What Went Down At: Open Tour 3

Main Editor/Discussion Chair: hazard (Reading 1, former Ka-Pow!)
Main Contributors: 
dp (ShowGame cofounder, Fire 2), doug (SYC), connormch (EMO, former Clapham), tadhgb (Ireland U24 Men), jonnyarthur95 (Brighton City), hillmaniaa (GB U24 Men)

Additional Quotes/Contributions*: Sion 'Brummie' Scone (GB U24 Men's Coach), Rupal Ghelani (GB U24 Women), Charlotte 'Bubbles' Kennedy (JR co-captain)
*These people did not have access to the chat, but very kindly provided us with quotes. Their words will be given in italics.

Welcome to the post-Open Tour 3 chat!

Here are the headlines we'll be discussing
A return to normality? A Clapham-Chevy final, with Fire finishing as 3rd best UK team
EMO and Reading fall from their previous tour standings
The first appearance of Irish club teams in A Tour! Will they be taking slots at EUCF come Nationals?

A reflection on how the Tour season has gone for GB U24 Men
What on earth happened to Brighton this season?
JR Mixed finish the season strongly in B Tour. We ask them about their decision to play mixed in the Open Division.

TSG previews
A Tour
B Tour South
B Tour North


The schedules
A Tour + B Tour North
B Tour South


Top 20 Teams
1. Clapham A
2. Chevron Action Flash
3. PELT 1
4. Fire of London 1
5. Ranelagh
6. Devon 1
7. GB U24 Hobart
8. Glasgow 1
9. Manchester 1
10. Ka-Pow!
11. EMO 1
12. GB U24 Canberra
13. Reading 1
14. LLLeeds 1 (highest placed B Tour team)
15. SMOG
16. BAF
----------
17. Brighton City
18. Flump
19. Rebel Ultimate
20. Gravity

Top 4 in B Tour South
1. Reading 2
2. Purple Cobras
3. Devon 2
4. Brighton Legends


hazard
Let's begin. Tour 3 saw a return to a more conventional set of tour results. Chevy return to second place, Fire finish as third best GB club team. Chevy also ran Clapham very close in the final (15-12) and weren't afraid to make big plays. Did anyone see Chevy play and have any thoughts on it? Clapham also finished first, like they've been doing at all the tours so far. I'll go first actually since I saw them play Pelt in their semi-final. The issue is, I haven't seen them play any of the rest of the season. They had Lucy Barnes there as a "coaching consultant" and pretty much a full strength squad (Steve Kolthammer being the only injury on the sideline). They were using deep shots very well, and getting huge on bids.

dp
Both Chevron and Fire have not been quite at strength in previous Tours. I know that Fire were able to field an almost 100% first team but due to availability they had to move a large number of potential first teamers down to seconds to field both teams, which is probably good for both the second team and those players. I expect the selection will not be easy for Fire. Similarly Chevron appear to have brought more players and more strength to Birmingham but I am yet to watch the footage to confirm this.


James Dunn helps bring Fire of London back into contention at OT3
Picture from Claire Baker, taken for The ShowGame
hazard
We (Reading) played against Fire in our first game. Part of it was we were a little less confident, but Fire did look a lot stronger than they had done. Even the U24 Irish player we added to the roster wasn't enough to scare Fire away. Do you reckon Fire are now in a confident position going into Nationals, to try to take a WUCC spot @dp?

dp
I wouldn't be able to comment on that. We have two trainings ahead of Regionals (which I miss for the EuroStarsTour) and then a couple weeks of hard graft ahead of Nationals. I think it's been a gradual upward build towards Nationals and we shall see how it pays off. A lot depends on the format of course.

doug
Having watched just the first half of the Fire vs. Clapham game, I thought Fire were playing with a confidence I haven't seen in them all season. They were really making Clapham work for it, and taking control on offense - very calm but decisive. I know that Clapham pulled away in the second half but it was interesting to see Fire gelling so well, particularly as they didn't have some of their key players there. If they can maintain that into Nationals and beyond, I think they will be in a great position.

