The Australian Ultimate Tour is coming in 2020. Here’s everything* you need to know, in a quick Q&A format.
*not actually everything.
Since the dawn of time (aka 2003), Australians have debated how the hell to run an elite Nationals season that creates as many high-quality games as possible while being accessible and affordable from anywhere in this wide brown land.
And for those who have been around long enough to remember NUFL, or the advent of BCI and SMO, you’ll know that many methods have been tried with varying levels of success.
In recent years, the growth of the sport (in terms of teams, tournaments and divisions) has led to quite a lot of discussion about whether there was a clearer and more efficient way to run the season. Many came up with proposals but none managed to get consensus on what should change.
So in March 2019, a group of players from around the country met to try and come up with some guiding principles that could help shape a redesign of the Div 1 season. Out of that, came some proposals for a season. And based on those principles and proposals, we have The Tour - designed specifically to push Australian elite ultimate forward through more high-quality games, that are more accessible to people around the country, without increasing costs.
So what’s new?
Practically, for Div 1 teams that were competing in 2-3 tournaments and then Nationals, not that much. The headline items are:
Qualification for The Tour (and therefore Div 1 Nationals) will happen earlier in the season with 16 teams from both Men’s and Women’s invited to compete for 12 spots on Tour.
The leadup to Nationals will actually matter with a Tour Champion crowned based on results at the Qualifying Tournament plus two Tour events
We’ll have an “Australian Open” event where international teams will be invited to compete annually (Nationals will be restricted only to teams that compete across the whole Tour - likely only domestic teams)
Nationals will remain the peak competition, with a National Champion crowned at the end of four days during the ANZAC Day long weekend.
An example season for my Div 1 team Bench would be playing the Qualifying Tourney in early Feb (and being able to plan our season earlier than usual), then hopefully making it on Tour, to play 2 more tournaments before Nationals in April. A tighter, more intense tourney season with more games that matter, including against international teams. Cool :)
The Tour is designed to more fairly distribute the cost of a Nationals season. Tournaments are held in cost-effective locations (those with larger player bases) so travel costs and accommodation are reduced for a large group and the savings go back to teams that have to do more traveling.
There’s a handy guide depending on where you’re from. Overall, you should either be paying less out of pocket, roughly the same but traveling a lot less, or paying more but attending a higher number of high-quality tournaments. Either way, the Tour should give you more bang for your buck.
What about Div 2 though? And the mixed season?
There will be no major changes to the Div 2 or mixed season for 2020, while the impact of the Tour on the community and these divisions is assessed.
For the top tier Div 2 teams, there will still be opportunities to play Div 1 teams through the Qualification tournament and potentially at the Australian Open style tournament (as well as non-Tour events) - roughly the same opportunity that already existed at Regionals and SMO.
Hopefully, removing the Tour teams from other events like Regionals (which can now be redesigned) will also mean that Div 2 teams get more games against competitive opposition.
And if it works well, a similar redesign using the founding principles of the Tour could be done for the mixed division and/or for Div 2.
I hate it. Can we just go back to what we’ve always done?
Look, I get it. Change sucks. A group of well-meaning volunteers have done their best - this means that, while I think the proposal is overall a great thing for Australian Ultimate, there are definitely things that have not been thought of, unintended consequences, things that could be better.
If you have concerns, there is a Tour Committee working right now to get the most out of this proposal and you can reach out to them at email@example.com. If you feel like you haven’t been heard, there is still time to change the shape of the season. Plus, there will be heaps of feedback collected after the season to make it even better the next time.
Overall, I’d encourage you to try and embrace the changes and what they could mean for the quality of Australian Ultimate.
Internationally, our teams have often struggled to match up against teams used to operating under high levels of pressure, like the US and Japan. Over time, this could be our ticket to more Worlds medals.
The Tour should also make it clearer for club leaders to plan, spectators to follow and players to budget. No more having to play tournament chicken with other teams (we’ll play XXX if you play XXX), fewer barriers for players flying from Perth or Brisbane, a clear pathway for Div 2 teams to make it to Div 1 from anywhere in the country.
Greater value, greater clarity, greater competition. That’s the vision.
It’s a bold strategy cotton, let’s see if it pays off.
That’s not a question, but cool.