Eyes On: 2018 Rugby Championship – Round 1

Eyes On: 2018 Rugby Championship – Round 1

The 7th edition of the annual Rugby Championship got underway this weekend and I doubt it will shock anyone to see New Zealand take an early lead in the tournament. The All Blacks may not be at their strongest but this is still a team that looks likely to finish the tournament undefeated. They played against an Australian team who handed debuts off the bench to Jermaine Astley and Jack Maddocks, while also welcoming back Premiership starts Tatafu Polota-Nau and Matt Toomua. Following a recent change in selection criteria, Saracens’ Juan Figallo was also back in action, playing for an Argentinian team entering a new era with Mario Ledesma at the helm, while Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux also continued their run in the South Africa team that started against England, joined once again by Bath’s Francois Louw.

 


Australia 13-38 New Zealand

Are Australia relying too much on the same players? I was thinking during the match that Bernard Foley has become an ever-present in this team recently and, with Quade Cooper out of the picture, I was struggling to pick who would be second choice behind him. Israel Folau is another player who is an ever-present when fit and I can’t help but wonder if the lack of variation in the playing squad could come back to haunt them come the World Cup, especially when you see New Zealand spreading appearances around a selection of players. It appears that my thoughts were timely as Folau limped off injured and it has since been announced that he will be missing he reverse at Eden Park.

So what are the options at 10 and 15? Well I think the most obvious options at 10 were the guys playing just outside Foley at the weekend: Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge. Beale has the all-round skill-set to play at 10 but I think he thrives a bit further out at international level. Reece Hodge’s long-range kicking will always keep him in or around this starting line-up due to Foley’s limited range. With his versatility, he has become the Adam Ashley-Cooper of the team, playing wherever he is needed, but I think he and the Wallabies could benefit from him moving to the fly half position, where he has been playing regularly for Melbourne Rebels. He is strong enough to defend the 10 channel so would not have to be hidden on the wing in defence like Foley was on Saturday, while there would not be much of a drop in kicking percentages as he is solid off the tee with a larger range. Moving him to 10 would also allow Beale/Toomua to be partnered in midfield by Samu Kerevi/Tevita Kuridrani to give the balance of playmaking and strong running, while also allowing Cheika to continue picking specialist players in the back 3. At 15, the obvious choice would be Dane Haylett-Petty, who has deputised there during Folau’s previous absences, but Jack Maddocks looked good on his debut and Beale could again be a danger picking his lines from further back. There are plenty of options available and while I appreciate nobody wants to lose a Bledisloe Cup match, there are only a handful of matches remaining before the World Cup. Previous World Cups have seen teams suffer multiple injuries all at the same position – think back to Stephen Donald’s appearance on the bench in the 2011 final. I’m sure Michael Cheika would rather be able to turn to seasoned veterans than a bunch of rookies.

As much as I expect New Zealand to remain unbeaten, they looked anything but unbeatable at the weekend. Their lineout was turned over far too often and the number of handling errors was unbelievable. And yet they still won comfortably, scoring 6 tries in the process. The reason: they were clinical when the chances appeared. Their opener came from a simple missed tackle on Ben Smith, the next a turnover by Waisake Naholo that was spread to the far wing where there was space, the third a knock on by Dane Haylett-Petty that Beauden Barrett fly hacked on and controlled over the line. Even the next try, New Zealand took advantage of the space caused by Folau leaving the pitch injured while play was still going. Though they may not be as consistently great in attack as they were a few years back, they are solid in defence even when Ryan Crotty is unavailable and have the ability to cut apart a team when given the opportunity. This team look like they could be beaten, but whoever beats them will need to be switched on for every second of the 80 minutes and minimise the errors.


