Thursday, February 18, 2010

Strange Cousins From The East

Eastern Regionals is looking to be surprising this year, for a number of reasons.

Surprise #1: Good teams will miss out.

As has already been pointed out this is the year of no more chances. Teams have been missing out on going to Nationals since Regionals was first invented, this is nothing new. In 2010, for the first time in the East (the South have been complaining about it happening to them for years, and were rewarded for their bitching/participation at Regionals with an extra spot this year) decent teams will miss out.

With four spots not including possible wildcards, the Open division becomes extremely interesting. On paper and on history, Umlaut, Hills and Fakulti can forget about booking flights to Adelaide. I expect the top four spots to be some combination of the two even-split Colony (Sydney WUCC team) teams, Fyshwick, I-Beam and the Eastern Greys.

Hang on, you say to yourself, counting on your fingers - that's five teams!

Welcome to surprise number 1: good teams will miss out.

Surprise Number 2: Fakulti.

What happened? After coming an average of 8th place at Nationals two years running (08: 1st and 16th; 09: 7th and 9th) the current Fakulti team seems to be a mixture of fresh legs and Fakulti players who aren't going to Clubs or didn't make the Colony squad. Led by Rhys Hearne and Cemil Browne, calling this team Fakulti is equivalent to stealing one of Tom Rogacki's cleats and entering it as Chilly at Southern Regionals.

The Fakulti brand hasn't been this maligned since Fakulbee in 2008.

Surprise Number 3: Southside.

Four spots at Eastern Regionals for Womens doesn't seem too surprising. Wildcard have managed to split their hegemony between WUCC contenders and their non-jetsetting counterparts, who on the strength of their big names alone - all eastern Firetails and Mundi's - should both make it. Sand Dunes (Hills/Manly) have quite a good team name, but may not have the depth of throwers required to make it to Nationals. Sugar Magnolias apparently provided the stiffest competition for Wildcard Clubs at Share the Love this past weekend, which bodes very well for their campaign, and fACTory Girls chances rest (largely due to my lack of knowledge of the Canberran women) on finding Vickie Saye, and getting someone to throw the disc at her.

The surprise here is Southside. Yes, they came 3rd in 2008 and didn't really figure in the mix last year, but the persistent narrative going around Sydney is that they are a club in decline, with the lack of a strong player base in the city's South and the dominance of Wildcard's 'hey so we pretty much win Nationals every year, also we control NSW ultimate, you probably want to play with us' recruitment method contributing to their waning. Southside this year have opted to nut up rather than shut up, with returning players Stettner, Wentworth, Moore nee Jarrot, Ryan and Kinneally augmented by enthusiastic fresh blood and team training/bonding camps a la HoS. Here's hoping it works out for them.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Its not really that important but...


First game of the season, savage for girls and guys, 39 degree day starting at 6:30 was not late enough.

30 seconds into the point your mouth is dry and throat hurts despite not evening doing 2 laps of the field.

10 minutes into the game a 'spirit time out drinks break' is called and Nick who was complaining about eating too much today runs behind the toilet block.

He comes back red faced and teary looking.

"Did you just have a Chunder?"

He doesnt need to say anything. He gives a pained nod and walks onto the line again.

It took a little while but Mac figured out Friskees kryptonite... any sort of zone. Gotta stop doing those shitty high backhands. they dont work as well as I think they will. Threw a Callahn, luckily it wasnt counted (thanks to NSL rules? that or Tigers excellent negotiation skills)

We lost that game to Mac unfortunately. My personal highlight was when I threw probably the 3rd or 4th throw that should have been turned but ended up being mac'd to catch/score (including a huck that Rory touched about 10m from me only to have it mac'd to my original target Nick in the endzone) and Yoann pointed to me (after another lucky assist) and looked me straight in the eye: "You are so lucky."

If I don't get drafted for div 1 I will be joining Evan and some friends on the UNSW div 3 team. Got to play with them tonight and was really happy at how much less pressure there is to perform. I still played my best, but was having a lot more fun than in some other games (well a different sort of fun).

I was disturbed today when my sister said it was 30 inside... and it felt cool in here compared to otuside.

I think that southerly is kicking in... shame my house is a god damn oven.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Wanda June!

