It’s only been two days and I’m already fully caught up in the U24 fever. It could be something about the hype plays, the shock results or the fervent honesty with which Aussie players and teams are communicating with fans back home.
Then again, perhaps I just can’t get enough friz.
Whatever your reason, tonight will be a big one for all Aussie fans. As pool play draws to a close in Heidelberg and power pools and bracket play start to become clearer, we are to be treated to an exciting double header on the streams tonight! Here’s the run of play:
AUS v ITALY (Men): 9pm AEST (1pm local) – via the Ultiworld YouTube Channel
AUS v SINGAPORE (Mixed): 11pm AEST (3pm local) – via the Ultiworld YouTube Channel
While neither game is campaign-ending, both will have serious implications for the path of our home town heroes through power pools and bracket play. So here’s a quick 101 on what to expect from the games, who to look out for and what the results could mean for the Goannas and Bluebottles.
Men’s – AUS vs ITA
This will be a statement game for the Goannas. The Aussie U24 men’s team has seen an expected level of success so far. They’ve taken strong victories over Ireland by 3 points, New Zealand by 4 and Switzerland by 6, but have yet to show that they can hang with the big dogs. While a 15-12 loss to Canada is nothing to sniff at, especially for this team, the Goannas were never up in that game and Canada finished with a cool hold to close the game. Encouragingly for our entertainment tonight and the boys in green n gold, Italy suffered a similar fate, going down to Canada 13-15. A win (obviously) or even a close loss (universe or 2 point) would lend a legitimacy that Australia is here to hang in the men’s division. Along with this comes the added benefit of buoyed confidence for our boys going into quarters, an element that can make or break teams under pressure.
We’ve only been treated to one streamed game from the Goannas so far, but based on that glimpse it seems they are following closely in the footsteps of their 2018 brethren. Speculative option-taking and astounding grabs are plentiful. Their offense looks most comfortable with Jonah Malenfant behind the disc and speedsters, Scott Perry and Mark ‘McLovin’ McLeay upfield making the plays. While the Goannas’ army of rabid defenders definitely deserves some praise in their results so far, it’s their offensive execution that will decide this game. If they can keep their cool, break the mark with confidence and hit their numerous fast receivers WHEN ITS ON, we could get the result we’re hoping for.
As mentioned before, Italy have seen similar results to Australia across all their games. Losing to Canada but beating NZ and Switzerland by a few, and China by a lot. The Italian U24 program stamped it’s mark on the world when they played unexpectedly out of their minds in the 2018 grand final against USA. If you have watched it already, I suggest you do to get in the mood for tonight. The Italians play a fast and brazen game, grounded in precise fundamentals and a great chemistry between players who seem to have grown up playing together. It’s the same players that are going to be the key difference for Italy this time. Their current stat leaders in Luffi, Tognetti and Angela are all repeat appearances and shutting these guys down will be a real challenge. Outside of that, Italy loves the inside break, something that I’m sure Goannas coach Kyal Oh is planning on countering.
Currently 4th in the pool, a result either way will still see Australia stay in the top 4 in Pool D. That being said, 4th is far from the ideal position as that lines up a quarter final against USA. A 3rd place finish is probably ideal for the Goannas, but it’s so hard to predict as none of the other top four teams have played Belgium yet who have comfortably won all their games so far (against lower end teams). Very exciting times for the remaining pool play games.
Mixed – AUS vs SGP
Ah Bluebottles, could you not have done us all a solid and just waltzed through pool play as predicted? Alas no, the Bottles have kept things spicy for viewers back home, suffering a shock loss to Poland yesterday. Australia kept it tight until halftime, going down 6-8 into the break. However out of half Poland strung together three breaks in a row before standouts Kya Wiya and Ava Mueller stemmed the bleeding. Despite clawing back a few breaks, it was too little too late for Australia, losing that game 13-11. Given that Singapore beat Poland 15-5, this game tonight could be very challenging for the Bluebottles. From what I can gather, Australia did not have an answer for the boys on Poland who cemented the handler core and pulled down everything in the endzone.
Unfortunately, we have not had the chance to see the Bottles play on stream yet, so my limited understanding of their play so far is based purely speculation and gossip. From what we saw back home, they had all the pieces for success, just waiting for it all to come together. I’m hopeful that we’ll see this realisation tonight. If you give a toss about stats, it’s looking like Sydney-siders, Dennis Tran and Kya Wiya are lighting it up out there. I played with Kya on Sydney Suns and she’s the real deal after only like 2 years of experience (maybe less?). Against a team like Singapore who are unlikely to have many tall women, she could be a difference maker tonight for Australia.
Singapore has always played a disciplined, but fast and punishing style of Ultimate, drawing inspiration from the Japanese small-ball playbook. Daryl Ho, Raphael Soh, and Boon Hui are three boys to keep an eye out for and are all returning players from U24's in Australia. While Iris Lin, Cynthia Chia, and Hui Wen Too are particular standouts amongst their women. This team plays a lot of controlled, fast, movement amongst handlers waiting for the right opportunity to take the safe shot through the middle or look for their hard running receivers - with the inside flick being one of Singapore's strongest attributes. Interestingly, Singapore has little to no wind, ever. So their play goes down the drain in the face of anything over 10kms an hour. However, with winds only predicted to reach a pleasant max of 6kms/hr, it’s unlikely to be the deciding factor in this match up.
Pending a game against Ireland which will get underway soon, the Bottles should be progressing to power pools either way. That being said, as results carry over into power pools and loss against Singapore will definitely hurt their run into quarters. At the moment, it’s looking like they’ll be up against Japan, Sweden and Colombia in that pool. Australia could beat any of those sides on a good day, but carrying a 0-2 record into that power pool just adds unnecessary pressure and could hurt their eventual standings in the quarters.