Here's who our panel selected.
November 28, 2023 by Sean Colfer in Rankings with 0 comments
This season was packed in Europe. We had a couple of new (or rebranded) tournaments in the Spring and Elite Invites, then the World Under-24 Championships in Nottingham, UK, and the European Ultimate Championships in Limerick, Ireland followed by the traditional curtain call on the season, EUCF in Wroclaw, Poland. The World Championships of Beach Ultimate were a late-season addition, too. With so many chances to look at the top players, it’s a perfect time to see how observers see the best players on the continent.
This season was groundbreaking in open with a new generation of players making a huge impact on the game. Great Britain and Clapham (London) have reigned supreme for a long time, GB winning the last two EUC titles and Clapham winning nine of the last eleven EUCF titles. However, a young Belgium team snatched away the EUC title for the first time this year and Mooncatchers (Brussels) had an almost perfect club season before falling to a resurgent Clapham in the final at EUCF. Gentle made the semis for the second time in three years as well, showing the strength in depth in Belgium.
A titanic semi-final battle with La Fotta (Bologna) may well have had an effect on how tired Moon seemed in that final, and Italy’s teams also did brilliantly at EUC and at WU24. Germany’s under-24 and senior open teams won bronze, and France’s open and mixed teams at EUC featured some exciting young talent. Clapham and GB haven’t gone away, either, and still feature some of the best players on the continent.
So, who finished where? Here’s the top 25 male-matching players according to our voting panel. We’ll put the full list of votes up for subscribers as well. The voting panel included Ultiworld European editor Sean Colfer, Ulti.TV commentators Benjy Rees, Hannah Pendlebury, Stef Rappazzo, Lorcán Murray and Hive editor Lu Burgess, as well as former Ireland and Ranelagh coach, and current blogger and author at bettereverydaycoaching, Ian French. Several current players and coaches were also included but were granted anonymity to express honest opinions.
1. Daan De Marrée (Belgium & Mooncatchers)
De Marrée announced himself on the European stage at xEUCF in Bruges in 2021. He was a young, relatively unknown D line cutter at that stage. Since then, he’s become a still-young, very known whatever-line-he-wants menace. He’s a great defender, a poacher supreme and an offensive engine all in one ferociously competitive package. Still only 22, seeing what heights he can hit in the coming years will be fascinating.
2. Connor McHale (Great Britain & Clapham)
A relatively late bloomer who never played for Great Britain before making the senior open team in 2019, McHale has had a fascinating career path. He’s transformed from a springy D line athlete with a big arm into one of the premier, all-around offensive threats in European ultimate and been a key part of deep runs at European, world and, more recently, USAU tournaments.
3. Arvids Kārkliņš1 (Latvia & Mooncatchers)
The 2022 open player of the year is perhaps the most physically talented player in Europe at the moment. Fast, tall and a brilliant thrower, there’s not much he doesn’t have. Playing with Mooncatchers has added another string to his bow as the driver of the D line. Also still only 24, so there’s levels potentially to come.
4. Ben Oort (Netherlands & GRUT)
If McHale was a late bloomer, Oort was the exact opposite in winning a European title at the age of 17 with GRUT. Since then he’s added two more EUCF titles and now a USAU title as well to become one of very few to have won both. He’s 23 and has worlds yet to conquer – GRUT’s shift to single-gender competition means we’ll see him in a new environment should he play on this side of the Atlantic in 2024.
5. Tobe Decraene (Belgium & Gentle)
One of the youngest players on this list, Decraene is only 20. He’s another that burst onto the scene in 2021 by dominating downfield for surprise semi-finalists Gentle at xEUCF. His ability to separate and then go up to snatch the disc away from the best defenders was eye-popping, even more so when you consider he was so young at the time. This season he continued to develop and led Belgium in goals at under-24s and then in winning gold at EUC.
6. David Barzasi (Italy & BFD La Fotta)
For a while Barzasi was known as a freak young athlete who had the hypothetical ability to do almost anything on the field. Then we saw the extent of those abilities at EUC where he dominated seemingly an entire division in mixed until the nous of the French stopped him in the final. Tall, fast, springy and a brilliant thrower, there’s basically nothing he can’t do.
7. Justin Foord (Great Britain & Clapham)
Foord has been the gold standard in Europe for over a decade. It isn’t until the last couple of years that there have been players that could reasonably challenge him for the title, but he’s still capable of raising his game when needed. A lion can still roar in winter.
8. Conrad Schlör (Germany & Wall City)
Schlör’s defensive brilliance is what helped him become a name people knew on both sides of the Atlantic – with PoNY and with Germany and Wall City. He’s developed the other side of his game, though, and is now an all-around threat that can lock up an opponent’s best player and then torch them after a turn. His consistency is a key driver for whatever team he’s starring on at the time.
9. Will Rowledge (Great Britain & Clapham)
Another who trod the well-worn path from a strike defender capable of getting huge blocks to a more rounded threat, Rowledge has become a crucial part of Clapham and GB’s offensive attack. His height, speed and leaping ability mean he’s a fantastic downfield threat but the development in his throwing has been crucial in taking away any easy options to stop him.
10. Sebastian Rossi (Italy & BFD La Fotta)
Rossi was fantastic for Italy at under-24s, driving the offense with his ability to spread the disc, and then was crucial for La Fotta’s O line as they reached semis at EUCF. His performance there against Mooncatchers in a spectacular, epic contest was incredible. Another who’ll be a fixture here for years.
