Let's Meet the 2017 Champions League Teams!

The first ever Champions League draft was held on Sunday 22nd January and it provided for every twist and turn imaginable. There were eyebrow raising picks, controversy, a timed out selection and a number of players left disappointed on the side lines as they went unselected. The result is eight teams all offering something slightly different that will make for two highly intriguing events in Sweden and Germany. Here we hope to give you a quick run through of the 8 teams that were selected.

 

Let’s Meet The Teams

Each team was required to select a squad that would be able to field the minimum team requirements in both the Swedish and German legs of the 2017 Champions League. The requirement is the ability to field 3 men and 1 lady who must be drafted in the initial squad selection. However the composition of the final squads was entirely at the captain’s digression, a matter that did lead to the key controversy of the night (more on that later). The full squads are listed below with the availability of the players in brackets (s - Sweden, g - Germany or b - Both)

 

Helsinki Hawks – Captain: Marko Valimaki (b)

Squad Members (in order of pick), Dan Busby (b), Margaux Randjbar (b), Cedric Junillon (g), Silke Altmann (g), James Watkins (b).

Overview

Britain’s Dan Busby had the privilege of being the first ever drafted Racketlon player as the Helsinki Hawks opened the draft proceedings with him as their pick. Their picks mean that their team will feature Captain Valimaki and Busby, joining forces with another Brit, James Watkins and Margaux Randjbar to start their campaign in Sweden. They will be joined in Germany by Cedric Junillon and Silke Altmann, to give Marko plenty of options for the final leg of the Champions League.

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With the first overall pick, Helsinki took the standout man available from the draft. Sure fire hit and a safe set of hands. Will get stronger in Germany with the inclusion of Altmann and Junillon.

What Marko Says

“I am very satisfied with my picks, I would gladly have selected any of them as my first player, but that honour had to go to Dan Busby, as the 2016 Finnish Open champion he deserves it. Whilst iPro London or KoR Oudenaarde are the favourites, we have great chemistry and will have a lot of fun”.

 

iPro London - Captain: Duncan Stahl (b)

Squad Members: Natalie Paul (b), Christian Wiessner (g), Emil Gunnarsson (s), Luka Penttinen (s), Pieter De Bleeckere.(g)

Overview

Duncan Stahl is the brains behind the new format and iPro London was installed by Jesper Hougaard in the FIR Draft Show as the pre-draft favourites. With their selected players, it seems that the favourites tag is not misplaced. Duncan dived straight in to sign Natalie Paul, the highest ranked lady in the draft and an exceptional doubles player. Duncan and Natalie will lead the team in both legs, with Emil Gunnarsson and Luke Penttinen in the team in Sweden and Christian Wiessner and Pieter De Bleeckere in Germany. It was the signing of Pieter which triggered a raft of confusion and consternation within the draft, as fellow Captains and FIR pundit, Jesper convinced squads must contain 4 men and 2 ladies. However, any reader of the Official Draft Preview, would be aware that the requirement was only for a lady to be present in both Sweden and Germany, and with Natalie able to play both legs, Duncan was free to select 5 men in the draft. While some captains complained and controversy reigned, Duncan showed the benefit of being well aware of all the rules!

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Took the standout woman in Natalie Paul at 2nd overall, no option really but still needed doing. With Wiessner potentially the 2nd best player in the entire competition, getting him at the back end of the 2nd round is huge value, even if just available for Germany. Expect this team to push for the title if they can escape Sweden in good shape.

What Duncan Said

“I am very happy with my squad, I have been able to select a squad that is far stronger than the one I expected to be able to put together. Natalie is the strongest female doubles player in the world, Christian and Emil are under-ranked and represent in my view, top 10 players, while Luka and Pieter bring a game with no weaknesses in it, much like us as a team. We are going to be the team to beat, but I will be keeping a close eye on KoR Oudenaarde, they seem to be the next best squad.”

 

KoR Oudenaarde - Captain: Lieselot De Bleeckere (b)

Squad Members: Jesper Hougaard (b), Paul Sach (g), Michael Strassle (s), Joerg Kanonenberg (g), Michael Moitzi (b).

Overview

Nothing highlights how important each captain is taking this draft than the fact the KoR captain, Lieselot was happy to leave brother Pieter adrift and unselected. She was also quick to pick up on the clarification of the squad rules and as others squabbled she quickly saw the opportunity to select a 5th man, Michael Mortzi, a newcomer who triumphed in the Men’s B in Vienna his first event. Previously she had grabbed the highest ranked man in the draft, Jesper Hougaard, as well as the always talented Michael Strassle. While the Germany only players Joerg Kanonenberg and Paul Sach, mean that she has a nicely balanced side to fight for the honour of the best tournament on the FIR World Tour.

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A strong and well balanced team with quality across the board. Paul Sach was a strong pick after becoming the Men's B world champion and the surprise pick of Michael Moitzi shows the captain did her homework and has a foundation to build on.