It's a widely recognised fact that the Australian ultimate community is bored with standard tournament formats. Hats? Bah. Surf and turf? Humbug. Fantasy pairs? Don't get me started.

What we need is a hat-ish tournament, where all the different months battle it off against one another.

I tried doing this whole list to a pre-2009 uni games standard - max 16 on the roster - but that got too hard and uneven, so now it's down to starting 7's.


Tom Brennan
Alex Britten-Jones
Lee Baker
Rueben Berg

Megan Gamble
Joy Lee
Cath Matthews


Alex Baume
Tim Hordern
Sam Smith
Brett "Sweet As" Middleton

Liz Edye
Greta Hunt
Heather Smith


Nick Dowle
Owen Shepherd
Peter Blakeley

Lisa McGinnigle
Erin Wallis
Blair Sheard


Andrew Moroney
Mike Baker
Angus Keenan
Chris Lavis

Rebecca Carman
Mel Gangemi
Isobel McAuley


Mike Neild
Kendall Thorn
Abra Garfield
Chris Freise

Ellie Sparke
Fee Macrae
Anna Kaineder


Calan Spielman
Matt Hill
Matthew Oswald
Joe Leung


Ash Martens
Tania King
Rachel Grindlay


Dan Rule
Tarrant Meehan
Chris 'Boo Boo' Stephens
Phil White

Loren Viswalingam
Sarah Hammer
Lyra Meehan


Rory Connell
Jonathan Potts
Lachlan Gregory
Jimmy Tod-Hill

Clare Hussey
Ju Birchall
Diana Worman


Seb Barr
Matt Faulkner
Ewan Wymer
Malcolm Green

Nikki Shires
Carol Seeto
Gaby Melo


Matt Dowle
Ant Dowle
Julian Sacre
Stephen 'Cleetus' Johnson

Cat Phillips
Nat Chinn
Yvonne Shepherd


Ken Shepherd
Warwick Shepherd
Tom Tulett
Jake Angelovich

Keah Molomby
Nicky Smith
Clare Gavin


Mark Evans
Mike Tarn
Chris Hill
Alistair Don

Molly Young
Tiffany Mann
Meagan Carraro

What stuck out to me is, despite some months having a far broader pool to choose from, essentially all these teams are competitive with one another. There are a few slightly weaker teams in February, October and December, as well as a few stand outs in January, March and May. I am also missing a few big names - most likely because we aren't friends on Facebook.


Sunday, October 4, 2009


While we wait patiently for Hobart it is time to look back on the tournament that was.

A Hard Year

The difference between AUG08 and AUG09 was pretty unreal. In Melbourne last year, the final was basically written in stone between FU and USYD as no other teams could reliably knock one of those two out. All of the semi-finals this year were tight games, as was the final itself.

And it didn't stop there - with the exception of Griffith (who still managed to take Melbourne to universe point, in one of the most exciting matches of the whole tournament!) there were no easy games for any teams. Macquarie, who finished 10th, traded points with eventual 4th-placers Flinders, took a Callahan to go up against Newcastle (5th) and made Ballarat (6th) work for every goal they scored. So the competition was much, much harder this time around, which is the perfect segue into this next bit:

Two Divisions

This year was the first year that ultimate embraced two divisions at AUG. There was a lot of furore about the change, and a lot of it was negative, but the resultant calibre of Division 1, as well as the amount of tight games offered to (most) Division 2 teams, proves that the system is capable of enhancing the integrity of the competition.

The two division structure does need work. Too much changes from year to year (contrast UQ's performance over the last two years) to have seeding or composition of Division 1 dependant wholly on last year's results. This year, things worked out, mostly, although it remains to be seen how much room to move AUS will be willing to give the ultimate community in coming years.

The Draw

The draw was nice. The TOC did a good job with the spastic AUS seeds they were handed, and everyone had an 11am start after the first night's party. My one gripe with the draw was that, in an effort to have less games overall, the repechage, or power pool play, had results from the first round of scores carried over from the first round of scores. Macquarie lost to UWA in their first game of the tournament, so in the repechage we didn't play UWA again, meaning we had to win against both Ballarat and Newcastle to stay in the running.

