The winners in the open division for 2022!
December 30, 2022 by Sean Colfer and Ned Garvey in Awards with 0 comments
The open division was unexpectedly thrilling this season, with perennial powerhouses Clapham (London) and CUSB La Fotta (Bologna) starting somewhat slowly and the season ending with an airbag-fuelled bang. Wall City (Berlin) and Iznogod (Noisy-le-Sec) won tournaments early on, Clapham won the tournaments in the build-up to WUCC and then finished as the highest European team but faltered in Caorle as Ranelagh (Dublin) won EUCF and became European champions for the first time.
Such a season means that there were players who stood out massively at some stages and who faded at others, and some who started strong and couldn’t maintain that level throughout the long, gruelling season. It also means there are some players who finished so strong that it’s difficult to ignore them in year-end awards. Here’s where we landed on each of the awards for the 2022 season.
Player of the Year
WINNER: Arvids Orlovskis (Mooncatchers, Salaspils and Latvia)
There are very few players in Europe who can truly do just about every part of the game at the elite level. Arvids Orlovskis is one of those players. As his teammate, I often find myself wishing he could throw to himself. In almost every situation, he is simultaneously the best thrower and the best receiver on the field. Not only does he have the touch and creativity for tight situations, but he can throw the length of the field accurately with ease. I don’t think there was much doubt about his talent coming into the 2022 season, but he proved on multiple teams, and in multiple positions, that he can compete, excel even, at the highest level. At WUCC, Orlovskis added a number of feathers to his cap, helping Mooncatchers to a fourth place finish. In the process, he got to make some of the USA’s1 best talent look quite silly as they jumped futilely underneath him. For the Belgians, he led the defense, but was the first name to get called across to the offense whenever necessary. It was no coincidence that they trusted him to come down with the disc on universe point in their quarterfinal against Seattle Sockeye. At EUCF, he again put in a string of dominant performances, even as Mooncatchers fell to a disappointing sixth place. For these reasons and more, Arvids Orlovskis is our 2022 Open Division Player of the Year.
Runner up: Ferdia Rogers (Ranelagh)
When summarizing last season, we wrote that Rogers had entered the conversation as one of the best players in Europe. This season he made his case that he isn’t just part of the conversation, he’s one of the main protagonists. A switch to the D-line for WUCC showed his versatility, and early season struggles were cast aside like a mere annoyance as the Ranelagh O-line resumed its machine-like efficiency at EUCF. Rogers was integral to that efficiency; his ability to drive the offense, both with and without the disc, and churn out yards under the most intense pressure whoever was guarding him was crucial in key moments as the Dubliners won the title. His chemistry with his teammates, particularly fellow handler Matty Feely and cutters Sam Murphy, Tadhg Deevy and Jack MacNamara, was evident in the final as they overcame the mighty Clapham, as was his ability to flip to the D-line, take tough match-ups and control the offense after the turn. What comes next for Rogers? Whatever it is, he’ll be right at the centre of the conversation.
Offensive Player of the Year
Sam Murphy (Ranelagh)
Ranelagh’s offense was something of a sticking point early in the season, with things not clicking at the same level as they did in the dream run to the semi-finals of EUCF in 2021. Things were moved around, some American imports were slotted into roles at WUCC and coming into EUCF there was some question whether the team could generate the kind of offensive power to force its way back into the quarters. They responded by winning the title. Murphy has been a mainstay of that offense throughout the last two seasons. A cutter who can beat marks both under and going deep, his metronomic ability to get free keeps things moving, and his throwing, while not his primary strength, was more than good enough to make some big plays throughout the season. What made Murphy really stand out, though, was his nose for the moment. When Ranelagh needed big-time holds, Murphy made spectacular plays, great examples being the catches he toed in off a couple of slightly ropey throws2 late on against Clapham in the final. On a unit that had as close to a perfect tournament as you’ll find, he was the one that kept coming up big downfield. Rogers to Murphy was as good a duo as you could find in Europe in 2022, and one that sees them both recognised in these awards.
