What Went Down At: Mixed Tour

Main Editor/Discussion Chair: hazard (Reading 1/2, former JR)
Main Contributors: geegee (GB u24/Mighty Hucks), amazzon (GB u24 assistant coach, former SMOG/Thundering Herd), dp (ShowGame cofounder)
Additional Contributors: ali, hillmaniaa, tadhgb

Welcome to the post-Mixed Tour chat! Here we'll be discussing Mixed Tour in general, but particularly Mixed Tour 3. We'll also be looking a bit ahead to Mixed Nationals.

Here are the headlines we'll be discussing:
Black Eagles manage to send two teams and dominate every tour
There have been a lot of big movers/shakers this tour season
The GB U24 Development Program has been going strong
The first club tournament uses of endzone picking genders - do we like it or not?
Looking ahead to Mixed Nationals

Two quick announcements:
The ShowGame is looking for writers for the upcoming tour season! If you’re interested (particularly in covering B/C tour) then drop them a line. I personally know they respond to messages on their facebook page really well.
Someone took my left boot from lost property at tour. If you have it, please could you message me? I’m a poor student who really doesn’t want to have to buy a new pair.

Some handy links:

For ease, we've included the top 20 here:
1. Great Black White Sharks
2. Royal Canadian Goaltimate Society
3. Black Blackbirds
4. Reading Ultimate 1
5. Mighty Hucks
6. Deep Space
7. GB u24 Red
8. SMOG 1
9. GB u24 White
10. Glasgow Ultimate
11. TBC
12. Devon
13. Brighton Breezy
14. Birmingham Ultimate
15. JR
16. Cambridge
17. Thundering Herd 1
18. Thundering Herd 2
19. Cosmic Manatees
20. GB u24 Blue   


hazard:   I've noticed a lot of people are following the Reading approach to Tour this year - using it a lot more like a training program, rather than seeing Tour victory as a goal in itself. In particular, Deep Space (a new London team on the block) and Black Eagles. Black Eagles then surprised everyone by dominating all of Tour with their two trialling teams (Great Black White Sharks and Black Blackbirds). Does anyone have any comments on the Bleagles dominance, after having played them?

geegee:   Mixed Tour felt very interesting and different this year from all of the teams. Last year I remember it being pretty much dominated by JR, Brighton Breezy, Thundering Herd, Mighty Hucks and Reading. Black Eagles just seemed to come out of nowhere during this tour season and really didn’t hold back in retaining a title for every event. I have no doubt that Mixed Nationals will prove to be exciting with Black Eagles contesting the top spot against European champs Reading.

hazard:   Last year Black Eagles were the second-best club team at Tours 1 and 2 (losing out to JR both times - they didn't enter Tour 3). This year they just seemed so much better, even than that.

amazzon:   I think that's a combination of players committing to mixed in the run-up to the tours, allowing them to train a bit more combined with the lack of mixed commitment from top players on the other teams - it looks like a large proportion of the top players at last Mixed Tour are focusing their efforts on open/womens, with it being a WUCC qualification year.

hazard:   Are there any teams you think have suffered from that in particular?

geegee:   I think Swift have a fair few girls on both Black Eagles teams - they did pretty well at women’s tour last year so their girls committing to mixed could affect their Nationals standing.

amazzon:   I think if JR finished a tour 15th last year they've have been mighty disappointed. And the same goes for Brighton.

hazard:   I can speak for JR when I can say that - squad wise - they haven’t actually lost that many players to open/women’s squads. They've also actually (shock) started training this year! My personal opinion is it's actually a bit of the opposite problem. They've tried to bring in a few too many extra people at once, and it's meant they haven't gelled as well last year. JR's strength was always in its ability to be a team - something I haven't seen quite as much this time round.

amazzon:   Interesting - I don't think the overall level of competition at tour this year is higher than last year so maybe that does show the detrimental effect of having too many new faces.

geegee:   I had never played JR until this year but was surprised at the results they were getting. They have some incredible dedicated athletes that have played together for a while but just couldn’t seem to compose themselves as a team at the right times i.e. playing against a zone in the wind.

hazard:   Since we've been discussing it, the results from last year can be found here.
I'm actually going to skip over Brighton here. They only entered one tour (Tour 3) and were only seeded so that they could only finish 13th seed at highest. Which they did. Which means we can’t really extrapolate anything from that. They're going to be interesting to watch, if they do focus on mixed this year.

