With the New Zealand Ultimate tournament restructure giving rise to three newly defined regions, each with its own qualifying tournament and teams vying for a chance to compete in the Division 1 New Zealand Mixed Ultimate Championships, we thought we’d try something different, and have a player from each of the regions take a stab at summarising their qualifying event, as well as how they think the tournament will take shape. Special thanks to Leon Keefer, Troy Stevenson, Tom Fraser and Samuel Linnartz for their time in putting this together.
The ‘northern division’ sees a fractured Auckland community and the ever-evolving Waikato contingent.
Over the last 10 years Auckland’s mixed scene has been unable to maintain teams with a steady and stable roster. The clubs have been cannibalistic in a sense, luring players away from one team only to have half of their own players splinter off into a new team. While this generally makes for much better cultural dynamics, the ‘talent’ is spread over four clubs rather than stacking a single entity. As a result you will see some extremely close matches with lots of underlying emotions when the Auckland teams face each other. On the flip side, the Auckland teams may struggle at first when facing Hammertron and the rest of the country, as the differing play styles – nuanced but present – could result in a slow or rocky start to many of the early tournament games.
This team is driven, sneaky, and physical with a complete continuum of players in terms of age and experience. Left to their own devices, Hammertron has developed a unique style of play that will potentially put every one of their opponents on the back foot. The club has a long history of bringing in new players from other sports – rugby, touch, hockey, netball, track, soccer – and has a leadership with serious ultimate pedigree. Their ‘hex’ offense and gnarly zone proved a big challenge to teams at Tāmaki Throwdown and expect to see these to be even more effective after another month of training and drilling.
Defensive players to watch: Taki, Annemarie, and Beth. The latter two are obvious with their speed and athleticism. Taki is always one to watch (out for) as one of the most physical and sneaky players in the sport.
Offensive players to watch: Simone, Kelly, and Hamfish will rip it up in the handler space. Downey, Maria, and Kerin will run for days.
MVP: Mardz (Maringi) Hogan. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
The youngest, hippest team from Auckland, these kids have nothing better to do than to play frisbee and have fun doing it – especially now with exams done and dusted. This is probably the most athletic team from the northern region as well, with their youth pairing well with the dedication to train and be faster. While the roster is very deep, there is an appearance of relying on a few key players to drive the offense. If Nick Whitlock can be marked out of the game, Flood will need to re-strategize on the fly to fully match their opponents.
Defensive players to watch: Steph and James. Run through Ds? Yes please. If the disc is in the air, they will take it.
Offensive players to watch: Ben and Anna. Ben is an excellent utility player and will always become free for the dump. Anna is a machine and will always become free for the deep.
MVP: Nick Whitlock. Arguably the keystone for the team.
While this is a relatively new club on the scene, the players have been together for years on their respective women’s and men’s teams – some since grammar school. This team will be one of the bigger risk takers of the tournament, relying on expert throws on stall 8 and feats of athleticism downfield to grab the disc in 4m air or several millimetres off the ground. Their fast style of play and big expectations that they place on themselves will undoubtedly lead to great frisbee watching. The secret ingredient and key to their success will be the mental game and emotional fortitude during those long, difficult points.
Defensive players to watch: Altaaf and Bruce. Both super quick and super jumpy – they always appear out of nowhere for the intercept.
Offensive players to watch: Noemie, Coral, and Millar. The ladies will dominate downfield and Millar will be putting up the risky hucks and high release floaters.
MVP: Melody Yong – the silent assassin. She’ll be involved in at least half of all points scored and you won’t even realise.
With Mixed Nats moving to the 2 division format, the players in Mix Tape found themselves without a chance to place for the first time in their careers. Along with Mobility Scoober, this club ranks amongst the most experienced. Amongst the entire field, this team ranks highest in ‘babies per player ratio’. You will literally see 1/3 of the team either breast feeding or chasing toddlers around on the sideline immediately before or after playing a point. This will present quite a challenge though, as it is expected that while Mix Tape were losing sleep over babies, businesses, home renovations, family vacations, etc, the rest of the field were out at the track doing 400m sprints. To come away with some wins, Mix Tape will need to rely on their wisdom and keep a cool head when things don’t quite go as their memory thinks they should.
Defensive players to watch: Kristal Meth and Bry. Both have absolutely no regard for their bodies and will be throwing themselves at the disc.
Offensive players to watch: Jennie, Sarah, and Nan. This team has plenty of big throwers – it will be the downfield that scores the points.
MVP: Shoe (Sherif) Ibrahim. If he can control his passion toward smart play making, he’ll run the offense to victory.
Old Boys Sports Club
With half of the team still buzzing from their Asia-Oceanic Champs campaign, Old Boys will be looking to capitalise on their connections to play some solid, consistent disc. The other half of the team have quickly been brought up to speed on the plays and strategies, but Mixed Nats will be the true test to see how the team gels as a whole. As one of the underdogs, mental toughness and being switched on early in the game will be massive going into games against the top seeded teams – but especially against their friendly rivals Flood.
Defensive players to watch: Luke, Franny, and Hannah to lead their lines to score the breaks.
Offensive players to watch: Neva, Alice, and Ru as the team’s preeminent cutters.
MVP: Grayson Lee. The best looking player on the team, he’s also got the goods in the whole throwing and catching thing.