To be completely honest, I really wouldn't mind this - draws are always imperfect, and anyone who whines about them should have just won all their games to begin with - except for the fact that repechage comes from French, means 'second chance' and ironically did not give a second chance for any teams to have a rematch.


Things are looking promising for this event. Piers Truter was in full notebook mode, scouring the the fields for talent, and found a lot. Andrew Jackson, known to the world as AJ from FU, showed that he can do things that aren't getting layout blocks on Chilly players by controlling the ANU offence all week. UTS, in their hordes innumerable, have a solid player base of tall, fast, athletic runners in Ashley Symons, Evan Sieff and Martin Forrest. Tom proved his fitness by playing every point of every game for Griffith and still being effective by the last day. John McNaughton had to amputate one arm halfway through the final and still managed to catch the last goal in universe point. I'd say things are looking good.

Some Tweaks

The wind was ridiculous all week, so it was good fun to see how teams adjusted.

UWA in particular impressed me by running all their women at the front of their pommy zone (on the mark, points of the wall) and having their men play both wings and deep. The off-points in the wall poached on the dump, leaving very difficult cross-field breaks or floaty swill to their aforementioned dudes the only options for a lot of the time.

Sydney University whipped out the old 'standard zone with assassination' against UQ, with mixed results. Largely, I saw them assassinate John McNaughton for being too effective at shredding their zone, and largely I saw him do what very few assassinated players do against a standard, which is remove his defender from the short deep space to create unguarded options for the wing/deeps. Leaving Loren on the mark to try and not to let aL, Piers, Will Churchill and Julian Sacre do whatever they wanted with the disc was another thing entirely.

Many teams are still stuck in the 'it's windy, let's play zone no matter what' mindset. Playing man defence when the opposition have to go upwind can be just as, if not more, effective, especially when your aim is purely to force a turn as close to your attacking endzone as possible. Griffith and UTS were the only teams to do this consistently that Macquarie played.

AUG 2010

Perth is the venue for next year, and I really don't think that it will be a successful year for university ultimate - the cost of flights coupled with the already ludicrous university packages will deter many, and the lure of U19's, WUCC and U23's will sap at the player base of those frisbee-obsessed enough to splurge on flights there anyway. Here's hoping, though. The Perth kids come out every year and deserve to have a quality tournament on their own grounds every once in a while.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Known Unknowns

So, the big news from the USYD party boat is that Calan will not be playing AUG this year. While I will admit I am sketchy on the details, apparently he has severe glandular fever and is in absolutely no state to play (so, Monash players, don't spend all uni games saying he should have 'hardened up', because he's a nice guy and he doesn't deserve the smack talk - seriously Monash, why are you guys such jerks?).

Dave Rountree and Alex Semfel are carrying injuries, and as far as I can tell, none of USYD's most excellent reserve players, Aki Lafllin, Philip Yates and Vivek Doshi, are committed to attending AUG, so this basically isn't great for USYD. I hate to buy into this cult of personality that seems to have sprung up around Calan - I don't personally think he would have provided much of a challenge to Alec Deslandes or Joel Pillar if he had been at AUG in 2008, although needless to say he has vastly improved as a player since then - but I'm sure there will be jibes directed at Brett Latham about this issue, I just hope he doesn't take them to heart.

Anyway. All of this got me thinking about uncontrollable events, and how you can adjust to them as a team, or as a player.


As above. It's bad enough if you get a dedicated role-filler out for the tourney due to a serious injury - as the case may be for Monash this year, with Cleetus out (get well soon Cleetus) - but losing a playmaker is devastating. The sensible way to deal with this is to utilise the player (especially if they're experienced) in a non-playing coach role, or as a dedicated sideliner. Make no mistake - if a player is a good sideline talker, concise, direct and audible, they can get you more blocks than Lego.

The non-sensible thing (at least from an injury management perspective) is to jerry-rig the injured athlete to a state where they can nut out a few points, usually on offence, usually handling. When there's a lot at stake, this approach can work, as it did for Owen and HOS this year at Nationals.

Of course, if an injury isn't so severe that it takes a player out of action entirely, but does effect their game, the onus is on the player to do a lot of things they're not used to (ice, stretch) to make the injury less of an issue.