South Africa 34-21 Argentina

South Africa are back on the up! After a torrid couple of years under Allister Coetzee, Rassie Erasmus appears to be getting the team back on track just in time for the World Cup. England and Argentina, plus and understrength Wales, may not have been the sternest of tests, but the signs are good so far. It does not surprise me either that part of this turnaround includes starring roles from Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux, both of whom have been revitalised playing in England. De Klerk has impressed me so much in recent internationals with his quick ball, eye for a gap (see his snipe to the line for South Africa’s last try) and his attacking box kicks that led to Aphiwe Dyantyi’s second try. Le Roux takes so much pressure off the fly half by becoming a second playmaker, he is dangerous collecting the high ball (though he failed to collect the bomb that led to Nicolas Sanchez’s try), targets the 13 channel and has a great range of passing and kicking – just look at his inch-perfect crosskick for Dyantyi’s opener. Similar to Australia though, they need to find some depth at key positions like fly half. Elton Jantjies has never convinced me when given the chance and I don’t feel he can be a long-term option. As such, it was good to see Damian Willemse come on for his debut at 10 with Pollard moved to 12 in order to support him. Japan 2019 may be a bit too soon for him to take the reins, but if he continues to get gametime in the competition then he could have a big impact on the biggest stage.

Though they may have conceded 6 tries, this performance from the Pumas was a far cry from the embarrassment of the Summer Tests. Despite being mainly the same players, this squad looked much more switched on and energised under Ledesma than in the final days of Daniel Hourcade’s reign. Nicolas Sanchez looked miles better than in the summer and the team looked dangerous after South Africa took an early lead. There is still a long way to go, as they were often caught out wide by the Springboks, but early signs are good for a team that appear close to welcoming back Europe-based stars like Facundo Isa and Juan Imhoff.


KOrruption Innergeekdom Tournament: Semi-finals

KOrruption Innergeekdom Tournament: Semi-finals

Hey guys! First of all,sorry for the delay in writing this, I’ve been away in Ireland for a wedding so even though I was able to see both semi-finals before I went away I wasn’t able to actually write about them until now. I’m hoping that my write-up of the final will be up within a few days of the match.

After Jason Inman defeated Mark Donica in their Innergeekdom Title Match back in April, the defending champion spoke about how he wanted his next title defence to be a worthy competitor who had got there by defeating some of the best competitors in the division. It looked like he may get his wish as it was announced that there would be 5 1v1 matches leading to a Fatal Fiveway Number 1 Contender Match for the chance to face him.

“The Killer”, fresh from his split with The League, approached Commissioner Thadd Williams and through questionable methods arranged a new format for the next run for a title shot: a tournament containing 16 competitors. We were treated to some fantastic matches in Rounds 1 and 2 and while both matches had an overwhelming favourite, we’d seen enough to know that an upset was certainly possible.

 

“Amazing” Mara Knopic 24-23 Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing

Arguably the best match in the Innergeekdom Division, surely one of the matches of the year and perhaps even one of the best Schmoedown matches ever, the match started slow but will live long in the memory. Rachel Cushing was most people’s favourite for the tournament following her demolition of Markeia McCarty and second consecutive perfect Round 1 against Eric Zipper at Collider Collision II, however she was under the weather on the day of the match, which became increasingly clear as the match wore on. The Brown Dwarf Star was also struggling as she was in pain following a recent car accident, so before we even start going into detail on this match, I want to give massive respect to both of them for agreeing to go ahead with the match. If you have read my articles on the previous rounds, you will know that I usually take a look at where the competitors have struggled, but given the circumstances I will not be getting into this so much for this match as I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to focus and concentrate when clearly struggling.

mtsrachmarThe Crusher’s run of perfect Round 1s came to an end as she missed question 6, finishing a run of 27 consecutive correct answers in Round 1 during this tournament, eventually finishing with 8 of a possible 10 points. Mara did not have such a good start and found herself 8-5 down going into Round 2, at which point I imagine the Schmoeville bookies were getting ready to pay out on a Cushing victory.

Going into Round 2 and Cushing was up first, initially spinning Mixed Bag but spinning away to Heroes & Villains. She started strongly with 3 consecutive 2-pointers but missed on her last 2 despite checking down to multiple choice, Mara stealing a point on the final question. It was then Knopic’s turn to spin and she also chose to spin away from Mixed Bag, eventually landing on Marvel. She missed on her first question – Rachel missing with the steal opportunity – but improved to 4/5 for 6 points, leaving her just 2 behind going into Round 3.

mtsmarafinalBoth competitors hit their 2-point questions, Mara missed on her 3-pointer but hit her final question, while Rachel landed her 3-pointer. And so it came down to Rachel’s 5 pointer. A correct answer would see her into the final; a wrong answer would give us the first ever Overtime in an Innergeekdom 1v1 match – Coy’s Fatal Fiveway victory (remembered as the “Pudding” match) being the only other match in the division to enter Overtime. The category Who Said It? is always going to be tricky and while many fans have commented that it was obvious, Rachel was unable to pull the answer and the match continued.