I am interested if anyone has any opinions on Thundering Herd though. Finished 3rd overall last year, even winning Tour 3. This year, not so much. Has the emergence of another London mixed team damaged them? Or is this another case of players choosing other squads for WUCC qualifying?

dp:   I would say Herd have lost a fair proportion of top end players over last few years which has hurt them. Couple that with a bit of dissonance with the squad (I hear that some people want to be quite serious but others are there just for fun, doesn't make for a strong tour performance).

amazzon:   Agreed that they've had some big losses but I would point to the success of the 2s as a sign of a rebuilding year.

dp:   ^^ yes, good point @amazzon.   

geegee:   Thundering Herd have lost a few players and gained others so it’s probably differing structure to last year that has made them lose a bit of chemistry. They managed to have some big names like Conor Hogan play for the final tour (largely supporting for the first two tours due to injury), but the team itself seems to be in high spirits. I admire their team ethos if anything; they’re all for each other regardless of the result and have loads of fun playing. Potentially a rise in the team next year?

amazzon:   The ones and twos played each other at MT3 so they're clearly relatively balanced. Couple that with some unfortunate absences and I'm not sure it's all that bad.

hazard:   In the final game too (17 vs 18). The firsts won 10-4.

dp:   I think if they don't make WUCC, which isn't looking likely right now, they might lose a couple but yeah would be a good level to build off of and like @amazzon says it's not all bad news there. They have a good place to build from I guess.

hazard:   A small shout out here to ShowGame writer Sean Colfer for correctly predicting all 4 teams to be crossing up into the top 16 of tour, including both Herd teams.

I think that's enough of which teams struggled this tour. Let's turn our attention to some of the success stories (i.e., teams which were consistently in/near the top 8). Let's start with Mighty Hucks. They finished 5th at every tour this season, and I know they're looking at entering Mixed Regionals this year.
Deep Space and Mighty Hucks fighting out out at MT3.
Michele Ghansah and Jonathan Saunders go big for a disc.
Picture courtesy of Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.
geegee:   Consistency seems to be a big factor with Mighty Hucks this year - we finished 5th for each tour (3rd overall however), and yes there are plans to enter a team in for Regionals. Tour 1 and 3 had bigger squads which, while it benefitted tired legs, probably didn’t help in building chemistry, so at times we crumbled under pressure where team chemistry could have pushed us a little further. I think when it comes to Regionals the core squad of Ben Bruin, Hayden John, Kat Cheng, Sarah Harrison and several others will be able to pull together and perform very well. On the other hand, a few key contributors to the tour team will be going to open/women club teams (Connor McHale for EMO, Rollo Sax Dixon for Chevron, Lloyd Cheesman for Clapham) and could be detrimental in their bid for a spot at Nationals and Euros. 

Basically it’s a tough call and I’m very bad at making predictions…

amazzon:   I assume they'll be entering Northern Regionals? If so then I reckon they'll be hard to knock out of the last Club Nationals spot

geegee:   There’s currently a poll on the Facebook group whether it’ll be a Northern or Southern entry. So far no preference has been given but I would expect it to be Northern if there’s teams such as Reading, Breezy and Deep Space to contend with in the South.

hazard:   Let's actually take this further and look at another strong team this season - SMOG. They've been building themselves year on year, and are really a force to be reckoned with at this point.

amazzon:   I would agree, a few years in the top 10 overall, good competition for 1st team spots and pretty much everyone who went to tour going to Regionals (excl. Nick Williams to Chevy) sets a good platform for success

hazard:   I find them a very interesting team to play. They actually reminded me a bit of Black Eagles - a team that's really not afraid to make full use of their height and depth.

amazzon:   That's a diplomatic way of saying it.

dp:   Athletic.

amazzon:   'Wang it to the tall one'.

hazard:   I have to give a shout out to Tessa Hunt here as well. I'm honestly more scared of her deep than most of the guys on the team.

amazzon:   I was just about to say - most of the success comes from the strength of the ladies.

geegee:   Was literally about to mention her - she’s one of the hardest girls to mark.
Tessa Hunt bids for a disc at MT3.
Photo courtesy of Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.
amazzon:   More than anything, everyone on the team trusts everyone else which opens up options other teams don't have.