Anybody who played Nationals in 2008, or NSW Mixed Regionals in 2009, or Melbourne Hat 2008, or [insert tournament with atrocious weather conditions, be it wind or rain] will know that there are some games where the weather plays an unfairly important role in determining the victor.

As a team it can be hard to adjust - there is only so much throwing you can do on the sideline improve accuracy in wind or rain - especially if you lack solid handlers. The benefit to zone defences, and teams that have practiced them, is notable.

So what can you do? Win the toss, for one. Positional play becomes important in wind, as does forcing flick options once conditions become wet. Reeling out junk defences - or conversely, reining them in, if all you're doing is letting their three Worlds-level handlers work it calmly up the field - are all options.

There's also another bit about weather, which has nothing to do with wind or rain, and that's climate shock. Taswegians playing in Perth have a substantial fish-out-of-water factor, and it's up to them (or Brisbanites playing in Canberra in winter, etc) to find some measure of comfort, whether it's donning thermals or drinking water like it's going out of fashion.

The Opposition

This is probably the most important of the 'known unknowns'. A wise man (who I think was Ken Shepherd) once said:

See them? That's the opposition. This is us. And the thing is, none of us have any control over what they play, or how well they play it. The only thing we're in control of is ourselves, and there is nothing stopping all of us from playing the best we can here tonight.
The key point to take from this is, your team won't be able to exert any control over how well their opponents play. In the Victorian Mixed Regional Championships just past, Tribe by all accounts did a great job of capitalising over a cranky Cranky, a team who was not playing their best ultimate, by any stretch of the imagination.

There are no magic bullets to this one - or if there were, and I had them, I would be raking in the dough working for the AIS, not fumbling through a uni degree working at a pizza joint and running a sneaky ultimate blog on the side.

The best you can do is to do the best you can do, as players and as a team.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's The Fucking Catalina Wine Mixer

AUG 09. Let's do this.

The teams:

Sydney University

This is the team that other universities wish they had. USYD have a much stronger male line up this year - while they are missing Alex Baume's cutting prowess, they managed to pick Calan this time, which has given them a much-needed tall, fast, athletic receiver who can also throw and maybe defend Alec. Their girls line would be a tad weaker - having lost Tara Carraro and Heather Smith - were it not for quite handy pick ups in Sarah Crossie and Maya Mileck.

Will they live up to their potential and take home the gold? Who knows? They suffered last year from some tactical errors (no Calan, relying on pommy zone to generate turns when it really really wasn't) and somehow managed to turn most of the other universities against them. If they don't implode, they will medal.

Oh. And their coach is apparently ditching them for her wedding rehearsals from Thursday onwards. Tough break.


This is another pretty broad team - perhaps lacking the Nationals/Worlds experience of USYD, but most of their players I recognise from previous university campaigns if not tussles against I-Beam. They've lost a potent receiver in Dave Jarrott, and it will be interesting to see how their game changes. As far as their girls line goes, they've lost some dead weight with Daniel Clenton being unable to afford the trip, but will have the usual Sugar Mag connections between Liz Dodd, Ellie Sparke and Tegan Sneddon - although it doesn't look like they'll have much more than that.

I think bronze is a good final placing for these guys. Ellie is carrying injuries into the tournament, and they're just lacking in the star power the other semi-finalists are packing.


Ah, what could have been - UTS are probably the club with the most potential in university ultimate, but one year on, they're still falling short of the mark. Focusing a lot on the 'fun' aspects of ultimate (social leagues, team parties) has done wonders for recruitment and retention of their player base, but they are struggling to produce any stand-out names. Picking up Antonia Melo and Rachel Grindlay has helped fill the girl-handler void, but it may be a case of too little, too late.


Is John McNaughton's AFDA number really 1753? Wow - he really joined early.

As a list of names, this is certainly impressive. They didn't really need much more than Julian Sacre and John to make semi's, but they've also got Alistair Don and Piers Truter. As far as females go, Blair, Bree and Megan Barnes are all players who can expect to win most match-ups at a university level, although there seem to be a lot of very high AFDA numbers in their ranks - could mean weak links, could mean American imports.