Both competitors hit their first 2 answers in Sudden Death before missing the next 3, though it was so nearly over on question 5 as Cushing was off by a letter, going with San Frantokyo rather than San Fransokyo, and at that point I think people realised that we could really be in for a long haul. Both competitors were clearly struggling to keep going at this point, as they both answered question 6 correctly before missing 3 in a row – going so far as to both guess the same wrong answer (Tex) on question 9 before both hitting question 10. And finally, as I was beginning to think Sudden Death may take on a more literal meaning in the match, another Who Said It? question came up. Mara was able to correctly answer but Rachel Cushing then shocked the world by missing, completing a match that by the end had so many of us on the edge of our seats.

MTSmararachelreac
Kristian’s reaction was likely mirrored by many watching come the end of the match

As I mentioned above, I will not go into where competitors struggled in this match as I think both competitors would have done better had they been at full health. And that in itself shows just how strong they both are, as 19 points over 3 rounds is a very respectable score. Rachel Cushing has mentioned that this is the division where she feels most comfortable and though she may not have made the final, a title shot is clearly a matter of when not if! One thing’s for certain: Cushing v Knopic II will be one of the most anticipated matches ever when it happens down the line and if both are at their best it really could be one of the best ever matches.

mtskalfinalMike “Killer” Kalinowski 23-21 Adam “The Haymaker” Hlavac

“Win or lose, I’ve changed the game”

With the first spot in the final decided, it was between Kalinowski and Hlavac for the chance to face Mara Knopic. After the last round, I was expecting a Kalinowski victory and it looked like we’d be getting that pretty quickly as Adam struggled to just 3 points in Round 1, while Kalinowski – who just missed a perfect Round 1 against Donica – got the perfect round he’d been craving and the bonus to take a 11-3 lead.

Adam was up first in Round 2 and initially spun Star Trek but took the risk and spun again, landing on DCEU where he went 5/5 for 8 points. Kalinowski spun Harry Potter – a previous weakness that he listed for this match as a strength following a 5/5 Round 2 performance for 8/10 points in his last round – but chose to spin again and landed on MCU, going 4/5 for 7 points while Hlavac was unable to take advantage of his steal opportunity.

mtsadammikeGoing into Round 3 with a 7 point deficit was always going to be difficult for Adam to overcome, but he gave it his best shot by correctly answering all 3 of his questions, forcing The Killer to have to answer in Round 3 for the first time in the tournament. Missing the opportunity of a third consecutive KO/TKO did not phase him though as he correctly answered his 2 and 3-pointers to win the match and book his place in the final.

Though poor categories in Rounds 2 and 3 are often seen as the deciders, this match shows the importance of Round 1. Even if we assume Kalinowski would have correctly answered his 5-pointer, that would have still left him with a point less than Hlavac if we only looked at the final 2 rounds. Though we know from previous matches that Adam has weaknesses (Middle Earth being the most obvious) he generally has a good breadth of knowledge in the Innergeekdom Division, so it was a surprise to see him struggle in this match. He even admitted in his post-match interview that he did know some of the answers but just could not pull it in the moment. From the highs of dominating Keetin Marchi in Round 1 to now being dominated himself, this is a stark reminder of just how easy it is to have a bad day at the table. His later Rounds however are a reminder of just how dangerous he can be and though I probably wouldn’t currently put him in the very top tier of Innergeekdom competitors, I don’t think he is far off and feel that on his day he could beat anyone.

 

The final

And so the final is set: Kalinowski v Knopic. Mara was not even part of the original plan of 5 1v1s and a Fatal Fiveway, but now she is 1 win away from a title match. Kalinowski described this match as Frankenstein v Frankenstein’s monster, which I found interesting considering the monster destroys everything its creator held dear and survived where Dr Frankenstein did not, but Kalinowski clarified this when speaking to Take 3 Productions by saying that KOrruption is changing everything we know.