Runner-up: Rephael Jonkers (Mooncatchers and Belgium)
Jonkers and his Mooncatchers teammates became a sensation during WUCC in Cincinnati earlier this year. They played a fearless brand of ultimate, throwing the disc all over the field in a variety of ways. Hammer swings? Sure. Contested scoobers? Why not! Wherever he was, and whoever was marking him, the elder Jonkers was impossible to ignore. His creativity, energy and competitiveness made him one of the most compelling players at WUCC. Mooncatchers came into EUCF with high hopes that were dashed by eventual champions Ranelagh in the quarters, but throughout that tournament Jonkers was still incredibly difficult to stop. His size and speed, when paired with his throwing ability and his obvious chemistry with brother Ben, means he’s one of the best offensive weapons in the world, let alone Europe. Belgium Open could be a team to watch next season, and Jonkers will be a huge reason why.
Defensive Player of the Year
WINNER: Andrew Hillman (Clapham)
Hillman has been something of an unsung hero for Clapham for many years, a hidden gem on the most visible team in the division. He’s been one of the leaders of the team, calling the defensive lines and more recently flipping over to the O-line in times of real crisis. Being in the top seven of the third-best team in the world is testament to his all-around ability, but his defensive ability is the thing that he’s built his game around. Unusually quick in small, tight spaces, Hillman has been the scourge of elite European handlers for years. Almost no player is able to make things as difficult as Hillman, with his ability to disrupt key creators a huge part of Clapham’s stubborn defensive unit. His ability to control the offense after the turn along with last year’s DPOTY Connor McHale, past DPOTY Will Rowledge and breakout candidate Oscar Modiano3 means he’s as valuable as any defender in the division. He was brilliant again this season, and it seems that his consistency has brought his impact into full view for everyone.
Runner-up: Daan de Marree (Mooncatchers and Belgium)
De Marree was a strong candidate for this award last season but seemed like he was a little way away from being the defender he could be. The potential to be a shut-down guy was obvious. His speed, smarts and ability to be in the right place at the right time were all exactly what you’d want from someone at the very highest level, but there was another level he could reach. This season he reached that level consistently. He takes the toughest match-ups, whether they be a primary handler or a strike cutter, and either shuts them down or makes them work harder than they’re accustomed to. His offensive ability after the turn adds to his impact on the Belgian team and makes him one of the most valuable players on the roster. Expect to see him in contention here for years to come.
Breakout Player of the Year
WINNER: Dean McCreary (Ranelagh and Ireland)
McCreary was on the Ranelagh D-line in 2021, and played an important role in the team breaking through into the elite with a semi-final berth. In 2022 he played an even bigger role and showed he can be a player that can control D-line offense and generate yards for a semi-finals level team. He was excellent on defense, making his marks work hard and getting blocks, but it was his work after the turn that really made him stand out. His flick hucks were a massive weapon for the Ranelagh D-line and stood out even more than his haircut; something you’d recognise as no mean feat if you’ve seen this particular mullet. McCreary and offensive handler Shane Corcoran were both strong candidates here given their elevation from the roles they had last season, but McCreary’s big play ability put him slightly ahead.
Runner-up: Daire McNulty (Ranelagh)
Completing a Ranelagh sweep in this category, McNulty is a slightly different story to McCreary (and indeed Corcoran). A young D-line player who was basically unknown outside of Ireland until EUCF, he made quite the name for himself by getting seemingly dozens of blocks and disrupting the Clapham offense a number of times in the final. He’s also extremely consistent with the disc and created some big plays throughout the tournament once the turn had been secured. Ask Ranelagh and they’ll tell you he’s 16. That’s slightly overselling things, but McNulty has shown he can compete at the top level at the very start of his career. It will be exciting to see where he goes from here.