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.
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|