BAFANL Premiership North
Doncaster Mustangs vs. Nottingham Caesars
The new look Premiership North gets underway this weekend when last season’s number three seed Doncaster take on the Premiership new boys, the Nottingham Caesars.
It was an up and down season for the Mustangs last year as their season started with a 1-0 forfeited loss to EKP due to reasons out of their control. The Mustangs then went on to win six of their next seven games (one win courtesy of the Bergamo 5) before ending the season losing their final two games and ultimately forfeiting their playoff quarter final against the London Blitz to end the season 6-4-1 including the playoffs.
With a new HC in town, the Mustangs will be hoping for to go one better than last season and claim the Premiership North title.
Talk about being thrown in the deep end for the Caesars. A year after their 7-3 season in Division 1, the Caesars find themselves competing in the Premiership following the latest league re-alignment.
Unlike last season, the Caesars will be missing a few key players when they start their campaign this weekend thanks to the postponement of the BUAFL finals. With the likes of Danny Miller and Marcus ‘Patches’ Boswell sidelined, the Caesars may struggle to repeat their explosive start to the new season.
Prediction: Doncaster to start the season 1-0 with a four score victory over the Nottingham Caesars.
BAFANL Premiership South
Bristol Aztecs vs. Ipswich Cardinals
The Aztecs got taken over as the third team in the division last year by the resurgent Olympians, however Bristol have made offseason moves to improve their team as we outlined in our power rankings. Who knows where this will put them in terms of the division as a whole however one thing is clear, unless Ipswich have made some significant upgrades in multiple areas on the field, matches against last year’s premiership teams will have a similar feel to them, in being high scoring games for one team.
Having not heard much from the Ipswich camp since the end of the season last year it’s tough to guess whether they have improved, so we’re going to base this one on last year’s form.
Prediction: Aztecs to win this one comfortably be five scores
National League Central
Shropshire Revolution vs. Lincolnshire Bombers
Lincolnshire are coming off the back of a season where they surprised everybody. Between 2007 and the start of 2012 the Bombers had a single win to their name and that came way back in ’07 before having four back-to-back 0-10 seasons. Then last year they went 4-4-2, beating DC Presidents twice, the Staffordshire Surge once, and thrashing the Crewe Railroaders.
They’ll no doubt want to build on this but it’ll be tough with a couple of teams dropping from the old Division One with the restructure, including their opening fixture opponents.
The Shropshire Revolution found the step up to Division One a step too far in their rapid progression last year and though they fought stolidly against the likes of the Lancashire Wolverines and Division One Championship Game-bound West Coast Trojans, they were outmatched.
At times they were unlucky, fighting back hard in their away game to the Wolverines comes to mind, and they’ll certainly start amongst the favourites in this division with Manchester and Leicester but it’ll be a tough year. They’re more than capable though, with a strong defence and a balanced offence that HC David Reid and OC David Butler have coached and drilled well.
Shropshire’s experience, strong D and balanced O will probably be too much for the Bombers.
Prediction: Shropshire Revolution to win by three scores.
National League North
Edinburgh Wolves vs. Clyde Valley Blackhawks
The Edinburgh Wolves excelled last year, bouncing back from a disappointing 2011 to reach the playoffs with an 8-1-1 record. They beat the Chester Romans once they made the playoffs too but were unfortunately defeated by the Division 2 Championship winning Sheffield Predators.
They’ll want to get back at it this year but they’ll face stern competition. The Gateshead Senators have dropped down from the Premiership North by request and, despite low squad numbers, they’ve always been a tough opponent for any team. Furthermore the DC Presidents have entered their division. The Presidents were somewhat middle of the table last year but their well known five year plan has taken a huge leap with the hiring of Coaches Ben Johnson and Jonathan Rooney and they’ll be tough to beat.
Enter the Clyde Valley Blackhawks. You see the one tie and one loss in the Wolves’ 2012 record? They were handed out by the Blackhawks.
Clyde Valley showed they were a tough defence to crack last year, appearing in the playoffs, as runners-up to Edinburgh, for the first time. Now coached by experienced Gordon Lockhart they’ll have no doubt improved this offseason.
This one goes solely down to home-field advantage in a very close game.
Prediction: Edinburgh Wolves to win by one score.
Oxford Saints vs. Solent Thrashers
After all the controversy of last year, Oxford will be looking to put the disappointment of 2012's quarter final defeat behind them when they welcome the Solent Thrashers to Abingdon.
The Thrashers were largely underwhelming in 2012, but there seems to be a renewed hope around the club following the winter re-brand, playing up their ties with Solent University. If they can grab a few of the Redhawks players they may be dark horses for a play-off spot come September.
However, Oxford should be looking to start their campaign with a win, with strength in depth the key for the Saints.
Prediction: Oxford by ten
Swindon Storm vs. Bournemouth Bobcats
The new boys kick start their season this weekend when they host the Bournemouth Bobcats in a game that is sure to be an enthralling encounter.
It’s been a long time since Swindon were in the league (15+ years to be precise), but that won’t phase this rookie team who are hoping to cause an upset or two this season, and there may be no greater scalp at the start of the season than a victory over a Bobcats team who finished third in their conference last season.
Talking of the Bobcats, you have to wonder if they’re out for vengeance this season after the playoff debacle last season? If you don’t remember, it went something like this – Cornish Sharks forfeited a game against the Oxford Saints. The league told the Sharks they were ineligible for the playoffs meaning the Bobcats would get in. Having being told they were in the playoffs, the Bobcats fielded a weaker team (supposedly) to keep themselves fresh. Once the season ended, the Sharks appealed their ban from the playoffs and won their appeal, meaning the Sharks went to the playoffs and the Bobcats didn’t. Let’s just say that Bournemouth weren’t too happy.
Fortunately, with it being a new season, the Bobcats will now have ten games to prove they deserved to be in the post season last year, and a dominating win over Swindon may put the team on a lot of people’s radar.
Prediction: As much as we want there to be a fairytale story for the rookie team from Swindon, we don’t see it beginning this weekend. Bobcats to edge the scoreboard by two scores.
National South Central
Bedfordshire Blue Raiders vs. Essex Spartans
Forget the impending nuclear war brewing in Pyongyang, the apocalypse is here - Bedforshire have a new kit, and it's amazing! In all seriousness, the Blue Raiders couldn't have asked for a better introduction to the new look National League, taking on an Essex side that looked like the glue factory would have been the kindest option at the back end of 2012.
BBR went 4-6
in a pretty darn competitive division last season, while the Spartans...well,
it wasn't pretty. With very little info on how teams have fare over the winter,
early season predictions are a glorified stab in the dark. That being said,
it'll have been tough for the Spartans to have retained players after going
|The Blue Raiders new look for the season!|
Blue Raiders should be pretty strong favourites for this one.
Prediction: Bedfordshire by three scores