hazard
Let's move onto EMO then. Up until this point, EMO have been making a strong case for themselves. Last chat, I believe we settled for calling them 'the second-best performing team' so far this season. However, in Open Tour 3, they sunk to 11th. @connormch, was it just a bad tournament?

connormch
I would say so. Apart from maybe the Rebel game (15-7), I don't think we really reached the gears we know we're capable of. Disappointing but I think an important learning curve before Regionals and Nationals.

hazard
Anything you would have done differently, if you could have entered the tour again?

connormch
I can't speak for the captains, but me personally, no. We just weren't at our best and other teams took advantage. I said at the start of the season that we're a young squad that could cause some serious upsets, but I think this is the flip side of that coin.

hazard
For another young side looking to cause upsets, I'll jump to Reading. This tour, in Open, we actually had a squad quite similar to the one we'll be entering into Open Regionals. We only had four guys who won’t be playing for the first team at Open Regionals, and we subbed out three top players into our second team (who won B Tour south, just to get that in there). We were a bit disappointed with 13th, but I think winning our final game 15-4 shows that we were better than our final placing, if not the third-best club team we've been at previous tours. So - we can finally talk about Reading and what it means for Nationals, but since we didn't actually finish well enough it's not really worth doing. 

For some teams that might cause some upsets at Nationals, let’s move onto the Irish. Pelt finish 3rd. Ranelagh 5th, after losing their quarter-final to Pelt. Rebel, a bit further down.

tadhgb
As you said earlier, this was the first time Irish teams were in A Tour this year. Obviously with Nationals around the corner, this was the last chance for them to scout out the competition ahead of EUCF qualification, so for PELT and Ranelagh, those are two massive results.

dp
Worth noting that, before Clapham pulled out their second team, Rebel were chosen in A Tour over Flump, since UKU thought they might be the better team. Then, once Flump got pushed back up, they smashed Rebel (15-7), which kind of vindicates Flump derision over being initially pushed out by the Irish team.

tadhgb
Pelt came over with a 12 man squad and only suffered losses to Clapham and Chevron, despite a resilient comeback in the semis. Ranelagh on the other hand have been fairly injury-stricken since Windmill, and still managed 5th, only losing out on the top 4 because of a quarter-final loss to Pelt. If the squads are at full strength come Nationals, it could spell danger for the UK teams.

connormch
We (EMO) played Ranelagh at Windmill and it was a very close game, they're a great team. This weekend they played fantastic defence against us. Our usual offensive flow wasn't quite there and we couldn't convert our D line turnovers.


Aidan Kelly shows that Ranelagh are a tough side to play against at OT3
Picture from Claire Baker, taken for The ShowGame
hazard
How many Irish teams will be joining us for Nationals?

tadhgb
In Open, it's only PELT and Ranelagh you'll have to worry about!

hazard
Shouldn't be much of a worry then ;) is that decided already? Or is there a tournament in Ireland we in the UK should all be keeping an eye on?

tadhgb
Brave words. No Irish clubs at Tour 1 and 2 - Reading in the top 4, Irish clubs at Tour 3.... ;) That tournament would have been lasts year's All-Ireland unfortunately for you guys! The top two from the previous year's All-Irelands get first preference, so the next time you'll see us is at Nationals I'm afraid ;)

hazard
Going back to the Chevron-Pelt game again, I have to say that Pelt looked strong, but there's still a fear factor when they play the very top teams. They'd lost to Chevron three times in the past (including EUCF last year), and it took them until the second half to really start fighting.

