2018 was a year everyone thought would be chalk all the way and while the final was a thriller the result somehow felt inevitable the whole time with the Colony WUCC team going home with the gold. 2019 is shaping to be a much tighter year with quality matches that will have real consequences right from day one. So let’s break it down, team by team for those that want some key background and those hot takes before the action kicks off this week.
Coming into the season this team was getting a lot of hype as the defending silver medalist that no longer had the super team with American imports in between it and a national championship. The problem with such high expectations is that even when you make semis at the two elite tournaments on calendar - BCI and March Madness - it feels like you have under-performed.
Mammoth certainly has the ingredients to go all the way this year, but if and only if they can turn it on at the right time. I have yet to see John McNaughton really impose himself on a game this season and losing Tim McAllister and Sam McGuckin has hurt them. While they have been a team known for their next man up attitude, pieces that big don’t replace themselves and they may have felt that lack of top end class in a universe point loss at BCI to I-Beam. They have replaced one American with another in Jonah Malenfant and also picked up Townsville local Scott Perry to add firepower and pace to their squad. These two Goannas will both need to have huge tournaments to push Mammoth over the top.
Prediction: Semis - they haven’t been able to overcome the semis hurdle to make a final this year and I don’t see them doing it in Townsville.
Coming from a club with a history of pulling together teams that make the Golden State Warriors look short on talent the Elliipsis men come in with the weight of expectation hanging heavy upon them. While their women’s team have an unblemished record on home soil, the men have not had such smooth sailing. For any other first year team inconsistency would be par for the course, but for a club of this pedigree it smells like weakness and a lack of a plan B. In this longer tournament format, the other teams in the division will punish them for it.
This team’s offence is competitive with any other at the tournament but their lack of defensive depth is their vulnerability. If Ellipsis are to go deep in this tournament it will be a lot of long games with minimal breaks which may affect the legs come day four.
Prediction: Quarters - to win at nationals you need to be consistent, and while few teams can stop Cupcake to Rob consistently there will be a few who can do it enough to push them onto their plan B.
If I had to pick a dark horse this year it would be Sublime. The west coasts strong development focus over the past few years is really paying dividends and they came away with the goods in their only east coast showing this season at SMO taking a couple of big scalps in I-Beam and Ellipsis along the way. Much hangs on the fitness of Kyal Oh who has been under an injury cloud for a large portion of the season. His athleticism and leadership will be the difference between Sublime being a quarters match up that no one wants and having to fight it out in consolation play.
Keep an eye out for David Stokes, the Irish u24 import as well as Bennet Carpenter, Josh Higgins and Ryan Kovalevs as they make their div 1 debuts.
Prediction: Quarters - and if Oh is at his explosive best, anything could happen.
Outbreak lose a vet and gain a few others this year. Jonny Warren-White has opted to coach the Outbreak second team while Sammy Ogden and Ben Foley both return after some time off. The team is trying to shift its identity and reputation away from the Joel Pillar dominated era of yester-year but as with any reinvention there are going to be some tough patches along the way. Sean Davis and Brett Middleton will do their best to lead this team but the teams depth and class just won't hold up against the power houses from the east coast.
There will be plenty of big plays from John Brill and Nathan Dignam so they are worth a watch, particularly later in the weekend.
2018 was a rebuilding year that somehow finished with a very respectable sixth at nationals giving this team a lot of hope for big things in 2019. Especially with the return of Andrew Jackson from three years with Clapham and Monambi Wiya being fully fit, there were whispers of ‘semi-final’ floating around the nation's capital. However, fate intervened and Adam Mortimer took a season off, Wiya dislocated his shoulder at BCI and Jackson rolled an ankle picking up with I-Beam at SMO (I’m sure that last story has a moral, but I’ll let the readers figure it out). With injuries playing havoc with the teams offence it is hard to predict what will happen, but removing three elite throwers from your line up is always going to hurt. Jackson may be back at nationals but only in a limited capacity.
They will be augmented by 2016 Dingo Konrad Wallace, however three years away from the game makes it unclear what his impact will be. Expect big things from Ben Mathews-Hunter as he steps up to lead this team with his range of classy throws and big moment composure.
