UK Nationals 2024: Preview

After crowning two brand new champions last year, will we see the same again in 2024?

Clapham chases down a pull at Windmill. Photo by John Kofi.

The results of the UK National championships last season were unprecedented. Chevron Action Flash (Birmingham1) and Deep Space (London) became national champions for the first time, and Iceni (London) won for the first time since 2017 having previously been the dominant force in the women’s division.

This season may not be quite dramatic, but there are still some storylines to watch affecting both UK ultimate and the wider EUCS season.

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Nottingham, UK2
  • Date: Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 July, 2024
  • Weather: 12-17 degrees C, showers on both days with a medium breeze on Saturday, mild winds on Sunday
  • Where to watch: Ulti.TV YouTube

Mixed Division

Top seed and reigning champion Deep Space (London) has had a strange year, competing in most events without its full roster. The main reason for that is that most of its new female-matching players are on the Great Britain Women’s team, which has had training camps on some tournament weekends. A much-closer-to-full squad performed very well at London Invite and players like Rachel Naden, Leila Denniston and Kate Gibson will be difficult for any player in the mixed division to shut down. That performance suggests they have a strong case of getting a back-to-back title, although missing standout Hannah Yorweth through injury is a blow.

Second seed Lemmings (Leamington) is having a banner year after making its first final last year. A huge win at Elite Invite guaranteed Lemmings another shot at EUCF and came with wins over rivals Deep Space and Reading, albeit with somewhat depleted squads. Regionals didn’t present many problems, and this team knows that it can win a title this year if everything breaks right with strong young talent up and down the roster.

The other contender is Reading. Another team that will have its full squad back in Nottingham for Nationals, Reading hasn’t a championship since 2016. In that time the team has made an EUCF final and is always competitive, but recent results haven’t been as positive. Adding GB Mixed players Andy Lewis, Becky Thompson and Sam Wilson after missing them at London Invite could make a difference.

Heck (Edinburgh) and Glasgow are the Scottish representatives and are one of the more intriguing stories in Europe this season. The teams are ranked second and third, respectively, according to the EUCS algorithm at the moment. Those rankings, though, come with very little crossover to the rest of Europe. Heck only has one ranked result, an 11-10 win over Glasgow at regionals, while Glasgow has only results at a seemingly weaker Spring Tour in Stockholm and the aforementioned loss at regionals. With so many teams counting this weekend, we will know much more about the level of both teams come Sunday evening.

Despite those lofty rankings, BN1 (Brighton) may be the best bet to make the semis outside of the title contenders. A sixth-place finish at Spring Tour in Padova was a strong result and the team finished third at regionals behind Deep Space and Reading. Adding two former Clapham players in Hayden Slaughter and Alex Cragg and a GB Women’s player, Izzy Collins, has added real firepower to an already very solid all-around team.

Newcastle Brown will also be making its first mixed appearance, while Thundering Herd will be looking to avoid repeating an eighth-place finish for the fourth Nationals in a row3.

Open Division

Chevron won this tournament for the first time last season after years (decades!) of falling just short. This season suggests that it might struggle to hold on to the title, but then results last year didn’t suggest that the big upset would actually happen. Chevron’s young stars have had another year to grow, but with training time always at a premium for a team that is spread so wide across the country it’s difficult to expect uniform development. It seems nailed on that Chevron will reach the final, and as we have seen, anything can happen from there.

Clapham (London) has had an up-and-down season so far. Elite Invite saw a small, inexperienced team finish third. Tom’s saw the D line (with some additional O line leadership players) finish third. Windmill was hugely positive before a crushing defeat in the final, so seeing a full, firing Clapham team has been quite rare. The team has been chomping at the bit to get back to Nationals with last year’s failure firmly imprinted on the minds of every player who took part. This may be the most motivated Clapham we have ever seen – that may be bad news for everyone, but particularly for LeedsLeedsLeeds, which plays Clapham first up on Saturday.

