Over 400 players in 24 teams are converging on Hamilton this weekend for the 2018 New Zealand Mixed Ultimate Championships. With the competition approaching quickly on the horizon it is time to preview the teams and find out what we can look forward to over the three days of action.
Disclaimer: As there are few warm up tournaments currently in place in NZ, the majority of this write is based on the team lists on Ultimate Central and past year’s results. The new “Hidden By User” function has allowed a lot of mystery to remain.
The Two Favourites
First mention goes to the defending champions, Canelé, who bring the Australian flavour of big ball frisbee from NSW. Look out for the talented handlers of Mitchell Sutton, Robert Dehollander and Alicia Handley directing play and hitting the athletic Tim Hayes and Hannah Monty to name a few. Notable Kiwi pick ups Esther Liong and Hana Christenson will help replace the missing speed of Rebecca Carman. However there is no apparent replacement for the imposing force that is Michael ‘Henry’ Thomas’ beard. The AWOL status of these Canelé stalwarts serves to remind us all that early involvement in family wedding plans is crucial to avoiding unfortunate date clashes. Always finishing in the top half of the tournament and stacked with international experience, this team will again be a strong contender for the title.
Marvellous DC also go in as tournament favourites this year after a strong showing at the World Ultimate Club Championships earlier this year. They finished 15th in the mixed division and 3rd in the spirit of the game category. After sending two X and Y teams and relinquishing their crown last year, with second and fourth placings, this combined squad has the talent, teamwork and depth to win back the title. It’s hard to highlight any players on this roster but mention must go to Liam Haberfield and Troy Stevenson who were half of the New Zealand contingent in this year’s inaugural Australian Ultimate League (Yes, we’re claiming you, NZ born Rosie Dawson #28). The picking up of University of Canterbury Ultimate Club’s star player, Ryan Sheridan, to work in combination with Abi Liddell makes for a lightning fast midfield that will be glorious to watch and difficult to match.
With four pools of six teams and a pre-quarter style set up, the chances of going far in this tournament will increase greatly by finishing in the top of the pool, avoiding stronger teams until the late stages.
POOL A - Canelé, Credo, AUUC Flow, Gang Green, Incorgnito, Taranaki Thunder
Top of the table clash - Credo vs Canelé
Credo will be the team looking to upset the top seeded Canelé. The off season saw some of the top university talent in Christchurch graduate into the Credo squad. The speed and skills these players bring will compliment the knowledge and structures of the existing squad.
Things to look out for - AUUC Flow caused an upset this year by coming 3rd at the tertiary champs and will look to produce similar results at this tournament. Led by Ben Chong, famous for his silky break throws and silkier leggings, the team is full of fresh talent, with a chunk of players in the midst of a U24 campaign.
Wildcards - Incorgnito are a brand new side and a relative unknown quantity. A new ultimate scene growing over the last few years in Taranaki has started to produce some great up and coming players whose playing style, skill set and banter match some of the top players in New Zealand (looking at you John Fernando). Will be great to see them come out again to test themselves against the other regions.
POOL B - Marvellous DC, AUUC Flood, Old Boys Sports Club, Flex, Vic Y, Ethos
Top of the table clash - Marvellous DC vs AUUC Flood
AUUC Flood are likely to put up a good challenge to Marvellous DC with athletic matches across the board. Their well practiced, structured approach could be the right tonic for combatting Marvellous DC’s looser, aggressive style.
Things to look out for - The battle for the third and fourth spots in Pool B will be hotly contested by the likes of the Old Boys Sports Club, Vic Y, Flex and Ethos. All teams bring strong rosters and it will likely come down to a points countback to decide who will take the spots in the pre-quarters.
Wildcards - Old Boys Sports Club delighted teams with their post match speeches and slick uniforms in 2017. We await to see how they have built on that aspect of their game over the last year. The stats of Nicholas Whitlock will also be a point of interest after he dominated on the junior world stage.
POOL C - Squall, Llamanati, Hammertron Prime, Massey Chargers, Honey Badgers, Mount Moas
Top of the table clash - Squall vs Llamanati
Squall has a new look side this year but have retained their Australian Ultimate League star and new NZ U24 Women’s Coach, Eva Weatherall. She has proven to be an unmatchable force in recent years and how Llamanati controls her affect on the game will go a long way towards dictating the game’s outcome. Llamanati's Bianca Mercer will likely be assigned the difficult task of containing her current NZ coach. An exciting battle awaits these two teams.
Things to look out for - Hammertron Prime are bringing two of the best throwers in the competition in Simone Balle and Kelly Carter. If their throws start connecting with the speed of Beth Williams, Annmarie Mcdonald, Tony Fransen and Michael Downey they will cause a lot of trouble for any opposing team.
Wildcards - The Honey Badgers are a much changed side to the one that finished 6th last year. With Mike Muldrew and Caitlin Wood as the only returning players it will be interesting to see how the new players step up. They will still likely bring their tough defensive style and unpredictable but often successful offense to the table. Massey Chargers have been growing well in the last few years and, under the leadership of Keegan Miskimmin and Vaughan Wilson, will be looking to push on past the pool play and slay some of the more established regions.
POOL D - Mixtape, Mobility Scoober, Exiles, Hammertron Prototype, Vic X, Nomads
Top of the table clash - Mixtape vs Mobility Scoober
The battle of the two most experienced rosters in the tournament. This will be a tightly contested game with some of the best throwers and minds in NZ ultimate looking to out-fox each other. The team that warms up their muscles first will likely take this away.
Things to look out for - The Exiles from Christchurch will be looking to make the most of the athletic advantage they always bring. With a few of their players starting to get involved in the New Zealand age group programs and international tournaments, they will be bringing much more experience and composure.
Wildcards - Vic X has a roster that makes it a strong contender to beat it’s seed, by a lot. Captain Stephanie Lynch has been going from strength to strength in her short few years playing the sport. Teaming up in the handler space with Hannah Taylor, they will be excited to unleash their throws to a strong line up of receivers.