tadhgb
I wouldn't say fear factor, but Pelt in the past have had a tendency to not rise to the occasion when it comes to the big games. The same thing happened at Euros last year against Chevron as at Tour where we gave them a huge lead, and managed to make a come back but had left it too late. This failure to get the job done was a major issue way back when the club had started, but more recently, Pelt are coming out on top in those games (winning their first All-Ireland last year, qualifying through EUCR-S, 3rd place finish at Windmill). We'll find out at Nationals if the Chevron game was the result of skeletons in the closet or if it was merely a symptom of a small squad.

hazard
Alright. My final point in A Tour revolves around the GB U24 teams. This tour, we saw one of the teams (GB U24 Hobart) crash the top 8, and the other side (GB U24 Canberra) make a decent name for themselves too. I asked GB U24 Open coach Sion 'Brummie' Scone for some comments about different aspects of the team, here were his responses.

brummie
Thoughts going into Tour:
Obviously, you want teams to play well and win games; it’s a great litmus test.  But the objective was always development. Are we better now than we were one game ago? Are we learning from our mistakes? Getting people to talk was the top priority, and after working on lots of individual skills at practice, our main tournament considerations were quite different; how were we going to play as a team, dealing with the highs and lows as a unit?

Key moments: 
Getting to play against the top UK teams means that every mistake is punished, so some of the guys genuinely struggled when we're 7-0 down and most of the team haven't put a foot wrong.  Many of our team had never even played A Tour, so for most, it was a huge jump in quality to anything they've seen before, so the dialogue about the journey we're on is really important.  For me, seeing some players rise to the occasion has been incredibly rewarding, especially some who have really come out of their shells and starting playing big. We've had lots of close games too - more sudden death games than many teams play in several seasons in fact - which has been great for our mental game. Seeing someone who has been very timid come up with a huge layout block at a crunch moment, or effortlessly breaking mark after mark, is something that every coach dreams of. I couldn't be happier with how things have gone so far.

Reflections: 
It's been amazing to get to coach 120 people over the course of 9 months, and the players involved have formed great friendships with their university rivals, which I think will benefit many of the ultimate programmes out there. Again, for us it is about the wider impact and developing Team GB, not just picking 25 people to play in Perth. For those lucky enough to be selected for one of the Worlds teams, this is just the beginning of a tough but incredibly rewarding journey. For those who don't get selected, the journey doesn't end quite yet; they've been exposed to lots of great coaching and now we want them to take those lessons back to their own teams and raise the level of ultimate across the UK. We always see a cascade effect from GB cycles, so we hope to see a much bigger one this year.

dp
I have actually quite a lot of insight into this living with two of the coaches and having played against one of the Open teams. I think they are doing a great job so far and selections will be very hard. I know that the coaching staff are talking very regularly to not only ensure GB has the best representation in Perth but that players will develop and share their knowledge (like Brummie mentions).

hazard
Do you know how much training they'll be having after this? It's a long gap until January.

dp
Not sure, haven't got past selection questions yet.

hillmaniaa
I played two open tours with GB this summer, and what shocked me most was how keen everyone was to learn. I wasn't expected the quality of Ultimate to be so high, especially considering these teams only played as a team for one tour each. The GB Development Programme has been seriously rewarding, getting to play with some great players that I'd never get the chance to otherwise. Some guys had never played this high in A Tour and to turn up and be part of victories against the big club teams was really incredible. Excited to take everything I've learned back to uni next year. Finally, massive shout out to the coaching team that should take a lot of credit for the successes of the increase in quality of club and uni Ultimate in the years to come.