There are going to be very few teams that can stop UQ's big names from doing whatever they want. Barring freak injuries, Harold Holt-style disappearances during lunchtime swims or Al and Piers running out of strapping tape, this team should make the final.


The lack of Alec and Erin could have spelt their downfall (picture a confused Joel Pillar drawing team strategies on a whiteboard and giving up in frustration because 'huck to Alec' and 'one-two with Alec' aren't allowed) but they picked up Brett Middleton, who sources say is 'all right. A bit flat chested, but all right'. Flinders aren't really a one trick pony. Sean Lace, Scott Middleton and Ben Foley all add a bit of depth to the side, although Sarah Pillar may struggle to hold the girl's side together all on her lonesome. Smallish roster, too.

Semi-finalists for sure, the rest is up to them.


So Dan Rule and Timill have made a pretty decent Opens team, realised only too late that the format of AUG is mixed, it should be interesting to see how that works out for them. To be fair, Amanda Eastwood is a great player, and she'll have Greta backing her up. Also, I'm assuming Sarah Talbot is Simon's sister, or wife, or possibly sister-wife. I wonder if she's good looking.


Having lost the Elder Eley and Glen "Chook" Fowles will hurt them, for sure. Who is going to throw swill at Kendall Thorn? They've picked up Peter Eley, who will surely get some blocks and promptly throw it away. Let's be honest: UWA are a wildcard, pure and simple. The only thing anyone knows for certain is they're bound to be good value, both on the field and off. Should be interesting to see the WA women's contingent (S-J Robinson, Danya Meakins) assert themselves after a strong Nationals campaign.


Expect improvised junk defences, silly pivots and some surprises from this team. Seeded 12th from 12 in division one, I can see this team beating their seed on the strength of their one good handler and his ability to tailor an entire team around his skillset. Apparently they have a Tiina Booth-tutelaged American import, as well, and I expect they'll give the party a pretty good showing.


The possible loss of Stephen Johnson to ACL damage really does put a dampener on this team, who already had to deal with an injured Sebastian Barr. This team has a lot of proven talent, as their convincing title at Southerns shows. Hopefully this year they have less games decided by universe point - I think last year they had four or five. Pre-bad news, this team had a sure place in the final of AUG, and now I'm sure they'll be able to get there, but they'll all have to work that little bit harder. Looking forward to seeing them in action.


Such great heights! We are carrying a lot of injuries into this campaign. The men are mostly B-grade Fakulti players (myself, Rory, Nathan Wong, Yoann) and beginners, the women are Gamble, Monica Chang and then the usual suspects and beginners. A great team when playing well and gelling together, nonetheless I think our hopes at a medal are pretty slim. Massive squad though. Also, check out where we're staying!

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Gong Show

This weekend was NSW Mixed Championships, in Wollongong.

The real winner of the tournament, just as it was last year at Nationals and Melbourne Hat, was the weather.

This was the first time I'd ever played with Abra, and hearing his particular brand of leadership and inspiration first-hand was pretty sweet - he's got a substantial background in sports psychology, and his constant mantra for the weekend was to forget about the uncontrollables (the wind) and focus on what we could change - namely, our own game.*

Obviously, though, in conditions like the ones we had - consistently strong wind, with bursts of stronger gusts from all directions - the ultimate degenerated and came down to which team could reliably throw upwind. Spider-Pig, with three of the ten people in NSW capable of throwing forward that afternoon - Pottsy, Kenny and Pete Gardner - triumphed over a pretty valiant effort by Pie Wagon.

It was interesting to see how different teams adapted, both offensively and defensively, to conditions. Positional play became important, so roller pulls and huck and zone got pulled out by nearly everyone. There were a good few teams still playing man defence, which worked fairly well because it takes away the 1-2 undefended passes zone defences traditionally give an offence.

Offensively, again, there was a lot of hucking to gain ground, a lot of messy ultimate. Spider-Pig had some great fast break connections from Pottsy to Marcus Hayward before the defense could set. In the final, Pie Wagon used a lot of break throws into defender-less space, and some very competent female handlers to have threatening targets downfield against a zone.

So that's that, really. I'll write more as I learn it.

*He had another mantra, but it was mainly about how Fakulti had ruined whatever potential Mark and I might once have shown.