The inaugural season of the Australian Ultimate League has given its fans everything they hoped for and more.
The five rounds of matches have featured high level Ultimate, filled with intensity, drama and action.
The Melbourne Flames have emerged top dogs in the League, finishing the season with a perfect record of 5-0, and delivering Sydney their only loss. This has set up an exciting Grand Final that many could have predicted at the start of the season: it’s a showdown between two of the Australian Ultimate League’s on-paper best.
And sure, the Flames will go in as favourites after their 13-9 win in the season opener, but the Suns will be no pushover. Sydney have the best points difference in the League, generating huge margins of victory against teams that tested Melbourne.
The Suns will have the home ground advantage in Leichhardt this Saturday, expect to see a big turnout of purple and white.
Melbourne have shown throughout the season that they have faith in their playing style; sticking to their guns when the going gets tough and always, five-out-of-five-times, pulling through.
On offense, when playing short ball, the Flames look unstoppable, weaving short and quick passes through all their players. They can beat almost any defence with this patient build up.
The handler control of players like Tom Rogacki, Seb Barr and Mark Isherwood have been key to the Flames’ offensive system. Getting on the end of those assists have been Alex Prentice and Cat Phillips, the League’s joint top scorers with 10 goals each.
On defense, the Flames have stuck mainly to a tight one-on-one defense with a gender mismatch; effectively freeing up taller players to defend further downfield while letting Mikhaila Dignam harass opposition handlers.
Because of this strategy, we’ve seen Tom Deller and Mark Isherwood get some massive blocks, each racking up eight in the AUL’s regular season.
But the Suns are no strangers to stats. A player to watch on Saturday will be Peter Blakeley, who has the outright most blocks and assists on the Sydney team, and is joint top with Rosie Dawson for goals scored.
It is looking like this match is shaping up to be a battle between the best offense and best defense in the AUL. Fans of Melbourne and Sydney will be excited to watch their team play beneath the Leichhardt flood lights in the first Grand Final of this new initiative, while neutral spectators can just enjoy a match that promises top quality, high intensity Ultimate.
Maybe we will find out the answer to the age old question, what happens if you set fire to the sun? Will the Flames continue to blaze their trail through the league or will the Suns shine brighter than ever before?
Find out on October 13th, Saturday, 7:00pm. If you are in Sydney or will be there over the weekend, get your tickets to the inaugural Australian Ultimate League Grand Final here.
Written by: Alex Tsui
Photography: Mark Milne