A young team tries to find their identity during the most competitive tournament of their careers.
July 19, 2018 by Lorcan Murray in Profile with 0 comments
Throughout WUCC, we will be “embedding” with select teams and telling their stories with daily updates about their journey, history, and more. We call it Inside Break.
Ultiworld’s coverage of the 2018 WFDF World Ultimate Club Championships is presented by VC Ultimate; all opinions are those of the authors. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at VC Ultimate!
There is no direct translation for the word “Grut” in English. You could roughly look at it as “wee brat.” But it can’t be explained clearly without descending down a rabbit hole of varying vernaculars.
Tuesday morning was a crucial one for Grut. Not in terms of standing; in fact there was a portion of the previous evening dedicated to working out whether they would be better off losing their final pool game for the possible route it would send them on. That plan was eventually abandoned due to the potentially draining impact this could have on team mentality.
The real importance came from maintaining the good work from the day before. Monday only had one game for Grut, and it came against Flying Rabbits (BEL), the unfortunate whipping boys stuck at the bottom of the churning bloodbath Pool E had descended into. The feeling after that game was positive. All of the lessons and conversations had rung true. They had expanded their lines, reintroduced more joyous abandon to their approach and generally enjoyed the experience in a way that had been missing in previous matchups.
Chuckies (SGP) are a different beast to the Rabbits, however. They are far more lethal, as their incredibly close losses to RusMixed (RUS) and Reading (GBR) testified. When making this point to Grut coach Jeroen Oort before the game, he stared me dead in the eyes for a few seconds before tickling my chin and running off. It was at this point I wondered if our extended exposure to each other had started to make him slightly more Irish in nature.1
Their performance against Chuckies was consummate and collaborative. The lines remained as expanded as they were the day before, with all elements of the squad having moments of personal brilliance in service of the group dynamic. The overall mood was relaxed as they slowly extended their lead with short break runs throughout the game. Chuckies tried to stifle their precocious flow with different zones, but to no avail. Grut would simply reset, take their time, and trust each other to find the time and space to work through the defense. Hucks came from every direction, blades were taken down with ease, and the pure euphoria of play emanated from every person in a Grut jersey.
Grut won the contest 15-7. The scoreline very much reflected how they emphatically outpaced a Chuckies team who have been hard work for everyone else in the pool to dispatch.2
I spoke to one of the team’s physiotherapists, Miriam Jansen, after the game. She has known most of the players since they were eleven due to her involvement in the Dutch youth ultimate program. She’s known a couple of the players even longer due to her being directly involved in the birth of Janne and Walt Jansen. Normally she is responsible for over 80 young players, who she affectionately refers to as her “children.” She admitted to enjoying this week as she has seen the number of her brood shrink to a more manageable 19.
After the game against Chuckies she said, “At last they found their Grut again.” This was in reference to the style of play that they were exhibiting, and the way they were interacting with each other. To all present, it seemed the Grut that had taken Europe by storm was starting to reemerge.
They would go on to play BOOM! (KOR) in the crossover game to get into prequarters. This matchup favored the Dutch, as their sails were full going up against a Korean side that had struggled to establish a definitive personality in their own pool games. Despite this, they were able to keep things competitive for the majority of the first half, staying within striking distance of Grut. The pressure never seemed to get to the Dutch. They continued to rotate throughout their squad, giving each player a chance to shine, and reveling in the resulting fireworks together. A tidy 15-8 win was their final result.
Afterwards I chatted to several of the players.3 They were in high spirits. We talked about the past, where I was shocked to learn several of the players on the team were present at the same U20 World Championships as myself in 2010.4 They were joking and messing with each other, the weight of previous disappointments clearly dismissed to the past, and eyes looking to an increasingly bright future.
When discussing the future with coach Jereon Oort, he explained how they had looked into possible matchups and were ready for the coming challenges. “We feel like we can win every game,” said Oort. That feeling became very evident when talking to his players about their next opponents, Mulatto Pilipinas.
Grut do not have a lot of experience – together or on varying international outfits – playing against the quick, inside break-based style that rocketed Mulatto to the top of their pool. Heading into the match, that did not seem to concern them much. As we continued to talk about their fortunes over carrots5 it was undeniable that they had rediscovered who they were. The initial shock of being at WUCC has seemingly faded, leaving only the calcified resolve and confident veneer that led them to their first European title last year.
As I turned to leave, they called me back one more time and threw a half eaten carrot at me, a play on my shock at their particular choice of nourishment, along with a comment on how increasingly haggard I look with each passing day here in Cincinnati.6 I couldn’t help but think, “Wee brats.”
When Wednesday dawned for the Dutch, they arose to find a scrappy Pilipinas side waiting for them. The first few points of their game were littered with mistimed throws and unfortunate drops. In that moment, I was worried that they were reverting back to the form that had plagued them their first few days of the tournament. As the calls started to pile up between the two outfits, the game seemed to teeter dangerously close to going off the rails, taking Grut’s resurgence with it. However, it turned out that I was simply worrying over nothing. They knew what they were doing. “Trust your receiver” is not just a chant for them; it is a guiding philosophy. Their defense ratcheted up as their offence took on a new clinical edge. Each bid was more insulting to the laws of physics than the last while their throws blended conservatism and audacity to a perfect shade. They earned a 15-11 victory.
Their next game was a similar affair,7 with Grut going 2-0 down to start the game. This time around, I knew better than to be worried. They were just finding their feet and pace. They quickly turned the game around, taking half 8-4, smiling the entire way. At this point, everyone was involved in the play, apart from Niels Boom, whose knee gave out in a warmup earlier in the day. They were emphatic in their 15-10 victory over Pie Wagon, securing a top eight finish for themselves in the process.
Tomorrow they will get a shot at revenge against Wild Card in the quarterfinal round, though this isn’t a point of focus for them.8 In the immediacy of their victory, they didn’t seem too interested in revenge, or tomorrow in general. The goal is to win their quarterfinal, of course, though for the time being they were content to head back to their hotel and recuperate in the pool. As the always insightful Miriam put it, “We have a rule: look after yourself, look after someone else, then you can look after ultimate.”
They still managed to squeeze in a little bit of teasing before heading away, making sure to throw my pre-tournament comments about their potential fortunes back at me. To clarify: I may have tried some pseudo-reverse psychology encouragement on the WUCC preview episode of EuroZone last week.9 Suffice to say they were not about to let me get away with it, given they had fought their way into the top eight, and were eagerly awaiting their chance to go further.
After spending the past few days slowly infiltrating their private culture, along with them feeding me subsequent dinners of carrot and crow, I think they’ve properly translated the term. Don’t worry if this article hasn’t illuminated the meaning to you yet, they’ll be more than happy to explain it on the pitch tomorrow.
And if, in turn, I was becoming more Dutch… ↩
They finished with one win but a -4 goal differential. ↩
And the man fast becoming my favorite member of the whole outfit, Peter. ↩
Though all were considerably younger than me at the time. ↩
which they graciously shared with me ↩
It’s so very sunny and I’m so very Irish. ↩
Ed – And is available to Ultiworld subscribers! ↩
Well, for the majority of them. ↩