What you need to know before the winners are announced
December 29, 2022 by Sean Colfer in Awards with 0 comments
This has been a strange, stratified season in Europe. We had two seasons either scrapped or heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, then only one full season of club ultimate before everything was shifted around for the World Games and the World Ultimate Club Championships in the summer. It meant that some of Europe’s best players were stateside for a significant portion of time, and some of them weren’t even playing with European clubs at the time.
It makes for a challenging landscape for our awards; do we recognise the best European players, or the best players on European teams? Do we include World Games as part of the thinking despite the fact only 42 European players went to that tournament? Do we include exploits at WUCC in the picture, even if those players didn’t attend many (or indeed any) European tournaments? Crucially, how do we weight EUCF? It’s the most important tournament of the year every year in Europe so it should clearly carry outsized importance, but to the expense of what else?
With all these factors to consider, let’s go through some things ahead of the awards. The awards will follow tomorrow, so stay tuned to find out the winners in all three divisions!
What are we counting here?
The World Games is being used strictly as a tie-breaker. While it’s obviously a huge thing for players to have been good enough to test themselves against some of the very best in the world, unlike in the USA we are dealing with a lot of players who didn’t have a chance to play because of a factor largely outside their control; their countries didn’t qualify. Some of the best players in Europe hail from countries that didn’t make the cut1, so it would be difficult to discriminate for those reasons. If two players are at a roughly similar level, though, the World Games will push someone over the edge.
Similarly, if someone has played for non-European teams all season then they aren’t eligible for the European awards. There’s a few people that this affects but the most obvious is Levke Walczak, a wonderful player who is undoubtedly one of the best on the planet and will immediately vault to contention for the top of these lists if she comes back to Europe for EUC2 next season. For this season, she’s not eligible, and nor are other players who stayed in the USA after WUCC and didn’t play EUCF.
The EUCF bump
Every season, EUCF finds the European champion. This season was something of an anomaly with movement between divisions throughout the season, particularly from WUCC to EUCF. It also saw a different team finish as the highest placed European team at WUCC and European champion in every division3 making it difficult to choose a single standout team in many cases. Due to the importance of EUCF in the European calendar, we have considered it more prominently in our thinking than WUCC so teams who succeeded in Caorle will see their players given a bump compared to those who thrived in Cincinnati.
There was some discussion about whether to change the awards lineup and introduce new awards to recognise other things we’ve seen in the European community over the last year. While the decision was eventually taken to stick with the same slate that’s been used for several years, there was one potential award that was worth highlighting; a comeback player of the year to recognise those coming back from injuries or other enforced breaks from the sport. The women’s division, in particular, saw some big names coming back to top form with Nici Prien, Anna Gerner, Laura Farolfi, Irene Scazzieri and Kyoko Binnewies all in that discussion.
Breakout player candidates
There are two breakout players in each division, but there was an unusually large amount of players that were in the running for that award. Several teams at EUCF were made up of extremely young players, and several of them went deep into the tournament. Teams like Ranelagh (Dublin), Heidees (Eppelheim), Mosquitoes (Klosterneuburg), Lemmings (Leamington), East Block (East Bohemia) and FreezGo (Blois) all had young players playing huge roles, not to mention the number of outstanding young players we saw at JJUC in Wroclaw in the summer. The top of European ultimate has been quite static for a long time, but young players are starting to challenge that hierarchy. It could be an exciting few years to come.
And given the current qualification parameters for the tournament will struggle to do so in future. ↩
The European Ultimate Championships are in Limerick, Ireland in 2023 and Germany will be a strong contender even without Walczak. If she’s back, they might be favorites. ↩
Clapham and Ranelagh in open, jinX and CUSB Shout in women’s and PuTi and GRUT in mixed ↩