It doesn’t seem fair to say that Colony is having a rebuilding year when they are still fielding two nationally competitive teams, but by their lofty standards, it’s true. With WUCC no longer on their minds, Tullet and Andrews heading southwards and Nield and Petrov out with injuries, the club as a whole is a very different looking place. Nonetheless, while some things come and go, others remain constant. Mark Evans’ aggressive option taking is one of them and along with Gav Moore they are making it happen late in the season for Uprising. A strong win at BCI suggests they are putting it all together and peaking at just the right time.
MacDonald, Revai and their Bluebottle teammates are stepping up as the next generation of leaders on this team and showing they can mix it with the best.
As discussed above, this team doesn’t look like your regular Colony line up but with Alex Ladomatos fresh off a victory among the bright lights of US Nationals you feel like this team can do anything they want when he decides to make it happen. However, they have struggled at tournaments where the competition was consistently tough and Nationals punishes a team for every dropped game so Mutiny will face a tough path through the bracket.
Dave Andrews, Lachie White, Mark Wee, Mark McLeay, Dylan Bennet and Tom Butler are all Goannas this year so if their captains can keep them focusing on the game and not their feet anything could happen.
A team that is fresh off a New Zealand Nationals semi-final defeat at the hand of the Australian Goannas will be coming back across the ditch looking to extract some revenge. With Lauchlan Robertson and Liam Haberfield being their versatile, explosive selves this team will be very good and may surprise a few others. It will be interesting to see if the hot weather affects a team more used to cooler climates.
When word got round that Heads of State had opted to send an A team for the first time in a while it left some other teams trying to act calm while they clenched their fists to hide the quivering. The reality has not lived up to what many feared. Fourth place at SMO and sixth at BCI (admittedly with an incomplete roster) has meant their season has not quite lived up to expectations and with Max Wheeler (good for one to two blocks a game) breaking his hand and Tom Deller struck down with glandular fever, this team may never be quite the fear inspiring team it seemed like it could be.
Despite that, there is plenty of talent here, Seb Barr, Michael Truong, Kalip Liu and Lachlan McDonald are all total ballers in their own way and with a full roster and something to prove, this may well be one of the teams to beat this year.
Prediction: Finals - can’t pick against talent
It just isn’t cricket. It just isn’t Chilly without Tom Rogacki. You may have to see it to believe it but the man who for so long embodied Chilly ultimate will not be taking the field in Townsville for his club. With the club opting to introduce a strict youth policy, many returning players saw themselves on the wrong side of the age cut off. This season has been a massive renewal for the club and one that has had its fair share of ups and downs with varying results across the season but what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger and while Chilly won’t be winning nationals this year, they are laying the foundation for 2020 to be their best season since 2012.
Prediction - Ninals
First orange was the new black and now off field coaching is the new black, as more and more teams embrace the massive benefits on offer. Despite Viv Yuen taking the reins of Bench this year the worrying trend of hemorrhaging gifted players across town to Colony has continued with Alex Gan leaving this year. In his place Fisher Day has stepped up and is making waves but he has big shoes to fill and Bench will be fighting an uphill battle to get out of their pool and into bracket play.
Zac Chodos will still be deadly with the disc and Andy Wood will still be a big target but it will be hard going for Bench in 2019.
Predictions: Ninals - interesting to note they are just plain old ‘Bench Ultimate’ this year
The tale of two cities has been a great read this year and the final chapter might be better still. Take a Newcastle spine of old men with silky skills like Ryan Davies, Chris Stoddard, Tim Lavis and Chris Hill and add the muscles and depth of Wollongong and all of a sudden you have a seriously good team that has been going toe-to-toe with the elite all season long. By adding some serious defensive credibility this season, this team has now the got the full package to go with its always crisp offence.
They are a team you hate but somehow hate just a little bit less than everyone else so they end up being the crowd favourite. I-Beam will be trying hard to give the crowd what they want.
Prediction: Semis - but they will be the semi opponent no one wants.