hazard:   Hannah from Mighty Hucks is the same (though she uses her height a little more). A think having really threatening female deep receivers is a must for a good modern mixed side.

amazzon:   Well it worked for GB u23s last cycle. Not that I'm biased.

hazard:   Moving on - Deep Space. They've done really well for a new squad this season (9th, 7th and 6th), but I can't help but feel they'll be a little disappointed with that. This is a team built by captains Sam Vile and Matt 'Smatt' Hodgson this year specifically to qualify for WUCC. They've certainly got the personnel. And all of their players aren't entering open/women's so they can focus on mixed. But it didn't seem to quite click for them this Tour season, even if only because of a few 3-way ties. Did anyone who played them have any thoughts?

amazzon:   Well they said yesterday that pre-season was over now but I think deep down they'll be pretty disappointed in the results. Player for player they're better than that. I think they're obviously missing some chemistry being a new team but also the squad seems imbalanced. Maybe one or two workhorse receivers short.
https://twitter.com/Deep_Space_Ulti/status/864023743974211585 Photo from Deep Space twitter, boasting the end of their preseason.
geegee:   They have a mixture of very very experienced players and some new upcoming players, that may not have necessarily experienced high level ultimate at least to the same extent as the others. But you also look at the roster and it’s full of really strong open and women’s players - you put them on a mixed team and you cannot expect instant results. It’s easy to forget how different mixed is to other divisions, but with some more training and experience as a team then yes they will click and be a huge force to be reckoned with.

amazzon:   Well the core is from GBX last year. I agree with the experience point but when you can put on a line of five senior national players who have played together, you need to be putting the points consistently. Plus they have real superstars in Ange Wilkinson, Sam Vile and Smatt.

hazard:   They have a number of players with Iceni/Clapham experience. I'm certainly scared of them for the future.   

The final team-based chat will look at the GB u24 Development Program. They've been mixed up every tour, so you can't really gain anything by looking at overall performance by one team. But I'll leave it @amazzon: to explain briefly what it is, and what it has looked like this tour season.

amazzon:   Well there's 120 of the finest young athletes split 50/50 gender-wise who have attended three high intensity training weekends before playing at least one mixed and one single gender tour with a mixed up team of other dp: athletes. The plan is to be picking the squads for u24 Worlds (Perth, 2018) from this 120 after O/W tour

The aim of mixed tour was to get everyone comfortable with high level mixed (most have never done so before) and hopefully give everyone a platform to show off their best abilities before selection, as well as having a great time

Overall Callum Spiers (GB u24 head mixed coach) and I couldn't be happier with how the teams performed - we weren't interested in the results, we were purely focussed on the processes we went through to get to the end and the teams performed exceptionally well. We have some really good players coming through the system and I can't wait to see what we can do when we get out mixed team. And that's a key aim for us - we don't want to convert everyone to mixed (we want everyone to play what they feel most comfortable) but we do want everyone to experience the atmosphere you get with a top mixed team.

GB u24 Red vs GB u24 Blue in the show game at MT3.
Ben Alba on the force, as Jonah Leake looks off an open pass to Axel Ahmala.
Photo courtesy of Sam Mouat for the ShowGame
hazard:   Do any of our GB u24 trialists have any thoughts from being inside it?

geegee:   It’s been a pretty great experience so far. On a larger scale it’s a chance for everyone to play with people they’re never met before, come up against teams they may not necessarily face with their respective club teams and experience high level mixed for what it really is. Also getting the opportunity to learn captaincy, spirit, fundraising and working for a team is a bonus. On smaller scales it has given some players a view into what mixed is as a sport, for example I got to play with a few guys this weekend that had never even played mixed before! Learning all round and great fun getting to know new people.

ali:   I only went to one Tour with them, but it was the highest level mixed I've ever played, everyone seemed really committed to making the team gel and everyone was in high spirits the whole weekend. 10/10 would recommend.

hazard:   Thanks both! I'm really looking forward to seeing how well the team manages to gel after selection. To me that'll be the real crunch point of this program.

For anyone that played tour, you'll have experienced the new 2017 rules. Part of that was the introduction of one endzone always picking gender (rather than just the team on offence). How have people found this? Does it make the game more interesting? Or more gender balanced? Or is it just not a big impact?