“I don’t have weaknesses, I have varying degrees of strength”

Who will get the win? Some things to consider:

  • Per Frank Janisch, Mara has 60% accuracy and has averaged 18.3 points per game through the tournament
  • Again per Frank Janisch, Mike has 91% accuracy and has averaged 21 points per game throughout the tournament, despite this being the only time he has had to answer in Round 3
  • The final will be a 5 Round match, neither competitor has played in one of these, so the buzzer and betting rounds will be new to them
  • Depending how soon after the semis the final was taped, Mara may still be struggling following her accident

MTSfinalprevThough I think Mara can certainly win, the work Kalinowski has done to improve himself within the division and the way he studies his competitors makes me give him the edge. He has turned weaknesses into strengths so it is very difficult to know how to react if Mike spins Opponent’s Choice. Mara has not shown herself to be especially weak in any category either, but there has not been the same degree of strength across the board. It would not surprise me if this comes down to the speed round and it will be interesting to see how each competitor does here, as Mike especially frequently takes his time to think though his answer.

So, putting my neck on the line, like a good sheep I predict a Kalinowski v Inman match at the September live event. But it’s safe to say that whoever wins the final will have completely earned their title shot!

 

What did you think of the matches? Who do you think will be facing the champion at the El Portal? Let me know below.

Fantasy Time: Premier League

Fantasy Time: Premier League

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how important technology is to sport these days, not just for the game itself but also for fan enjoyment and interaction. One area of technology that I brought up was fantasy leagues.

Now as a big sports fan, I love to get involved in fantasy leagues! They’re a great chance to test – and improve – your knowledge of a league, and also a great opportunity to have banter and discussions with your friends and other people within your league. I know I’ve spent entire lunch breaks discussing the right fantasy lineup on a regular basis!

For those who have never done a fantasy league before, there are a number of different sites out there with slightly different rules, but the general idea is this: Friends join a league with each other and pick their individual teams using the players in the league. Each site will give a fantasy manager a starting budget and each real-life player has a cost, which will change over the season with fluctuations in form and the percentage of managers selecting them. Each gameweek, the selected players will earn points dependant on their real-life performance (points scored for goals, points lost for cards etc). Some leagues will put you 1v1 against someone else in your league with points for a victory similar to the actual league, whereas others will create a league table using each manager’s cumulative gameweek points.

For years now, I have been using the Premier League’s official fantasy football site and this year have decided to create a league for all of us to enjoy. This is purely for fun (and I’m not just saying this because I expect to be towards the bottom of the table) and everyone is welcome!So feel free to join and invite your friends too!

Interested? The site can be found here and the league PIN is 1313231-748510

Obviously, I am horribly unorganised and have left this to the vary last minute, so sorry about that! The league opener is tomorrow evening so to be involved from the start you will need to hurry, but you can join at any point, I doubt it will take you long to pass me! I’ll even give you a look at my squad (at time of writing) to give you some starting ideas.

footballfantasy

A Good Move?

A Good Move?

On Friday, it was announced that Utah Warriors captain Paul Lasike would be joining Harlequins for the upcoming season. A former NFL player with the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears, Lasika is the newest star of USA rugby and has so far earned 6 caps during the Eagles unbeaten run this year. However, being so new to the sport and with the MLR having recently set up, is this the right move for him?

First off, I do not doubt that he has the ability. He clearly has the physical aspect from playing fullback in the NFL (a very different position to the rugby variant of the position) and when I have watched him play for the USA he has looked impressive. However, so far he has not had many tests against top quality opposition in the same way that he will playing in the Premiership and in Europe. It is a big step up and for every Samu Manoa and Chris Wyles who go on to forge strong careers in the Premiership, there will also be other players who are unable to make the cut. Danny Barrett and Seamus Kelly are both talented players, yet were unable to make the Gloucester squad following a 1-month trial at the start of the 2014/15 season. And it’s not as if Quins are light in the midfield, with Francis Saili, Ben Tapuai and Joe Marchant already competing with him and James Lang – now a Scottish international – also able to feature at centre. That’s a lot of quality competition for regular minutes.

