|Posted by devonultimate on April 30, 2013 at 8:30 AM|
Devon ultimate have been an established A Tour club for the past five seasons, but this year captain Samuel Luxa believes they have the squad and experience to qualify for the 2013 European Championships.
This year the Championships will take place in Bordeaux, France and Luxa thinks his team can beat their best ever finish at Nationals and qualify for the European Championships.
“We’ve been training hard and have picked up a couple of players and we’re looking very strong,” said Luxa.
“We’ve entered the Fog Lane Cup in May to gel a little more and try a few things out before the season starts for real in June.
“We know what we need to do this year. Our best finish at Nationals is sixth and we were one win away [from European qualification] a couple of years ago and I think we can get there this season.”
Devon have lost several of their big names in the past few seasons, but despite this, last year they finished Nationals in eighth place.
This followed a 12th place finish in the tour series where Luxa was left frustrated at his sides inability to find consistency and felt they underachieved.
“Devon are a very annoying team when it comes to tour. We weren’t able to get our full squad to any of the three tours and people were pulling out very last minute,” explained Luxa.
“We ended up with two 12th finishes and one 10th which was frustrating, but it summed up our season as everyone was feeling a bit hard done by after all the players leaving.”
With a sport the size of ultimate there are no limits on who you can and can’t play for. There is no structure where you have to play for your local club and no contracts to tie a player down to one club.
When players get to a certain level they may feel that they have out-grown their club and that they need to move on in order to develop their game and ultimately their career.
There has not been a bigger victim of this than Devon in the past few seasons.
In 2010 Devon played Fire of London in a European Championship playoff game at the end of Nationals. They were edged out 15-12 but pushed their opponents all the way.
The game was the biggest in the clubs history and they had a very impressive squad.
They have been unable to keep their squad together for the following seasons as they lost several of their biggest names.
Richard Coward, Ollie Gordon, Sam Bowen and Ben Hall all went to play for Manchester based Chevron Action Flash.
The lure of playing European ultimate, training and playing with the best players in the country and competing consistently at the top of UK ultimate, was too much to resist for these former Devon players.
Since then Devon have lost exceptional GB under 20’s handlers Josh Kyme and Ben Powley to Chevron, GB open under 23 players Luke Ryan and Simon Smiley to Fire and Clapham respectively and Phil Taylor to Ka-Pow.
“We have really been stitched up by players being poached and taken off us. I think we’ve lost nine players to the top three teams in the last two seasons,” said Luxa.
“After such a successful season [in 2010] we were hoping to really kick on as a club and keep pushing forward, but losing those four players at the end of that season really hurt us as a squad.
“I don’t blame the lads for going; there are plenty of positive reasons for going to play for Chevy and the other top clubs. But we have definitely become a bit of a feeder club, which is not something we want to be.”
Devon are unable to offer their players European ultimate but they have made some changes to their training and structure to prevent losing players and maintain a strong unity within the squad.
“There were complaints that our trainings were not regular enough and that the sessions lacked a little structure,” explains Luxa.
“We have got trained UKU coach Steve Cooper running our warm-ups and training sessions. We do much more work with just our first team and you can already see it benefiting us.
This has brought some old faces back to the club; Ryan, Smiley and Taylor have all returned and Devon have got some promising young players for the season ahead.
“At Devon we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We always want to win and play our hardest but we enjoy it. Some player’s love the way we play the game and this is what I think has brought some back.
“Big Luke [Ryan] is huge for us. His handling skills will be invaluable and with Smiley going deep that connection will prove fruitful I’m sure.
“We have some great young GB juniors available this season. Unfortunately several of them were unable to play much last season but they seem very keen this year and I’m excited to see what impact they can have.
“The returning players will bring some top level experience and the new young players will bring energy and enthusiasm. Hopefully this will be a winning combination come Nationals.”
With the Tour season starting on 1 June, Devon players will be training hard hoping to be picked for the first team ahead of an exciting campaign for Luxa and his troops.