks again to Nads, Geegee and Axel, thanks to Ali for fact-checking the first question, and see you all around :)

8 Takeaways from: Open Tour 2 (A Tour)

Writer: Buzz Editor: hazard Schedule/Results This weekend saw 39 Open teams take to the pitches of the Llanrumney playing fields of eas...