Welcome to the AUL predictions from people you might know, about people you probably know, and that likely know no more than you!
Introducing 5 of Australia’s Ultimate Experts* to give us an insight into the Australian Ultimate League 2019. They have last year's stats, this year's trades and a whole host of personal (east coast) bias with which to make questionable predictions.
Granted, you could get a more comprehensive summary of the league’s off-season trades on the AUL website but if you enjoy clean, wholesome content you wouldn’t have clicked on this link. *by our own definition.
So let’s go team by team.
Simon Talbot: So I have a confession to make - I only watched about 18 minutes of the AUL last year, and about 14 of them were just that clip of Chris Kaliviotis getting hit in the face on continuous loop. But this year I’m all in, largely out of intrigue around the “best-of-three” format. And if the Adam Cole versus Johnny Gargano 2-Out-Of-3-Falls match at WWE NXT Takeover Toronto a couple of weeks ago taught me anything, it’s that this format ought to give us plenty of nail biting moments, dramatic finishes, and competitors being thrown through tables.
Re: Adelaide, for mine, the measure of a team is their depth - who is going to hold the defence up after Tom Deller boosts the disc into Port Phillip Bay again?
Ben Powlay: After an underwhelming season of almosts in 2018, can this high visibility orange machine improve? Most definitely! Will that lead to a better final result? Probably not! I think lacking experienced depth and a sure set of hands will let them down in crunch times.. tip them to record one win this year, with a few more close to call! Outcome: 6th
Joe Hoppe: After thanking their lucky stars there isn’t a promotion/relegation system in the AUL, Adelaide have been busy in the transfer market. This team has athleticism to burn and have paired this with getting rid of the league's leading assist thrower… If blocks, bids and mad grabs could win games alone, Deller, Yu, Dunmall and Mcdonald would win the league hands down. As the game stands, I think they will still fall short of the Dragons’ first AUL victory.
Sarah Whitehouse: The Dragon’s could be the biggest surprise packets of the AUL. Sally Yu is going to fly all over the field and remind us all why she was last year’s number 1 in the draft and there will be scales of highlights produced by Tom Deller. However, I’m not convinced that the Dragons are going to be able to breathe enough fire to get over the line in any of their games. Easy calls - Kim Spragg to be a safe set of hands every game and Michaela Dunmall to never give up on a disc.
Laura Manescu: With some interesting roster combos this season it’s hard to know how some of these teams are going to perform. The Perth Power line-up is one I’m keen to see out on the field. They have a lot of athleticism and mongrel on their line, but a combination of players who might hit or miss on game day depending how the dynamics come together. Alex Shepherd is my pick for AUL show pony, hunting stats and glory faster than I hunt out the Messina specials in Summer.
Joe Hoppe: Remember last year when they took Flames to universe point and Chris Kaliviotis’s face was all that kept the Flames from losing their only game all season? Inconsistency was the bane of this team and, purely due to where they’re from, I can’t see that changing. The injection of Ryan, Oh and Copland will mean even more big plays, which I’m not entirely sure is what they needed.
Sarah Whitehouse: On paper, Perth is a powerhouse but I’m predicting that we will see a very different (and much better team) after a couple of games together. With the electric Alex Shepherd and Eunice Cheung in the cutting space, they are going to surge the competition, whilst Ash McInnes is a block machine. This explosive team would be my championship tip if they just did a reverse on the draw (could someone out there organise that for me?)
Ben Powlay: Expect huge plays but huge turnovers as well, a fantasy managers nightmare, hopefully the talented coaches in Halden and Yuen can harness the “fun”. If you were to go on household names, and some of the nicest people in the game, then Perth would win hands down, but fame and niceness don’t win golds, outcome: 4th
Simon Talbot: Two of my favourite players to watch - Kyal Oh and Annie Jessop - will be working hard behind the disc to create openings for long shots, and their tall targets Timocles Copland and Simone Ryan will definitely attract the key defenders. But I think that other teams will have them worked out pretty quickly. The Power coaches will need to have some pretty solid plans B, C and D to get the Ws.
Ben Powlay: Who? Oh yeah, the team in green or beige. Dressed how they played last season, solid and non-offensive but not the talk of the dinner party. But hold up, this team has probably the best recruitment and offseason out of all the AUL. They have kept the hugely influential Adelaide Dennis, Hannah Monty, and Abbie Dawson and juiced it right up there with Cath O’Neill, and one of the most dominant players in Europe right now in Rachel Turton. Look, this might not be a pretty year for the Freeze, it’ll certainly become one to brightly paint your walls with. Outcome: 5th with upsets both ways.
Joe Hoppe: Canberra Freeze are my dark horse for the tournament. More experience than you could poke a stick at and dangerously swift receivers in Adelaide Dennis, Abbie Dawson, Hannah Monty and Scott Perry. Needs more Bill Foreman but nobody is perfect. Really looking forward to a Davies, Lavis matchup at some stage too.
Sarah Whitehouse: Canberra is chilly and that’s my prediction of how they are going to use the disc all season. I’m keen to see a second season of Calan Spielman icing his competition in the air. Look out for Scott Perry - a wise woman once said that if you place a disc anywhere on a field where he is, he will get that disc before it hits the ground. Ultimately I think Canberra might be ‘downhill skiers’ and peak at the end of their run.
