On field, Aussie Nationals had impressive depth in the open and womens' divisions.
Plunder met Pillage in the open final as some expected, in a game spoilt by wind and lack of focus. Plunder triumphed in a battle between the two Colony teams. However, all their previous games confirmed their strength, each going undefeated with the exception of Plunder losing their match-up in the power pools to Pillage.
|Bronze medal for AUC 2012.|
Perennial powerhouse Fyshwick United (ACT) took 4th, while New Zealand were 5th (though disappointed with losing to Heads of State in the quarterfinal in golden point). New Zealand take many things from this tournament in their lead up to Worlds in July.
Firestorm (Queensland), Sublime (Western Australia) and I-Beam (Newcastle, NSW) rounded out the top 8. Chilly (Victoria) defeated the Australian Masters team for 9th - a poetic occasion as many players from both teams were in the Chilly team that came 2nd last year. The Masters would have been disappointed with their final placing compared to their 2nd place at the BCI tournament only 3 weeks prior. It was an indicator of the parity and depth.
On the women's side, the final was an all Victorian affair. Honey trailed 5-1 to Team Box early. The depth of athleticism and throwing from Team Box seemed destined to carry them to a win over Honey as has happened many times in the last five years between the two clubs.
Yet Kelli, then Mama, then Steph, then Kerry, then Cath, took charge. Accompanied by their hard-running teammates they outmuscled Team Box in a gusty final full of gambling hucks. More catches (by O and D) seemed to be made than in the open final. Honey went on their own 5-1 run, and finally prevailed by 2 points. An amazing finish for a team that has grown and grown over the years with player development and a strong work ethic.
Sand Dunes (NSW) took 3rd over Kaos (Perth, Western Australia) after Sand Dunes flopped in their semi final. Kaos seem to be on a similar path to Honey, impressing people this year with a first appearance in the semifinals.
Factory (ACT), Wildcard Bellagio (Sydney, NSW) and New Zealand also finished in the top eight.
Split this year into two equal teams, Wildcard couldn't make it back to the final. Factory also fell short of returning to the final.
Australian ultimate evolves as the years tick on: scoop passes, physically holding your space on defence and new variations of zones are widespread now. The top open teams regularly have structures or lines that depend on whether they are pulling or receiving, though only some clubs have strict O and D lines. None of these approaches were visible 7 or 8 years ago.
Offence is improving - the Heads of State vs I-Beam showcase game ended with around 14 consecutive offence scores, despite hard working defence. As in North American ultimate, the progress of a game is now discussed in terms of how many breaks are given up or earnt.
It was pleasing to see several instances of calls being discussed then withdrawn or not contested. For instance, Pete Gardner withdrew a receiving foul in the last minutes of the open final.
In terms of organisation, Newcastle were great hosts. All fields except two (due to heavy rain affecting original fields) were in the same venue. The showcase games and finals were played on a picturesque, lush cricket oval in front of a covered grandstand.
|The open final|
Food, draw, volunteers, presentations, schwag and proximity to town were all great. Poor weather and some patchy grass meant fields weren't all fantastic, but all could be laid out on.
Thank you Newcastle Ultimate.