Youth Nationals (AYUC) has always been an amazing event full of gangly young athletes, barely pubescent throwing prodigies, and some of the best memes going around. But this year, it’s the beginning of a pathway that will take Australia’s best young ultimate players all the way to the top - first to the Asian U18 Championships, and then to World Junior Ultimate Championships in 2020.
Last year’s Youth Nationals featured some incredible performances, with a massive upset win from Vic in the girl’s division, and NSW coming out on top in a cracker of a double game point final in the boy’s division. Gus Macdonald had a great write up of the tournament.
This year the tournament is back, bigger and better than ever with the introduction of a Mixed division, and a U16 division. To have so many athletes competing at so high a level, at such a young age - that speaks to a very bright future of Australian Ultimate.
For many, AYUC is the beginning of a lifelong love affair with and/or crippling addiction to the sport. The opportunity to make new friends from around the country, compete, travel, take days off work & school, and forge lasting memories with a team - these are the same things that bring players of all ages back again and again. Indeed many players that featured in last year’s tournament are now representing Australia in the U24 division, headed to Heidelberg later this year. Plenty still are returning to contest the championship in 2019.
Each year a Green & Gold squad is selected, so we can laud and applaud the most incredible athletes at the tournament. These players are stars on their state teams, with mind boggling athleticism and skills. To be selected is a great honour and is a deserved recognition of many long hours spent sprinting and throwing to get to this point.
Every two years however, the Green and Gold takes on an extra special meaning. In 2018, the twenty athletes selected for the Green and Gold competed as the Australian Boys & Girls teams in the Trans-Tasman Series against New Zealand - a best of 3 that both teams unfortunately lost. Each was joined by another ten athletes who formed the Australia A teams, developing alongside the representative squads.
This year, the stage is bigger and further abroad. The Asian U18 Ultimate Championships presents the opportunity for the athletes selected to compete against not just New Zealand, but also Japan, The Philippines, and many other nations in the region. These teams will sweat it out in Manila, Philippines in December 2019.
But there’s always a bigger fish. Both of these tournaments will serve to build up the strength of the Australian youth Ultimate community for the crown jewel, World Junior Ultimate Championships. This tournament will be held in Malmö, Sweden in July 2020. Thunder (Boys) and Terra (Girls) will travel across the world for the opportunity to show the world what they’ve got.
In 2018 Terra placed 7th, while Thunder placed 9th. The competition is expected to be much deeper, in the middle of a fierce European youth scene. The Australian teams will be more than a year in the making, with any athlete competing at Youth Nationals 2019 eligible for selection. Both Head Coaches for Thunder and Terra will be present this year, keeping an eye out for the best young talent.
Youth Nationals is an amazing experience, but it’s just the beginning.