27 April 2012

A review of the 2012 Australian Ultimate Championships

The 2012 Australian Ultimate Championships have been run and won.

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.
My club, Heads of State, took out 3rd and 12th place with our two teams, Burgundy and White.

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
Heads of State were able to play on it twice, and the standard of ultimate improves several notches when you can turn on a dime. I will always sacrifice more to play on high quality turf.
 
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.

2 comments:

  1. Good write-up. I'd forgotten you had a blog ;) You don't tweet updates?
    I wouldn't say Sand Dunes 'flopped' in the semi. We lost in cyclonic conditions to the eventual champions - who, according to talk we heard, trained 23 times a week since 1997 (or something). A lot of that was Worlds training, but I'm pretty sure they have many more Worlds players than we do. So well done to Honey for beating Dunes - only half of whom trained every week or two in the month prior to Nats. Honey are very deserved winners!

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  2. Perhaps I need a better word than "flopped".

    You guys toppled Factory, right? And then beat a very good Kaos team for bronze. You had great games - except that semi. I had high expectations of Sand Dunes, and was surprised to see you trailing 10-3 (?) during the semi. As was Nikki, who I talked to briefly during the game.

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