Playing in the Premiership may also limit his availability for the national team. The Eagles will no always field their big stars based in Europe due to the timing of their matches falling outside the usual international windows. With just over a year until the World Cup, Lasike can surely not be guaranteed of a spot in the national team and if other players come in and impress, he could be at risk of missing out.

As for the MLR, with the league being so new, they will not want to lose any of their big stars as their top players – especially USA internationals – as they will be a huge draw when trying to entice fans in. Lasike was not only Utah’s captain, but as a USA international and former NFL player he was instantly marketable for the franchise. As great as it will be to see the top USA players getting offers from more prestigious leagues, I would hate it if the MLR began to struggle as a result.

That said, even if Lasike only plays a limited number of minutes this season and chooses to return to the MLR in time for next season, the chance to train regularly alongside experienced internationals like Mike Brown, Tim Visser, James Horwill and Chris Robshaw could be of great benefit to Lasike moving forwards in his career. There are some top quality coaches at the Stoop and if Lasike takes the chances available to learn from them, it could develop him so much as a player and in turn help him to develop his fellow Americans when training with the national team or if he does return to the MLR.

Is this the right move for him? It may limit him in the short-term, but I would say that centre is not one of the Eagles’ deepest positions currently, which will probably help his chances of World Cup selection even if the move to London doesn’t work out. But in the long-term, this could be just the move that he needs to take his game to the next level and thrive on the biggest stages. As a fan of USA rugby, I hope this works out for him and look forward to seeing him in the Premiership this season.

Anarchy Begins

Anarchy Begins

The 2018 Ultimate Schmoedown Team Tournament took another step towards starting on Friday with the announcement of the teams. Unlike previous years, the influence of Mike Kalinowski’s attempts to remove corruption from the league resulted in the Theme of Anarchy: All the usual teams are being disbanded for the tournament and new teams being drawn out of a hat, along with managers for the majority of the teams.

Now that Commissioner Thadd has picked the teams, I’ve decided to have a quick look at the matchups we have got. This will obviously contain spoilers for the draw, also the match between The Shirewolves and World’s finest that preceded it.

 

Matt Knost & William Bibbiani – managed by Emma Fyffe

2 of the original 4 Horsemen combine under Emma Fyffe in a team that could be a dark horse for victory. “The Beast” is in some of the best form of his Schmoedown career in 2018 while “Mighty” Matt Knost is a former Teams Champion with Top 10 and has played in 4 title matches within the division. Though Knost has run hot and cold at times, his performances have generally been better of late and combined with Bibbiani’s strong Round 1’s and Emma Fyffe’s experience of managing top competitors, they could find themselves in the later stages of the tournament. This could also throw up a great dynamic if they come up against John Rocha as “The Outlaw” has unfinished business with Bibbs, would the thirst to defeat the man who betrayed him overcome his friendship with his usual teammate and fellow Horseman?

mtsyodibossMark Reilly & Ben Bateman – managed by Tom Dagnino

If Knost and Bibbs are a potential dark horse, then these guys must be real contenders. 2-time Singles Champion Mark “Yodi” Reilly has recently returned to the league following a hiatus and has been matched with one of the most impressive competitors of the year in “The Boss”. Bateman is notorious for his studying techniques and excels in categories where others may struggle, like Oscars and Movie Release Dates, while Yodi brings the title match experience and Dagnino, while not having the best of seasons with the Lion’s Den, is the most experienced manager in the league and is good at deflecting attention away from his team. The dynamic within the team will be interesting given Reilly’s upcoming match with Ben’s usual teammate Andrew Ghai, but if this team can work together, they will be difficult to beat.

Devon Stewart & Brianne Chandler – managed by Markeia McCarty*

The Kingsmen have had little success so far in the Team Division but they have been fun to watch. Now Devon is being drawn with Brianne Chandler, who is possibly one of the more underrated competitors in the league. Aside from her Free 4 All victory, she has not competed since the 2017 Ultimate Schmoedown tournaments so may be a bit rusty, but if she can reach her best this team could pull off an upset. McCarty did not have the best of debuts in the Innergeekdom Tournament, but it is good to see her returning in a manager role here. She will have been learning from an experienced manager in Jay Washington and it will be interesting to see how she and Brianne can work together given Miss Movies’ history with the Viper Squad.

