by Jedd Hart
On Monday, 7 March the Summer League culminated in an epic battle between two titanic teams in Ultitude’s H*ck My Life (my team) and the Zone Rangers. After 6 weeks of intense games throughout Gauteng, these two teams managed to stay head of the opposition and secure their spots in the Final.
Way back at in the beginning of February 6 teams entered the first GFDA (Gauteng Flying Disc Association) Summer League. Tuks Labradors, Wits Voodoo Kudus, Ultitude (HML and Honey Badgers), Zone Rangers, and Skyveld all had equal hopes of taking the newly acquired league trophy home with them. Each team played one game per week, hosted on the lovely grass at Wits Bozz B fields, as well as one weekend game, played in Pretoria, for the benefit of the Labradors’ travel allowance.
Each week saw more and more competitive games, closer scores, bigger hucks, and more outrageous defensive plays – one I remember in particular from the game HML v Skyveld: a great huck upfield from deep in our half to a wide-open receiver, when out of nowhere Luke Buckland lays out chest-high to block what would have been a sure goal. That was like a knife in the chest! But a fantastic display of what Gauteng will be taking to the National competition in April in Cape Town.
You can find short write-ups of each weeks games and score breakdowns on the GFDA Facebook page; or just talk to any of the players involved, and I’m they will regale you with plenty of tales like mine!
Onto the semi-final weekend: an undefeated HML played the fourth placed Tuks; a hard, closely contested game, with Tuks up 8-6 at the half. However, Ultimate can be a game of two completely different halves as HML came out firing in the second half and took it away to secure their spot in the final with a 14-11 victory. The second semi-final game went down with Skyveld battling Zone Rangers, a game I didn’t see, as I was fighting for my life against Tuks a the time, but I’m told was riveting from the start. Rangers took the game 15-10.
The Finals weekend was scheduled for 5 March, but was postponed at the last minute due to player-availability issues. This didn’t deter any of Gauteng’s finest Ultimate players, who all joined together and played a well-attended, highly-spirited hat tournament instead. (see GFDA Facebook page for photos, blog entry coming shortly).
In the end though, the Final between Ultitude’s HML and Zone Rangers did go down.
It was a calm night, not a breath of wind. No rain, no cold, not even a cloud in sight. I had been anticipating this game for 2 weeks already – the chance to play in the hottest game of the 2016 so far! I got the ‘flu 3 days before, still played the hat tourney over the weekend, and now here I was, sniffing every 3 minutes, but kitted up and ready to play until my heart exploded!
In the first half, ‘the Love Connection’ of Che and SK started with a quick goal, but Zone went up swiftly in response as their offence put 3 unanswered goals on the board. A good patient O from Devin, Robin, and Mo saw our own offence work through a formidable Zone cup. ‘We could maybe win this’, I thought. But then suddenly we were 6-3 down… Zone was pulling to us, and their cup was on its way. We had lost our offensive flow somewhere along the line. We needed some cohesion, some spark to wake up the team that had won through in all the other games.
Handler line: Che, Devin, Jedd; cutting: Karen, Olive, Gareth, Werner. The disc goes up for the pull, and its racing towards us, pulling the Rangers down upon us. Devin takes it cleanly, quickly passes it to me in the mid, I pass it off the Che on the left. The rabbit with its cup arrives. Che swings it to Devin, who swings it left to me. No free space up field. I swing it back to Devin, who passes it off to Che, who finds Gareth popping in close. Gareth pops it back to Che and he runs off, cuts back to the sideline and receives it right back from Che. Karen is free in the end zone! The cutters have managed to split the deep-deep, who has chosen the right wing, leaving Karen open. Gareth fires a bullet at her, I draw my breath in sharply. Karen makes the play! We score!
At the 50 minute mark (half-time cap), we’re at 6-6. We have found some semblance of the flow we had before. But there are still 50 minutes left of play to come. The 5 minute half-time rest gives us some breathing room, and then we’re back out there. We traded point for point, 6-7, 7-7, 7-8, 8-8, each team jostling for position to get ahead. Incredible plays, long hucks, short pops, hard man-D, continuous swings – both sides working till their last breath. Eventually: 10-10.
There were some looooong points to get here, and watching those from the sideline was torture – all I wanted to do was help my team, but all I could do was to keep the sideline active (something I’ve learnt from my training at Ultitude is that an active and talking sideline can be the difference between winning and losing, getting a deep D, or leaving a player unmarked). The soft cap is finally called – this was now a game to 12.
The next two points were do-or-die. Our team was tired. We were sweaty, breathing heavily, every muscle burning (well for me anyway!); but only 2 points stood between us and that trophy! The pull came, we worked it up, we fumbled. Then the Rangers came, they worked it up, they fumbled. We countered. A pop pass to Olive, onto Che, back to me in the centre – Devin was streaking deep; that guy is tall! ‘Hit him, hit him, hit him’ was all I could hear in my head. I’ve been known to be a bit ‘end zone-hungry’ but this time I didn’t care – I hit him: a high, outside-in, flick. His mark didn’t stand a chance as he rose above and pulled it down for the score.
‘One more goal – we can do this!’ Defensive lines on the field. We pull – a beautiful, hanging disc sails to the back left corner. We sprint to put the pressure on. Nick cuts up the line, Werner is there to force his pass home, a dump back to Baden. A swing and another swing – it goes off the fingertips of the receiver and out on the right. This was it – we had the disc right there: we were 20 metres from our victory! “Vert stack”, I shout. The players assemble themselves.
I look for my cutter, the mark is too close; I look for the reset, his mark is really tight as well. “Stall 3, 4, 5”. Upfield a man is poached – oh so tantalisingly poached! Can it be so? There isn’t a man nearby. Jay sees that I’ve seen him, he moves into the back left corner. Still no one nearby. ‘This is it – you’ve thrown it a thousand times’ was the last thought in my head as the hammer went up; it curves from left to right and into the waiting hands of our victory! HML win the league 12-10 after a brilliant game from both sides – there was everything: great D, spectacular O, high-minded rule-debates, contested strips, uncontested fouls, deep runs; just good hard friendly Ultimate!
This league has shown that Gauteng Ultimate has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 2 years. We will definitely be a strong presence at Nationals in Cape Town in April!
Hope to see all the Gauteng teams participate in the next league: Women’s & Open league, starting after Nationals. Check the GFDA Facebook page for more information.
- MVP Male: Devin and Baden (2 votes each)
- MVP Female: SK (4 votes)
- Best D Male: Mo (2 votes)
- Best D Female: Olive (3 votes)
- Most Assists: Devin – 26
- Most Goals: SK – 21