Funny Drakes (Funny Duck Ultimate’s Open Season team), only took a small squad of 10 players to this year’s SRUC in Point Cook. It was probably the biggest Southern Region Championships that has been held with 12 teams in attendance with the big club teams, Heads of State (HOS) and Chilly, sending three teams a piece. Seeded 8th going into the weekend, the Drakes knew that nothing better than beating or at least matching that seed would suffice.
Having a bye first up may not have been the best start, with a very quick match against the top seed and eventual champions HOS Burgundy. A first for the club at tournament level going down without a goal (though there were a couple of chances), 0-13 being the score. HOS were a strong unit capitalising on our mistakes, with speed and accuracy and barely a mistake.
The second game was much more winnable playing against Sweet Chilly (the third Chilly team), who Drakes beat at GCC and only lost to by a point at the HOS invite two weeks earlier. This time, though it was a fairly comfortable win to the Drakes 10-6 which put the drakes into the top 8 pool. Holding seed was looking good here.
The top 8 was tough. Third game for the day was against Outbreak, the SA team. Several drops both in field and in the endzone, meant that opportunities went begging as keeping up with the well structured and quick plays of Outbreak was difficult. Drakes went down 4-15, with many of our squad of only 10 starting to feel the heat and soreness set in after the short lunch break, with several players taking extended stints on the sideline.
Game four on past experience was thought to be a winnable game. Two weeks ago at the HOS Invite tournament, a skeleton crew of Drakes (without names such as Kevin Noble, Dan Cliffe or Juan Martin Montes) came back from 1-6 to only go down 5-7 against a strong HOS White outfit. However, this time there was no such comeback, with fatigue really setting in against a team with over double the number of legs. A 5-15 loss was the result, however not before an amazing layout-D from Martin Montes, before subsequently cramping up.
Day 2 was an early start. An 8:30 match, meant that some couldn’t make it in time because of there not being any public transport. We were down to 9 at the start, but saw the return of Dan Cliffe to the fold, who missed Day 1, replacing Enric Duque. What a difference that made with Cliffe being involved in many of the plays in the first game match up against HOS Academy. This game was the pre-quarter final in which Drakes were fighting to stay in the top 8. Academy got the jump start with the first point, before trading points until the Drakes thanks to some nice flow started pulling away. Funny Duck League player Jono Pereira, playing for HOS in this game, was eager to beat the Drakes and made a point of it, marking up on Shayne Curry or Kevin Noble (his previous League captains) every opportunity he could get, even telling others to find other players on defense. A really tight zone defense made it difficult for Academy to score any upwinders, with Drakes scoring majority of them and taking half 8-4. However, Academy was not done with, again with a young, quick squad, they started breaking through the zone defense and using their athleticism and height to get back into the game scoring the first two points after half. It was 11-9 when the time-cap went, meaning game to 12. Drakes should have had it in the bag, having the wind at their backs, however fate and the tenacity of the Academy team made things difficult. A trio of dropped endzone catches which otherwise would have sealed the game from Jose Milan as well as several other huck and hopes from several of the experienced Drake players, meant that it was not an easy task. Academy also started breaking through the zone defense much easier than they had previously in the game. However after a controversial travel call (on a supposedly left-handed player) by Shayne Curry, a then rattled Academy thrown meant a turnover and quick score finally sealed the Drakes win 12-9. Seeding secured!
Second game of the day was rematch against HOS Burgundy, but this was no repeat. Drakes, with the additional run of Dan Cliffe, the wind being a helpful factor and usual handler Daniel “DB” Blau, going long to help with some run and pull down some of the long throws managed a couple of down-wind scores. A strong HOS zone D meant that making progress up-wind was difficult, however whilst not impossible a few rushed throws into the endzone meant that no upwind scores were secured. Anger set in for HOS at one stage in the game, with a time-out being called after players started yelling at each other, being frustrated by a strong Drakes defense with HOS struggling to find space to score. HOS however regrouped after that. A better game than Day 1, but still a 2-15 loss. Playing off for 5-8th now.
Another rematch for game 3 after a very long lunch break with a game against Outbreak. Drakes were a little stiff, but a decision to start up-wind meant that they managed to get the first score on the board! Outbreak got the first up-wind point, however it was a much tighter start to the game than the Day 1 game against them. Drakes at one stage were only down 3-5 with some great flow and good D on both upwind and downwind points, with DB still staying long for most of them. Kevin Noble (soreness) and Ian McDonald (exhaustion) were sitting out this game, so with only 2 subs it was an impressive start. However, the small squad and heat started to take it’s toll. Outbreak started to use their legs more to take half at 4-8. Drakes could only manage one more goal to go down a more respectable 5-15. There were opportunities to score upwind in that game, however a few rushed throws and hucks into the endzone which didn’t come off against the taller and more aggressive Outbreak meant that they were not converted.
Another match up for the 8th and final match, a play-off for 7th place against Sweet Chilly who saw off the 6th seed Tasmanian team Quoll in their 8:30 pre-quarter final match. That win, was a long time coming, with Quoll having the wood on Sweet Chilly (the third Chilly team), beating Sweet in most of the recent Regional Championships (generally in the final game). Sweet had the down-wind point and therefore the first score and were looking pretty good, points were traded for sometime, before Drakes started to string some very good plays together. Unlike in previous matches, there were very few rushed throws into either endzone. Drakes easily accounted for Chilly’s zone defence, with patience, the occasional over-head throw, great pivoting and decision making. Drakes took half, 7-4. A great call at the toss by Martin Montes meant that Drakes started with the down-wind point on Offence after half and from there Drakes didn’t look back. Great flow and surprising amounts of speed from rejuvenated players (from where the rejuvenation came, one cannot say), saw Drakes eating up the Chilly defence, or not even letting one set up in the first place. Even on defence, extra leg speed suddenly appeared with great hand blocks, run through Ds and skies. Both Noble and McDonald were back for this game and that helped immensely. All players for the Drakes showed great patience and excellent cuts, catches and courage in this game. Probably the best game for the weekend, despite the exhaustion. The last point of the game being one of the best, with the disc being moved from one end of the field to the other with barely a pause, using almost every player on the field finishing with McDonald to Curry score. Drakes win 13-6.
All in all, it was a great weekend. Winning the games that were expected to be won, and despite losing the remainder, improvements were made with each game. American import Clint Wheling was of great assistance, especially on Day 2 fitting into a very impressive handler role posting some solid passes and grabs. Jonny Walter was clearly the standout on Day 1 catching everything thrown to him (unless he was playing as a handler, I think we get the hint now Jonny). Spanish import Enric Duque, ran all day on Day 1 and gave us legs and great opportunities when there were otherwise none. Juan Donis, a Div 2 player, improved through the tournament, and Sean Frost was a very handy tall target whether he went deep or making in-cuts. Despite only winning 3 games for the tournament, a 7th placing was a great finish.
Bring on Division 2 Nationals in Adelaide in April!