Jeannine “The Machine” & Ethan Erwin – managed by Jay Washington

2 of the forerunners for Rookie of the Year combine under one of the more experienced managers in the league to create a team that could go far in the competition. Erwin is currently my favourite to claim the vacant Singles Title and Jeannine has put up strong showings in her 3 matches so far. This could come down to how well they can work together as a team. Regardless of how well they work, don’t be surprised to see Jay and Jeannine trying to make Erwin a permanent member of the Viper Squad.

mtskillerkobraMike Kalinowski & Chance Ellison – managed by Ken Napzok

Probably not who “The Killer” was hoping to be paired with, rookie Chance Ellison will be lining up alongside Kalinowski with veteran Ken Napzok at the helm. The irony that the 2 competitors who have complained most about the system end up being drawn with an untried contestant is just too good to ignore. Kalinowski is a genuine triple threat in the league but Ellison is very much an unknown. Watching the Schmoedown Rundown and Late to the Party’s reaction suggest that he could be an dangerous competitor, but even if he is good at the trivia, many have shown how difficult it is to perform when under the lights for the first time. This team could be a surprise package and challenge in the later rounds, but they could also conceivably be one and done.

Jeff Sneider & Mark Andreyko – managed by Roxy Striar

On the topic of one and done teams, this partnership has the potential to go the distance, but also combust and cash out in the first round. “The Insneider” has had a generally good singles career but does have holes in his knowledge, which proved costly in his Number 1 Contender match against Bibbiani. Andreyko is a player who looks so strong but can also have horrible games. Luckily for his former Lion’s Den teammate, Andreyko has generally been in better form since joining the Fyffe Club. If Roxy Striar can get these two working together, they will be a force to be reckoned with, something I think Sneider knew judging by his cheers off-camera when the pair were announced.

mtsWildberries&Jen
You just can’t break them up…

Josh Macuga & Eliot Dewberry – managed by Ricky Hayberg

You just can’t break up the Wildberries! After a poor start, they have won 2 in a row and could cause an upset on the day. Throw in Ricky as manager and 2 things can be guaranteed when they play: carnage and loud voices! This may also be the match where Teepublic advertising takes a backseat to the Josh Macuga for Jeopardy campaign… I can’t wait!

Andrew Ghai & Rachel Cushing – managed by Robert Meyer Burnett*

Following a late withdrawal from the Innergeekdom tournament, “The Captain” makes his return to the Schmoedown managing one of the most interesting teams in the tournament. “The Crusher” is probably the strongest triple threat in the league and has been tied with “Dastardly” Drew Ghai who shocked the world with his defeat of Dan Murrell at Collider Collision II. Both study hard and I think their strengths could go together well to make an extremely dangerous team. Their personalities are complete opposites however and how they work together could prove crucial. If they can gel together, I’ll be shocked if they don’t make the semis.

Winston Marshall & Stacy Howard – managed by Coy Jandreau

This could be one of the most fun matches in the tournament. Marshall has really grown on me throughout the season as part of World’s Finest, while Stacy Howard plays the heel but also has some fun in her matches. They are also deceptively strong, with Marshall having just featured in a Number 1 Contenders match with World’s Finest and Stacy being well placed in the singles ranking. Throw in Coy and this is a trio that could have some fun.

Marc Edward Heuck & Witney Seibold – managed by Jonny Loquasto

An unknown quantity. “The Beauty” joins Schmoedown rookie Heuck. The Movie Geek may know his stuff but much like Chance Ellison, how he can cope with the pressure at the table will be key. Seibold is a strong competitor to be paired with and with “The Mouth” managing, they will not need to worry about their promos. If Heuck can perform well, then this team could cause some problems.

Eric Zipper & Haleigh Foutch – managed by Steele Saunders

While I don’t see this team making the latter stages of the tournament, they could definitely cause an upset in the first round. Zipper has performed well this season as part of World’s Finest and could enter the conversation for Rookie of the Year. Foutch has really impressed in her matches for Scream Queens but is likely to come up against stronger opposition than she has faced previously. I’m very interested to see what Steele Saunders brings to the team as he was a fun competitor in his Star Wars Fatal Fiveway. With a favourable draw they can have some success, but this will be a step up for both of them.

