Catching ultimate frisbee

TheRev Roar Rookie

By , TheRev is a Roar Rookie

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    The Ultimate Frisbee Asian Club Championship kicks off in a week and a half. Wanting to get to know some of the Australian teams ahead of the event, I headed down to Albert Park this weekend to meet some of the players and watch a few games in action.

    While Albert Park may be the centre of corporate sponsorship, pit girls and tinnitus during the autumn months, it is a bloody cold and windy place during winter, even when the sun is shining.

    Hence my surprise when I found a mix of 20-somethings running, and often sprinting, about on a Sunday afternoon in their shorts and t-shirts. Shouldn’t they be in a pub somewhere smashing avocados and saying things like ‘LOL’?

    So these are one of the first things I learnt about ultimate frisbee players; they are very committed to their sport and they run what seems to be an absurd amount. All of the players are amateurs and there is next to no sponsorship available.

    All of those going to Manilla for the Club Championship are paying their own way to represent their club, using valuable holidays or missing paid days at work.

    The next most obvious thing you learn is how ridiculously nice everyone is. From the lowest club match to internationals, all games are refereed by the players. A sense of fair play, fun and the purpose of the game permeates it all levels.

    Within 20 minutes of my arrival, several players had come up to meet me with no other purpose of being nice. Some even threatened hugs, which disturbed me to my core.

    One who came over for a chat was a recent arrival to Melbourne from the USA via New Zealand and the Netherlands. While not the most obvious route, she had played ultimate frisbee in all places as seriously as possible. Travel was almost a perk to playing Ultimate Frisbee.

    The mix of people on display was something to behold; men and women of all nationalities mixed freely and easily. This was no monoculture and while Barry Dixon Oval isn’t in South America, it was as close to Sir Thomas Moore’s ‘Utopia’ that I could assume.

    The next thing to reveal itself was the mysteries of the game itself. Played on rectangular pitches, the game is seemingly a mix of touch rugby and netball with a frisbee replacing the ball. There is obviously no contact and anyone being physical is seemingly shamed from the game.

    There is no offside and any player can run, and seemingly sprint, to any part of the field.

    There are seven players on the field for each team and interchange can only occur once a point is scored (which in theory could take the whole game) or an injury occurs. Given the amount of running involved, most teams have up to 19 players on the bench.

    I was told about an international match in which a player took himself out injured from being too tired from running, only to be shamed back on.

    Integrity is a big part of the game.

    Teams are made up of ‘Handlers’ (who are like the quarterbacks of the team) and ‘Cutters’ (who do most of the running around), most teams have two handlers and five cutters at any time, apart from the Japanese who apparently go into games with one handler and six cutters who sprint about with furious discipline to great consternation from everyone else.

    Similar to basketball (and modern AFL), zoning is a big part of the game, with defensive sides looking to push or mark a team to one area or one side of the field. ‘Breaking the mark’ is, therefore, the goal of the offensive team and something that would frighten anyone named Mark, but not with this group.

    Defensive zones are known as ‘cups’, resembling the formation the defenders can take around the player with the disc (referring to it as a ‘frisbee’ doesn’t seem frowned upon, but doesn’t seem encouraged either). You can have a ‘half cup’, a ‘cup half full’ and even two Handlers and one Cup.

    One of the players I spoke to at the ground, Ciaran Hudson, was an inverse Trent Johnson equivalent for the sport, having played for Australia and coached Ireland. He has travelled the world playing the sport and will be lining up for Sydney Colony in Manilla from the 17th.

    I’m not too familiar with young people, so wasn’t sure if he was just overly enthusiastic about his sport or about everything in general, but his enthusiasm for the game was obvious. I asked him if he was fit enough for the series, he said he would make sure he was with unnerving intent in his eyes.

    I was going to ask him why he kept in the game with all the commitments and costs associated but didn’t get the chance as he kept getting asked for hugs and engaging with the seemingly eternal line of friends at the ground.

    I guess that answered it for me.

    The WFDF 2017 Asia Oceanic Ultimate and amp; Guts Club Championships (“AOUGCC 2017”) at the Ayala Alabang Country Club in Manila, the Philippines from August 18-20, 2017.
    http://flyingdisc.ph/aougcc-2017.