11. Ferdia Rogers (Ireland & Ranelagh)
Maybe the best pure O line handler in Europe at the moment. His lefty guile and ability to grind yards in the handler space makes him largely unstoppable, and his ability to keep the offense pushing has won him an EUCF gold and EUC bronze in the last couple of years. He’s a capable, physical defender as well so can mix it with any other player in Europe on both sides of the disc.
12. Gael Ancelin (France & Sesquidistus)
Another with a claim at the O line handler throne. While the club season didn’t go as well as it could have for Ancelin’s team, his virtuoso performance for France mixed as they won EUC gold is more than enough evidence to land him on this list. He’s not only an excellent handler, he’s a very effective defender who can guard handlers or cutters.
13. Elliot Bonnet (France & Tchac)
The young prince of French ultimate might have made the lower part of this list had we done it immediately after EUCF. Everyone knew about his talent and his ability to lock people up. His performance at WBUC thrust him into the spotlight, though. None of the Americans could get close to him as he was the key driver in France’s stunning semi-final upset of the home favorites. Another who’s only 20, so watch for this ranking to look low soon enough.
14. Sam Murphy (Ireland & Ranelagh)
The easy-call MVP of Ranelagh’s EUCF title win is one of the most consistent players in Europe. Need a guy to grind some unders and keep the disc moving in difficult circumstances? Need someone to torch the opponent’s best deep defender for a goal? Need someone locked up downfield? Smurph can help you out with all of that and more.
15. Rephael Jonkers (Belgium & Mooncatchers)
Undoubtedly one of the most talented and mercurial players in Europe, there is every chance that Jonkers comes back from his ACL injury, sustained halfway through the season at Windmill, next season and makes this ranking look ridiculous. He’s basically unstoppable upfield and, as we saw at WUCC, has a nose for a big moment. Belgium won EUC and Moon EUCF silver without him. With him back…
16. Tom Blasman (Netherlands & GRUT)
GRUT and the Netherlands were without Oort at EUCF and EUC respectively this season, so if you saw a cap-wearing offensive handler with a seemingly bottomless bag slinging the disc all around the field, don’t rub your eyes and check what you’re seeing. Another of the under-24 brigade, Blasman stepped up this year and showed just how creative and effective he can be. GRUT open will have plenty of options with the disc next year.
17. Nico Müller (Germany & Bad Skid)
Müller has been the model of consistency for years. He’s been a key driving force for three-time medallist Germany open teams, has pushed Bad Skid to European finals and was a central part of Germany’s upset win over the USA at the World Games last season. He doesn’t look to be slowing down and can still get the job done in driving an offense.
18. Tom Abrams (Great Britain & Clapham)
Abrams has had a resurgence in the last two seasons. Moved to Clapham’s O line a few years ago, he’s now one of the central handlers for most of their downfield creation and played the same role for GB open in Limerick. His backhand hucks, absolutely money every time, are among the best in Europe.
19. Benjamin Jonkers (Belgium & Mooncatchers)
The younger Jonkers is a very different player to his brother. While Reph dominates downfield, Ben dominates with the disc. An endlessly creative thrower who in the past may have taken some bad options because of what he could do was the steady main handler for Belgium under-24s, seniors and Mooncatchers this year and added some crucial goals in a two-man game with De Marrée. He can still add some spice when needed, too.
20. Conrad Wilson (Great Britain & Clapham)
One of Clapham’s captains this year, the younger Wilson has emerged as one of the team’s most important throwers. He played offense for years but switched to the D line for GB for the season and his ability to attack downfield with precision was one of the main reasons the defense was able to notch breaks against basically everyone they played.
21. Axel Ahmala (Finland & Deep Space)
Ahmala moved back to the mixed division after playing with Clapham for a few years this season. He didn’t play much in the early part of the season but returned to Deep Space for the postseason. All they did from there was win UK Nationals and EUCF, with Ahmala a key disc handler at both events. He’s tall, quick and strong and this season had a knack for making the game operate at the pace he wanted to play at.
22. Andy Hillman (Great Britain & Clapham)
Hillman has been one of the best defenders in Europe for years, a constant menace in the handler space that sticks to number one options like velcro. He’s always been one of the first to shift over to the O line when Clapham have been broken, but for the latter part of this season made the move to offense permanently. He’s able to push the offense forward and, if there’s a turn, blanket D line handlers when needed.
23. Sofiène Bontemps (Belgium & Mooncatchers)
Bontemps broke out as a downfield threat in the first game of xEUCF 2021 as Mooncatchers beat reigning champions La Fotta. In late 2022 he was one of the best players at the European Indoors Championships as Belgium won, and this year emerged as an all-around threat for Belgium under-24s, seniors and Mooncatchers. A great thrower, effective cutter, brilliant defender and perhaps the best puller in Europe, Bontemps is a crucial cog in star-studded lineups.
24. Simone Gasperini (Italy & BFD La Fotta)
Gasperini is an offensive Swiss army knife, able to handle and cut with equal ability. He can grind unders or roast people downfield, he can squirrel some yards or work in tandem with his fellow O line stalwarts on La Fotta to tear apart defensive game plans with expansive, beautiful flowing offense. One of the most underrated players in Europe.
25. Luca Tognetti (Italy & BFD La Fotta)
Tognetti takes the toughest matchup on whatever team he’s playing. One of the best defenders on a tough La Fotta team, and another brilliant puller, he’s not just a one-dimensional defensive threat. He’s one of their main disc handlers after the turn and, if Italy or La Fotta needed it, could comfortably play on offense if needed for a big point.
Formerly Orlovskis. ↩