Scott Mantz & Sean Gerber

I’ve got to be honest, as good as both these competitors are, I think they will need a favourable draw to make it through the first round. Mantz on his day can be a real danger, but if he’s not focused he’s more dangerous to his own team. Will Gerber be able to keep him calm as Jason Inman has for many of Team Trek’s matches? If any team needed a manager, this was potentially it. Gerber has had a couple of strong showings this year, but is still relatively inexperienced compared to a number of his potential opponents. A match against Reilly & Batemen would not surprise me as it would give The Mantzman a chance for revenge against the man who stole his wheel slice.

Alonso Duralde & Matt Atchity

Duralde makes his return to the league having not competed since the 2017 Free 4 All, which was itself only his second appearance. While he may have good movie knowledge, the league has changed a lot since he last played and he may struggle to adapt. As part of MODOK, “The Kahuna” is by far the more experienced in the league, but at times you would not know it as he is not a regular in the same way that many of his competitors are. If this was a straight-up trivia battle I think they would stand more a chance, but I don’t think they will have the nuances of the how to compete in the Schmoedown that many of these teams possess.

Lon Harris & JTE

Another potential dark horse for the latter stages, “The Professor” has looked good in the Singles Division despite a loss to Ethan Erwin and being paired with one half of the most successful team in Schmoedown history could be just what he needs to make a run in the tournament. As for “Little Evil”, he was so often considered to be carried by Jeff Sneider, this will be a chance to remind everybody how dangerous he is in the Teams format. If things go well for the team, could we see Harris joining the Lion’s Den after the tournament? If nothing else, maybe the Professor can help JTE with his spelling.

mtsanarchyhorsemenDan Murrell & John Rocha

The moment Murrell’s name was drawn, I just had a feeling that his former rival would be partnering him. 2 of the original triumvirate of Singles Champions, both competitors are legends of the Schmoedown and between then will have a good grasp of most categories. Add to that their first match being at the Live Event and I expect them to thrive with the support likely to be largely behind them. The Horsemen have the potential to be the strongest faction in the league, this pairing could be the start of the campaign for all the belts and all the records.

Drew McWeeny & Clarke Wolfe*

“The Godfather” will be making an immediate attempt to reclaim the belt he had to vacate and will be joined by the 2016 Rookie of the Year, forming a deadly partnership. McWeeny has improved so much over the last year and appeared to thrive in the Team Division with Samm Levine, while Clarke has likewise thrived since joining the Shirewolves. I will be shocked if they aren’t pushing for a place in the final, while the chance of competing against Clarke’s former teammate Mark Reilly and Ben Bateman – who has lost to both Drew and Clarke as part of Team Action – will be mouth-watering.

16 wonderful teams that will all be exciting to watch, but there is a chance that changes could still happen. 3 pairings have been marked with a * as they contain a competitor hat we know will be facing off in the Team Title Match ahead of the tournament. The Shirewolves will be taking on Brianne Chandler and her currently unannounced partner (so perhaps 4 teams will actually need the *), with the winners not competing in the Anarchy tournament. If that happens, there are still some quality competitors not accounted for – Jason Inman, Grae Drake and Mara Knopic to name just a few. As much as I like the Shirewolves, I almost find myself hoping that Brianne wins the title match just because of how much I want to see Rachel and Clarke in these new teams!

And just as I was about to post this, Kristian Harloff has announced the matches for the first round. Obviously there will be some changes of personnel dependant on the Team Title match result, but I have predicted my victors as the teams currently stand in bold:

Rocha & Murrell v Marshall & Howard

Sneider & Andreyko v Mantz & Gerber

JTE & Harris v Wildberries

Bibbiani & Knost v Chandler & Stewart

Reilly & Bateman v Zipper & Foutch

McWeeny & Wolfe v Heuck & Seibold

Kalinowski & Ellison v Cushing & Ghai

Erwin & The Machine v Duralde & Atchity

What do you think of the new teams? Who are you looking forward to watching? Who do you see progressing to the next round? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!