After their upset win over Honey last year to make the Southerns final, Safire went on to take 7th place in Brisbane. This year however they will be missing some key players. Alex Rogers, Sarah Middleton, Bronwyn Dutch and Karen Palmer won’t be cleating up this weekend, leaving Ali Clarke and Nic Footer to be doing the bulk of the handling work. Hayley McFetridge is a handy recruit and Emma Victory should step up, but we don’t think we’ll see this team’s best play this weekend.
Honey has gone the split squad route this year, with one team only being picked to go to Nationals. All four of their 2012 Worlds reps (Amy Keating, Lauren Brown, Steph Malcher and Cath Matthews) will be in great condition, while newcomers Kaija Salier and Cara Angel are due to hit that next level. With 25km/h winds forecast in Adelaide this weekend, we think while Fit Honey will be great offensively, Smart Honey will have the edge on D out of the two teams. Based on their SMO performance, Honey are looking to be on top shelf form at the end of April.
Squadron have stepped out of the shadows of being STBAU’s reserves team and have spent a solid season together so far. Jodie Palmer (Safire) joins them this year, however the absence of Martha Gregory from the 2011 team will be noticed. Rookie recruits Nicole Taylor, Emilya Toney and Kim Wong should have a great weekend, and we expect to see Sophie Murdoch making an impact too. Speaking of recruits, Sporting Team Box Athletico United welcome Firetail rep Maylin Chuah (Black Betty) and Shu-hewi Huang Freundt (Honey) to their squad this year, boosting what is already an incredible line up – they can field a full line of Firetails if they want. With the tournament being weaker than last year, this weekend is a formality for the girls and they should comfortably earn the #3 seed for AUC.
But if you want to talk about recruiting, have a look at the list of players Heads of State signed up this year – Dajo Aertssen (Belgium U23s), Stu Austin (Firestorm), Will Christopherson (Karma), Guillaume “Moby” Espitia (French Open Team), Ben Matthews-Hunter (Aussie Thunder 2010), Brett Middleton (Karma), Juan Rueda (Chilly), Simon Talbot (Sweet Chilly), Huy Vu (Karma) and Max Wheeler (Fyshwick United). If there were such a thing as player payments and salary cap then AFDA investigators would be all over that. Again the open side of the draw for Southerns this year is less stacked than 2011 so HoS Burgundy should cruise through - expect Mark Isherwood, Keith Hodgson and Chris Kaliviotis to fire. The real battle is for HoS White and whether they can qualify for a second consecutive AUC. Their lineup has changed remarkably, with only five of the 2011 AUC squad playing, but their preparation has been much better. Watch out for rookies Dallas Jones, Joel Moskovic and Ciaran “Cron” Hudson.
On the other end of the gains/losses scale, Karma have taken some big hits. Joel Pillar (Colony), Huy Vu, Brett Middleton, Will Christopherson and David Sanderson (Wombats) will be playing elsewhere, while Chris Davis, Rich Appleby, Sean Lace and Morgan Llewellyn don’t appear to be playing at all this weekend. They welcome in Steve Wright (Quoll) and Alex Britten-Jones is back from spending approximately infinity weeks on the injury list, but the loss of the top end talent will make a huge difference to their gameplay. At GCC they proved they still have it defensively but the lack of a proven game winner on O is a concern. We would love to see Jony Warren-White or Ben Foley have a breakthrough tournament. Despite the depth concerns in the ones, Karma B aren’t devoid of talent with Sam Caon, Ben Thomas, Val Zarkhin and Tasman Mitchell known to be handy. We also like what we’ve seen from Scott McKenzie and Bryan Whalen in the past but they could be exposed against physical defence typically seen from Victorian teams.
Perennial Southerns competitors Ultimate Evolution haven’t been seen since they were at the big dance on home turf in 2010. Only Mark Bottger, Kristan Pash, Ben Reuter, Ollie Richter, Scott Russack and Denis Shine remain from that team so they are a largely unknown quantity for teams coming up the Dukes Highway. We anticipate they will give some teams a scare with their compatibility on O but smart and calculated offense movement from opposition won’t struggle to find gaps in their D.
After languishing around the bottom end of GCC for years and the odd mixed tournament here and there, GFUC forced everyone to stand up and take notice at 2012 GCC when they welcomed back all their “old” sons from Heads of State (Jake Angelovich, Jae Atkinson, Tyler Dickson, Marc Delgallo) and Chilly (Lewi Broad, Pete Nixon) while also welcoming Rueben Berg (HoS) and Josh Cukierman (Chilly). They finished 2nd at GCC, going down 12-10 to HoS White when the weather turned sour, but they showed enough in their games prior to demonstrate how threatening they will be at Southerns and Nationals. Their style resembles the fast, aggressive O of I-Beam but they are still being exposed for their lack of experience in decision making. Could finish anywhere between 2nd and 6th this weekend.
Finally we look at Chilly who resemble a brand new team compared to 2011 after being gutted by Wombats selections. Only five of last year’s 2nd place team at Nationals are there this time around – Chris Folkes, Luke Stephens, Chris Mulcahy, Tim Hordern and Stephen Thomas – with the remaining places being taken by Sweet Chilly players, rookies and a couple of vets, including a returning Lee Baker. They had a very disappointing turn at GCC with both of their split squads failing to pick up a win all weekend, but the combined team worked well together in their pickup game on the Sunday. The key to beating Chilly will be to contain their big six players while picking off the blocks on the rest. However as last year proved, you should never write this club off early.
The most interesting factor this weekend will be who the top four are. South have a bonus allocation each year in addition to initial and performance-based allocations, with the caveat that all allocations cannot go to the one state. It is a very real possibility that all four Victorian teams will take the top four places, meaning that the fourth allocation will then go to the top South Australian team instead. The way to avoid this mess will be if South gain the third wildcard (North already have the first two locked in) which is based on number of players attending Regionals. At the moment it is down to literally a handful of players, so watch this space.