Adelaide, Australia is home to the Super League, a drafted 44 person league consisting of four teams of 11. Historically it has boasted the best players in the city, with many of the country’s best taking part in the games. This year, the league is bolstered by a sponsorship from SAVAGE ultimate, providing sweet jerseys for the players to show off. Not only that, but their international reach expands with the formation of Ulti.TV. It takes a ton of initiative to start a company for streaming coverage. Ulti.TV is one of the few groups bringing ultimate into everyone’s living room via the world wide web, delivering games over 9 weeks so even us in America can follow along with our favorite players. We spoke with Dan Clenton, Executive Director of the Ulti.TV, about his experiences Down Under.
Maya Ziv: How did the league start?
Dan Clenton: The league was founded by Joel Pillar, one of the best Australian men’s players, 3 years ago. He started the league to encourage elite level play and development in the state. Joel is amazingly good (on par with some of the best American players), and his frustration at having a lack of depth on his state team at Australian nationals is the reason why he started the league. Joel is now leaving, unfortunately, however his legacy will live on. You’ll get to see a bit of “Joel” when he plays. You’ll be able to catch all the action online!
Joel has done a lot for SA Ultimate, his legacy is amazing and not restricted to just super league.
You say the best in SA play – anyone on your national team?
Dan: Yeah, a couple of them. Joel Pillar, most notably. Over 12 players (of the 44) have international experience. This includes Beach Ultimate, AOUC and various other “random” international tournaments (World Clubs). Selections on the Australian teams (opens, mixed, masters) are pretty light on however. Its very hard to get selected if you don’t live on the east coast of Australia. All the selectors are from the east coast. They pick the players they know best. However, due to the unprecedented level of coverage, we anticipate the global community will quickly learn the names of their favourite players (and their not so favourite players).
Beyond that, there is a big mix of players. The majority are university students. However, there is a sizeable “experienced” contingent that are over 25 and not at university. One of which has been playing for longer than I have been alive and originally played for the UK National side in the 80s. One guy wears soo many sweat bands, his arms are almost completely covered. Not to say we aren’t all are decked out.
Typical games are incredibly hard fought. The teams are very even because the league is a draft format. So each of the four captains pick their teams from scratch school yard style. Because it is only 11 on a side and it is played during our summer (games in 30 degree [Celsius] heat are common), the games are grueling. Especially if one or two of your teammates are away!
Heckling is a given. There is always plenty of that. Super League brings out a different side to the players. Everyone tries harder and plays better. There is never any lax play. Everyone steps out on the field looking to prove something. We track stats for the entire league, so nobody wants to be last.
The typical game has got tons of big throws, big grabs, big bids, big action! Technically, the players might not be as competent as an elite American, however the result is still very similar to a high level American match. Because the skill levels are very similar, you end up with a running battle between very even teams. Pretty much the same as the good matches from America! Just without the 80m bombs or 4sec 40’s.
Being a part of the ultimate community is pretty special though. Everyone is welcome to play. We have tons of leagues around the city where people can go and play a relaxed game. As they get better and if they want to play at a higher level, there are places where they can do so. If nothing else, you instantly get a big group of friends. As soon as you ask someone to throw, you are family, no questions asked.
How about spirit of the game? Is anything different down under?
Spirit is very important here. We play the game in the typical Aussie style. We are very relaxed and laid back. Unless someone “steps on” the spirit. Then we get fired up. Everyone respects the rules, we all know that unless we do: the game is shite. Furthermore, cheaters are shunned. People with a reputation for bending the rules are encouraged to play by the rules. In the past, cheaters haven’t even been picked in the league! Remember, it is a draft league, so whilst a player might be excellent. It might happen that they don’t get picked because they don’t play by the rules and there are other players that are a better fit into the team structure.
How did the online broadcast come about? The sponsorship with Savage?
Dan: Ulti.TV is a side project by Mike Palmer and myself. We want to get some ultimate coverage going in Australia because there is nothing. Super League has naturally fitted into Ulti.TV’s plans for the year. Ulti.TV plans to cover Australian Nationals as well. Super League is the “test run” where we will be working out a lot of kinks in the system. Also, it will be to provide the global Ultimate community with some regular league play. Our sport is based around tournament play, its the same here as it is in America. However, league play is where it is at for regular viewing. Nobody wants to sit down and watch 12hrs of straight ultimate action like they have to when a tournament is covered live. 1.5hrs every week is much better. It also allows for much better interaction with the audience. We’ve got tons of Social Media stuff planned.
The sponsorship with savage? First off, I’d like to thank Savage. Todd Curran has been an absolute legend. I wrote up a proposal and sent it out to EVERY gear company I could think of. It’s really come about thanks to the vision of Todd. He can see what we are trying to do, and how that might benefit his company. Let me just say: the Super League uniforms are awesome. Super League players are going to be wearing them to EVERY tournament in Australia… And there in big letters on the gear is: SAVAGE Ultimate. Naturally, when it comes to schweet schwag, everyone wants a piece of that pie. Savage does some awesome stuff, teams that want awesome stuff are naturally going to consider them in the future!
Do you have a website or other media? Twitter? Videos?
Dan: Oh yeah…
In terms of video, we are about to upload our coverage of the South Australian State Mixed Final. We’ve got some older free stuff on our YouTube. We are going to be uploading a lot of the ancient Australian coverage we’ve got. Rest assured, what we have planned is much much better than what we have online at the moment!
Place to be is Facebook/Twitter. Please like/follow/subscribe to our pages. We are announcing all our updates through Facebook & Twitter. We are about to kick everything off in a big way. Super League is going to start in a few weeks and when it does, whoooo-hooo, you better hang on for the ride because it is going to be an awesome 9 weeks!
Feature photo of a league team reppin’ the jerseys from Savage Ultimate by Dan Clenton