Takin' Care of Business

Despite carrying a low seed into the tournament Newcastle I-Beam have taken the cake on Australian Ultimate Frisbee’s biggest stage. The 2010 Australian Ultimate Club Championships (AUC) was hosted by Adelaide from April 24-27. Sixteen club teams qualified for the national championships and all were conquered by I-Beam as they cruised to the final with a 7-1 record.

And cruise they did. Despite squeezing though the right end of a number of close contests, the Newcastle boys looked good in the pool and knockout stages. Their offence was a clean and effective attacking machine that had improved over the first three days into an impenetrable authority.

The burdening pressure applied by I-Beam’s attack established foundations for their defensive strategy. Consistently throughout the championships, the team built on the pressure by playing tough and giving nothing, forcing opponents to generate play through risky options. The system created turnovers and the defensive unit took advantage of possession opportunities by attacking with the same aggressive policy.

In addition to playing attractive ultimate, I-Beam were a class above in their modern uniforms thanks to corporate partner Lindsay and Dynan. The players flaunted a style that was unmatched across the entire open division.

On Tuesday 27th the green and brown took the field in front of 500 cheering fanatics. Sporting the underdog tag they faced-off against the fourth-seeded Colony B from Sydney. It was a label I-Beam had borne without alarm throughout much of the tournament and indeed the season.

 

 

To reach the final they had overcome the highly-fancied Colony A, defending champions Chilly (Melbourne), and the number-one seeds Heads of State (Melbourne). I-Beam had also defeated heavyweights and twice national finalists Fyshwick United at the Eastern Region qualifiers.

Newcastle’s squad had performed consistently well all season but always finished on the fringe of the top teams. In the lead-up tournaments they had demonstrated sound skills, tactics and fitness but had lacked the discipline to maintain all them for a full game. Then at the peak of the season, I-Beam lashed out like a snake in the grass to surprise all comers with their unrelenting series of dominating performances.

It was an ideal final match-up. For I-Beam at least. While neither team were undefeated on their path to the final, I-Beam’s one loss had come at the hands of Colony B in the second pool stage. Without sounding too wanky, there’s an adage that often gets mentioned in big tournaments, “In order to win, you have to beat everyone”. I-Beam had been handed the chance to prove their merit. It was poetic in its symmetry.

Many commentators thought I-Beam had played their final in the semi. Opponents Colony A had remained undefeated during the entire preseason and boasted a starting seven of international standard. It was I-Beam, however, who set the benchmark. When many critics expected them to play in Colony A’s wake, I-Beam dominated the tempo with a classy performance that ended in a 15-14 victory, sending the crowd into hysterics and the winning team into a 14-strong, green and brown dogpile.

The final next morning proved to be an even more thorough test for I-Beam. The depth of their strategy, skills and stamina were examined as well as individuals’ mental strength and passion. Newcastle’s 14 players made up the smallest squad in the open division. The small lineup displayed supreme physical strength and fitness that challenged Colony B.

The game was a powerfully close encounter. Colony B were first to gain momentum to take a lead, but I-Beam continued to press them with their aggressive but sound play. Colony couldn’t keep pace and I-Beam won the first half 8-6.

Sensing trouble Colony began to flex their muscles. Hoping to intimidate and overpower they showed-off the advanced collection of elite players on their squad. I-Beam remained unfazed. As Colony relied on the skills of their top end to create, I-Beam showed the power of their fitness and continued to run the pressure-building engine that had brought them to the main game.

During the second half Colony fought hard to assert their overdog status but couldn’t build momentum against the deeply focused I-Beam. At 13-12 they finally managed to score a break point but at 13-all Newcastle scored to win, and sent the crowd into hysterics for the second time in as many days.

 

The superior strength and fitness that proved such a weapon in the final was achieved from hard training, including months of 6am fitness sessions. Sessions ranged from laps of running Merewether to Bar beach, to repeated cycles of the Obelisk stairs, to sprints up Brown Street recovery jog down Perkins and back up Brown.

It manifested an element that was unique to I-Beam as a side that truly represented their home town. Every part of the club: the nickname, the old-school City of Newcastle colours, the players themselves, and even the training plan exhibited a pride in what it represents.

 

At the presentation ceremony I-Beam were further rewarded when vice-captain Jonathan Tatham was announced as the tournament MVP award winner. The award is voted for by opposition captains after each game. It was well-deserved. Tatham not only demonstrated his chock-a-block array of skills throughout the tournament, his determination was unmatched by any player the team met. This is the first time the Newcastle Mens’ Club has been crowned champions in their nine-year history.