Rupal also has something she’d like to add about the Women’s Tour experience, for balance:

rupal.ghelani
The women's side of GB has been fantastic. The Development Programme has brought together pods of players from across the country to create a force of females showcasing the best of the what is to come in the future. The best part so far has been how committed everyone has been to developing together as a team for/with each other. Everyone has one goal in mind, and the off-pitch effort has so far shown through in some outstanding tour results. As a unit we are strong and determined and regardless of how we do at Worlds, the Development Programme has created a new breed of women to take new skills and mindsets back to uni and club Frisbee. Massive shoutout to the coaches who have been patient and dedicated through the whole process, not just the women's coaches but the men's and mixed coaches as well, for exposing us to all different styles of play and instilling confidence in us against every type of match up. It's been an honour so far and I'm super excited to see how females on both the mixed and women's teams do in Perth and hopefully play with each of the women in the Development Programme again in the future.

hazard
The Canberra team seemed fairly solid when we played against them, but still showed a little inexperience at times (zone being one of the main ways we brought that out). We had to be on top form athletically to get free though. As for Hobart - they were good when I saw them play Ka-Pow!, but a little reliant on a couple of star players they may not have at WU24UC. It'll be interesting to see how the team forms. 

Moving on, in a previous chat we highlighted Brighton and Ka-Pow! as two teams that had disappointing Tour 1s. Ka-Pow! certainly stepped their game up after that disappointing first tour. However, it seems Brighton weren't able to, losing a tight cross-over against SMOG to consign themselves to finish the year in B Tour. Considering how strong they've been in previous years (including making the semi-final of Nationals last year), this must count as a bit shocking. @jonnyarthur95, thoughts?

jonnyarthur95
Wasn't there this weekend but the feel from our chat is it was a solid weekend, only losing once in an incredibly tight crossover with SMOG. Kind of a disappointment that some of the B Tour teams we have beaten pretty comfortably this year ended up with simpler crossovers and got to finish the season in A Tour. If only UKU had sorted the seedings properly then we wouldn't have had the fourth ranked B Tour team at the start of the weekend starting as top B Tour seed… Basically we felt we were good enough to beat A Tour teams, and after just falling short against SMOG haven't had the chance to do so. Hopefully we will get it all together for Nationals and do the classic Brighton City move of reminding people we're good when it matters.

hazard
For those curious, the 13-20 crossovers (into A Tour) were: Flump vs LLLeeds, Rebel vs BAF, Brighton vs SMOG, Gravity vs Reading. 

Alright, final point for the chat. JR have been entering a mixed side (always playing at least two ladies), and have solidly held place in B Tour across the tournaments. I got a quote from JR co-captain Charlotte Kennedy about the experience

charlotte.kennedy
Playing in open tour as a mixed team has been a fantastic experience. Whilst JR has always been an Open, Women’s and Mixed team, over the last few years we have made a real effort to grow and develop ourselves as a high quality mixed team as we believe this is where our strengths lie. However, as a team that never trains, we are always looking for more playing opportunities to build upon the foundations we have created. In previous years, we have struggled with the lack of mixed competition between the end of Mixed Tour and Nationals, and therefore this year we decided to bridge this gap by entering Open Tour as a mixed team. This transition has given us the opportunity to play against a variety of oppositions and has forced us to adapt our playing style accordingly. We’ve also been able to work on our plays and tactics within this environment as the teams we’ve come up against have played against us as they would any other open team and respected us all as individual players. To be able to say that we finished open tour comfortably competing in the middle of B Tour with a 9-person mixed squad is amazing and we’re excited to see what we can take from this and how much it will benefit us at Regionals.

hazard
I'd like to close with a thought which extends from this point, and it relates to the gap between Mixed Tour and all Mixed Regionals/Nationals. How should mixed teams deal with it? Deep Space have been training during the tours. Reading enter separate training squads into the Open and Women’s Divisions. Now JR have just entered a mixed side into Open. What are the pros/cons of the approaches? 

I will say I've been on mixed teams that have entered Open Regionals before (both DED Mixed and JR Mixed). I've found it interesting and a good chance to gel as a team, but that you do have to change your playing style as opposed to what you would do if you were playing against other Mixed sides. It's good, but it can only take you so far. If your aim is to develop connections, great. If your aim is just to practice your tactics, less so. Hopefully the addition of Mixed Regionals will help this. It's a point that many other teams are bound to address as mixed grows as a discipline, so a big thanks to Charlotte for her thoughts here.




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