(Shoutout to everyone who has already started using the word “GenZone” to describe the endzone picking the gender)

geegee:   I really enjoy the Endzone A rule - it changes up the game a little bit and allows for teams who want to rely on their girls or guys more a chance regardless of who is up or down in the game. It seems to be that ‘four girls’ is actually called more often (at least from my experience at CXIN and all three tours) compared to previous mixed tournaments, which is refreshing. I’ve found that some women are turned away from mixed because the guys don’t throw to them or their not put on the line enough - having this rule has forced teams to adjust and play through every single member on the squad regardless of gender.

hillmaniaa:   Personally, I loved it. I felt there was definitely a larger proportion of 4 women points. (Coming from Loughborough Uni we loved it because our girls are sick)

ali:   ^ agree

hazard:   I think I'd also agree. Good rule change WFDF!

amazzon:   I think it balances out the game, offense picking means that the losing team picks more often and that seems like an arbitrary rule. At least this way it's balanced. It does require a bit more brainpower but we can live with that.

hazard:   Final points and then we can all leave. Quite simply, I'd like a prediction of which teams we think will make UK Club Nationals. UKU has split the UK into North and South, and I've highlighted the key/historic mixed teams below. The North has 4 bids, the South has 3 (and Ireland has 1 - @tadhgb, feel free to add an Irish eye if you'd like). Feel free to add thoughts on the structure too.

North (4 bids)
South (3 bids)
Brighton Breezy
Black Eagles
Deep Space
Black Eagles 2 (potentially)
RCGS (if they decide to enter)
Thundering Herd 1
Thundering Herd 2
and Mighty Hucks are still choosing a side.

amazzon:   Bleagles, Smog, JR, Hucks, Reading, Brighton, Deep Space, Rebel

hazard:   My view is that we'll see Black Eagles, Glasgow, SMOG and JR in the north. Those sides are all very strong, have experience at high level mixed tournaments, and will lose the least players to other sides.

South will be Reading, Deep Space and Mighty Hucks. If I were Hucks, I'd pick this region, and I can't see Herd causing an upset. Brighton have potential, but given their Tour showing I'm guessing they'll have a focus on other divisions this season.

While we haven’t really mentioned them, Reading are looking much stronger (tour wise) this year. Last year they saved all their strength for Nationals/Euros. This year, they managed top 4 twice, and one of those teams was definitely weakened. As for Glasgow, they were definitely weakened by there being two Black Eagles sides (as well as unfortunate injuries). The fact they were still consistently making top 8 is amazing, and means they’ll certainly reach Nationals in my opinion, once some of those who were injured/trialling are free to return.

tadhgb:   On the Irish side of things, I'm afraid it's more like politics than anything else. We have the same EUCR bid allocation system we used when Ireland were in the Southern region. Basically, the winners (and runners up division depending) of the previous years All-Ireland Ultimate Championships get the bids. So as it stands, it's actually Dublin Gravity (last year's AIUC Mixed winners) who have the bid.

Now, at the time of writing, they haven't confirmed if they are taking the bid or not, so I can't say for sure whether they will be at UK Nats or not (they have a Women's team entered for Windmill so that division may be their focus for the season). If they don't accept the bid however, it'll almost certainly be Rebel getting the Irish bid, as PELT, who were runners up last year, will be more focused on the Men's Division.

1 comment:

  1. Thought I might shed some light on how Brighton works, as there tends to be a bit of confusion as to what exactly is going on down here.

    Rather than being a single organisation that fields X teams in each division, with players trying to work their way up the ladder, Brighton Ultimate is more an umbrella that facilitates tour entry and other admin for anyone who wants to run a team. The upshot of this is that every year we enter a bunch of teams with a wide variety of aims and vibes - City, Breezy, Legends, Pier Pressure, Manatees, Shiny, All things Brighton Beautiful to name a few, so the majority of people can find a team most suitable to how they want to play.

    The other side of this is that a lot of random player movement occurs each year, depending on the available teams and who is in charge of what. I wouldn't say that 'Brighton is perhaps focusing on other divisions' for example, more just that 'stuff is happening and players have shifted around'. I don't think even we down here know what any of the teams are going to look like come regionals.


What Went Down At: UXON 2018/19

Editor/Chair: hazard (Oxford) Contributors: Becky Greenwood (Loughborough), Clackers (Lancaster), geegee (Birmingham), Alice Hanton (Leeds...