Sunday, 29 April 2012

Bizarre sports at Roses 2012: Part I

In the first of a two-part mini-series, I will be casting my eye over the more unusual sports which feature in this year’s Roses tournament. I must confess I did not have a clue about a couple of them, despite being a sports fanatic. In addition, I’ll have a quick look at York’s chances in each of the events. It’s important to bear in mind that the combined points total from these unusual sports is 50, so strong performances here could decide who lifts the Carter James Trophy this year in what I fully expect will be a very close tournament.

Bizarre sport #1: Canoe Polo

Possibly the most bizarre sport to feature at Roses this year is canoe polo. Players, in a kayak, attempt to score in the goals at either end of the pool. Each team has five players, with three substitutes, and the pool must by 35m x 23m with a depth of 90cm. To deliver a pass, players can either throw the ball with their hands or propel it with their paddles, and players must release the ball after 5 seconds. The time limit for the match is 20 minutes, with halves of 10 minutes. The goal size measures 1m x 1.5m.

Players must wear helmet protection for safety as a flying paddle could do serious damage to the upper body. The obvious question many of you want to know is what happens if a player capsizes? Well, the rules state they have to leave the field of play immediately with all their equipment (if they don’t drown that is). But this is unlikely as the kayaks have a buoyancy aid attached as well as a spray deck, which stops water entering.

Both matches, taking place on Saturday evening, are worth a valuable four points to the winner. Both sides are fairly evenly matched so it’s difficult to back a winner, but it should be an interesting session and the results will decide which university goes into Sunday’s fixtures with the upper hand.

Bizarre sport #2: Water Polo

Slightly more mainstream, water polo is played in a pool 1.8 metres deep, which means players cannot stand up and must tread water to keep their heads above the surface. Each side has seven players including a goalkeeper, who guards a goal 90cm high and 3m wide, so slightly bigger than canoe polo. Outfield players must only use one hand to deliver passes and shoot, are forbidden to use their fist and the team’s possession must result in a shot within 30 seconds. Needless to say, you must have excellent stamina levels to tread water and swim long distances; most players swim over 2km in a match. At Roses, the matches will be divided into quarters lasting 8 minutes each, although they are likely to be longer than this because the clock is stopped if there is a break in play, rather like a basketball match.

It is also likely to be one of the more aggressive sports we will see over the weekend. Defenders try to rob attacking players of the ball by knocking it out of their hand, but often make contact with the opponent themselves. “Brutality fouls”, which are deliberately malicious, will lead to a sending off for 4 minutes. The rules state attempting to drown an opponent is an example of this, which is somewhat worrying.

York’s women team is almost completely new from last year, with the acquisition of 11 new players. Captain Rene Astin-Chamberlain has done a fantastic job to get the team gelling in time for their crucial match at Roses. Meanwhile, the men will be hoping to emulate their accolade of “Roses 2011 Team of the Year” as they attempt to defend their title. I expect them to win after an encouraging BUCS season. In short, both sides are relishing the upcoming challenge. Their matches, also held on Saturday evening, are worth 2 points.

Bizarre sport #3: Ultimate Frisbee

Frisbee as a sport is not yet 50 years old but it has grown rapidly in popularity over in the UK recently. The object of the game is to catch the disc within the ‘end zone’, an area of which each team of seven tries move closer towards with quick passing. Its purpose is essentially the same as rugby. The entire field is 120 yards by 40 yards, with the end zones at either end of the pitch being 25 yards long. Players must pivot themselves on the spot when they receive the disk, in a similar way to netball.

One of the main attractions of the sport is its excellent reputation for good behaviour, enabling the games to be self-refereed.  As the USA Ultimate rules state:

Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.

If other sports (football I’m looking at you) could follow such a code, the world would be a much better place.

As for York’s chances, I would be surprised if they managed to overcome what is a very strong Lancaster side. But that’s not to say they will be going into the weekend full of confidence. Their outdoor form has improved greatly recently, following a third place finish at this year’s Outdoor Nationals in Manchester last weekend. They also finished third in the Indoor Finals back in March, as well as defeating Hull 5-4 after going 4-0 down in the White Rose Varsity tournament. They must believe that anything can happen, and bigger upsets have happened at Roses in the past. The indoor frisbee matches take place at tea-time on Friday, with the outdoor clash at lunchtime on the Saturday.

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