Simon Talbot: Canberra’s roster should do pretty well at the Worlds Masters Ultimate Championships in Queensland this year and the AUL season will be a good lead-in for them. From the looks of it the Freeze combine this year consisted only of Lorna Barr holding a stopwatch - this team is fast. If Hannah Monty isn’t on your fantasy team then why are you even bothering?
Simon Talbot: If I were to grade the teams on flashiest disc skills, then Brisbane are the clear numero uno. Smith, Mueller, Simpson, McNaughton and Matzuka will make the tough throws look easy, making it hard for defences to cut down the available field space and have to cover the whole paddock. Getting the disc off the other team will be their big challenge.
Ben Powlay: The returning core is solid, experienced together, and the balance just feels right. Especially when you factor in the additions of multidimensional assets of Rosa Wang and Rachel Parsons boosting the already stupidly strong female cohort. Expect this team to show a variety of looks from coach Yew Eng Ng’s armoury. This writers’ top tip for champions.
Laura Manescu: I’m hanging out for some upsets and inconsistencies through the rounds, including Perth Power to play out of their skin and overpower the depth of the Brisbane Breakers’ roster, and the Sydney Suns to fall to the Breakers during Round 2. The Suns and Breakers are also my picks for the final showdown, with my money on the Suns to bring it home in a tight final.
Sarah Whitehouse: Possibly my ‘Up Here In The North’ bias but I’m tipping Brissie to wash out over the competition like some perfect barrel wave whilst they surf onto the Grand Final. (This was my best beach pun...I’m sorry). Armed with new recruit (and my no.1 fantasy pick) Ava Mueller, I see Brisbane filling up the highlights real with a lot of long and strong plays. Easy calls - Liam Grimmond to get a ridiculous layout (or 5), John McNaughton and Kat Smith to put them in the endzone and Lyra Meehan to make nothing but good choices.
Sarah Whitehouse: I have Sydney leading the pack right into some silverware. I predict the luscious locks of Holly Reeve to scorch the competition with nothing but speed and skills to make me fangirl all day long. I’m not sure how any fairness rules let the Suns pick up Tom Rogacki, but he’s going to burn the competition with all these wicked receivers at his disposal. I can just tell that Dani Alexander and Rosie Dawson are going to make me squeal with excitement over their plays.
Ben Powlay: Ignoring the addition of Alex Ladomatos, arguably the best Australian player right now, Suns are keeping the majority of the finals team from last year. Which is then bolstered by deep threat Dave Andrews and, something Melbourne and Sydney may come to rue, the world-class veteran Tom Rogacki. Exciting talents in Holly Reeve and Kya Wiya can really cause defensive sets problems. Can they iron out the mistakes and self burden that cost them last year? And why does Ash Evans have A.Evans on his shirt while Mark Evans just has Evans?
Laura Manescu: My money is on Rosie Dawson to earn some cheeky blocks for her team and pick up a few extra fantasy points. Keep an eye on Kya Wiya (seriously she’s so young and so talented).
Simon Talbot: Most of the off season attention was around Tom Rogacki abandoning everything he has ever stood for as an ultimate player and joining a Sydney-based team. Throw him in with plenty of other players that love to hang around the disc - like Mark Evans, Holly Reeve, Sarah Wentworth and Alex Ladomatos and you’ve got potential to end up with many seagulls but no chips. The challenge for Kylie O’Brien and Owen Shepherd will be managing who does what and when.
Joe Hoppe: Rosie Dawson was my first pick for the AUL fantasy and for good reason, she is a pure weapon. I also slotted in the big man himself, Tom Rogacki, who is my pick to make the Flames very certain that they regret dropping him. Expect some spice in that game. Ash Evans could easily top score this tournament too #wildcard.
Joe Hoppe: I am all for big rebuilds in squads. But coming off the back of a gold medal isn’t what I would call a prime time to drastically alter your team (but then there’s a reason I’m typing this and not coaching). Seeing 3.5 Crocs leave with their combined 22 blocks, 36 assists and 22 goals is not going to go unnoticed. In fact, it’s going to HURT. BADLY. The Flames have recruited well but I'm not sure it's going to be enough.
Sarah Whitehouse: Currently tipping my hometown heroes the Melbourne Flames to get within a fire poker of the finals but miss out on that final win against Brisbane. I’m keen to see newcomer Josh De Bell light it up on the big stage here at the AUL. Also have a sneaky suspicion that the fiery Mikhaila Dignam is going to smoke out even the most experienced players. I expect Georgia Egan-Griffiths to create new fans all over the country and Melbourne to be the most cohesive unit on the field. It’s hard to see them losing in anything more than a nail biter.
Laura Manescu: Melbourne Flames boast an intimidating female line-up, which I’m picking to outclass their men. #playlikeagirl
Simon Talbot: Sure, they welcome in some amazing talent like Chris Stoddard, Hannah Mangan, Josh de Bell and Simar Dhaliwal that will have them playing some aesthetically pleasing ultimate. But I’m not confident they will be able to consistently put other teams down for consecutive sets.
Ben Powlay: Current Champions… but I don’t think they have it in them to go again. New youth recruit in Simar Dhaliwal and experienced Rob Andrews are great additions, but in this league depth is royalty and I think that’s where they lack. Expect some great chemistry, tough defensive sets, and great understanding between them all, but a disappointing season and a 3rd place prediction from me.