The next best team looks to be Alba (Scotland), but the team seems a step below the one that made the final in 2022. Several key players aren’t with the team this season and there have been some young players drafted in to take key roles. The team may well feel the benefit of that in a few years, but for now the ceiling has been lowered slightly. Still, with coach Leo Micklem leading a team with several GB players on the roster, it would be a huge surprise to see them not make the semis. One wrinkle here; Alba desperately needs to boost its EUCF ranking points this weekend so will be pushing hard in every game to make its score as positive as possible after some difficult weekends abroad this year.

Smash’D (London) and Bristol will be fighting it out for the final semis spot. The teams have been close all season, with Bristol finishing a place ahead at regionals without the teams actually meeting on the field. Bristol’s development in recent years has made them a legitimate contender for the top four and, if things go well, potentially a threat to finish third. It seems likely that Bristol will make EUCF, but it needs to maintain its good results to confirm that.

SMOG (Manchester), Ka-Pow! (London) and Leeds are likely to be battling in the lower bracket. SMOG has had a good first season as an open team and is likely to be the strongest of the three, with the ability to challenge the two best teams in the pool, but depth has been the issue so far this year. Ka-Pow! has a younger roster than in previous years and performed well at regionals, while this is the first nationals in several years for Leeds. A start against Clapham, as mentioned, is quite a welcome back and is also a rematch of the 2003-2005 national finals.

Women’s Division

Reigning champion Iceni has had a good season so far, winning Spring Tour against its domestic rivals and, when the full squad is available, looking strong. Some of the losses from last year’s title-winning squad have been offset by development from younger players, some good additions and the return from injury of Amelia Kenneth, who is on the GB Women’s team. The top of the women’s division is very tight but the Londoners look to be narrow favorites coming in now all their GB players are available at the same time.

Bristol will have something to say about that. A very tight final at Spring Tour was followed by an excellent showing at London Invite, where it reached the final ahead of a diminished Iceni and third seed LMU (London). The squad is also boosted by several key injury returns – Molly Wedge has recovered from her knee injury last year, while Alice Beeching and Carla Link are on track to return after recent injuries kept them out for several weeks. Bristol has done very well in recent years peaking at the right time and will be full of confidence.

LMU has been very good for the last few years and will again challenge at the top. It won the title in 2022 and looks to be in with a shout of doing so again this season with the kind of experience you’d expect from such a high-level master’s team. However, SMOG (Manchester) is a contender it has not had to deal with before. The Northerners have been very good when everyone has been available this season, something that has been rare given the GB players on the roster. If SMOG can get over its slight habit of odd losses in early games it may be a candidate for a dark horse run to the title – lots of these players already have a number of gold medals in the mixed division and there’s no lack of talent at all.

SMOG and Bristol have a seemingly tougher pool, though. SYC (London) has gone through some changes with new leadership and coaching but remains one of the best teams in the country with players that are more than capable of causing issues for the top teams. After last year’s disappointment in missing out on an EUCF place in the final game, SYC will be motivated to get some big results. It is out of the current EUCF picture so has something to aim for.

Chameleons (pan-UK) and Horizon (Leeds) are both likely to be bringing up the rear and will be looking for development, but the other team is one to keep an eye on. Spice (Nottingham) has been developing well for the last few years but has lost a number of players this season – mostly to London teams thanks to post-university moves. Key players Heather Gibson and Marina Symington are on the GB Women’s team and will be doing a lot of heavy lifting, but GB U24 Emily Stewart has developed into a central player this season and looks like being a breakout player if Spice can replicate some of its results in past years.

  1. The club trains in Birmingham and has a clubhouse there, but draws players from all over the country. 

  2. The same venue that held the World Under-24 Championships in 2023 and has held UK Nationals for several years. 

  3. Several of those finishes came in a 12-team tournament. 

  1. Sean Colfer
    Sean Colfer

    Sean Colfer is based in London. He’s played for teams across the UK since 2006 and has been writing about and commentating on ultimate since 2010. Follow him on Twitter @seancolfer, or follow @ShowGameUlti on Instagram for more on UK and Irish ultimate.

  2. Felix Soedira
    Felix Soedira

    Felix Soedira is based in Manchester, UK. He has been playing ultimate since 2014 and has been writing since 2021. He has played for the University of Manchester, Manchester Ultimate and currently plays for SMOG Open. Off pitch, he is a struggling graduate. You can follow him on Instagram (@felixsoedira).

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