What Lieselot Said

“I’m pretty happy how my team came out, I had a plan and it worked out pretty well.” On being labelled favourites and not selecting her brother: “I saw a lot of teams naming us, which is a surprise, but having spoken to my team already, we are ready to kick some ass. As for Pieter, well I had already spoken to him and told him I wouldn’t draft him as he is only available for Germany when I have other plans, I am very glad iPro London got him and hopefully we can renew some sibling rivalry in the Champions League.”

 

Swiss Army Knives - Captains: Nicole Eisler (s)/Astrid Reimer-Kern (g)

Squad Members Emanuel Schopf (s), Alex Du Noyer (b), Mikael Rehn (s), Niclas Larsson (b), Steffan Neumann (b).

Overview

With Nicole only available in Sweden, she shares the captaincy of the Swiss Army Knivees with Astrid Reimer-Kern, who will play in Germany. In the draft, Nicole’s claim in the build-up of not focussing on the strategy too intently is belayed by a sequence of canny picks. Scuppering the plans of the Austrians by picking Emanuel Schopf, she quickly accumulated handy player across a spectrum of sports with the UKs Alex Du Noyer, Niclas Larsson and Steffan Neumann three players available for both events, while Mikael Rehn is adding an additional blade to the Knives in Sweden. Captains Nicole and Astrid are now rumoured to be off to a warm weather training camp to determine the crucial team selection tactics.

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This team has picked up a good mix of players, mostly specialising in badminton and squash, however the addition of IWT finalist Mikael Rehn adds quality across the board, even if he's only available for Sweden.

What Nicole Said

“We are clearly not the favourites, who we see as being the Hawks, iPro London and KoR Oudenaarde. However, we are ready to cause a few shocks when teams meet our razor sharp blades. I am happy with the team I have assembled, Schopf is a very strong male, while Alex, Mikael, Niclas and Steffan ensure we are very strong and balanced throughout the side.”

 

Berghain Berlin Boasters - Captain: Amke Fischer (b)

Squad Members: Luke Barnes (g), Thorsten Lentfer (g), Anders Rickan (s), Jack Bishop (b), Mikkel Brenoe-Jensen (s).

Overview

In the preview, Triple B’s captain, Amke Fischer said she was ready to rock, but as the draft occurred she was also ready to roll (off on holiday). With a plane waiting, Amke did what all fine captains do, and put the team first, assembling the squad sitting at the departure gate. However, this sub-plot did not stop her assembling a solid selection, particularly you feel for the second leg of the Champions League in Germany, when she will be able to call upon Luke Barnes and Thorsten Lentfer. She has Jack Bishop and herself for both legs and they will be joined by Anders Rickan and Mikkel Brenoe-Jensen in Sweden. The Triple B’s, will be aiming to be in contention for the crown as they head to their home event in July.

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Berlin can boast the highest ranked female in the competition in captain Amke Fischer, a very strong woman across all sports and also have a strong all rounder with Luke Barnes taken at 5 overall. This team is rounded out well with two top 50 players in Lentfer and Bishop, though Lentfer is only available in Germany, Sweden is amply covered with the under ranked pair of Rickan and Brenoe-Jensen. A team to look out for.

What Amke Said

“I found the draft experience really exciting, which I must admit came as a surprise to me. I am very happy with the team I was able to select, we have an overall great combination of sports. We are really looking forward to this and the Triple B’s are going to rock this.”

 

Klosterneuburg Racketlonshop Austria - Captain: Lukas Windischberger (b)

Squad Members: Lilian Druve (s), Hans Sherpa (b), Benjamin Hampl (g), Martina Meissl (g), Hans Van Daele (b).

Overview

Klosterneuberg, the first ever Racketlon club, are as revealed in the preview out to make history. Captain Lukas had an aim to build a strongly Austrian squad, however some other teams interrupted those plans. In his ladies, Lillian and Martina, he has two of the most consistent tour performing ladies, Martina of course, twice a Racket Master. Two very solid men in Hans Sherpa and Benjamin Hampl give Lukas (the highest ranked male in the Champions League) a strong base, while no one knows the ins and outs of Racketlon like Belgian great, Hans Van Daele.

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In captain Windischberger, Klosterneuburg have the strongest player in the whole event and a handful in any sport. He's complemented himself well with Lilian Druve and Martina Meißl at the women's spot, and then another member of the world's top 10 in Benjamin Hampl. This team will get better as the tournament goes on I suspect.

What Lucas Said

“The selection of Emmanuel Schopf (by the Swiss Army Knives) was a blow to our selection plans, although Hampl makes for a great replacement, sadly only available in Germany). Missing out on a key target, I decided to make the core of my team myself and Hans (Sherpa) and then focussed on selecting two strong ladies. Finally, with no Austrians left, I choose a good friend of Austrian Racketlon, Hans Van Daele.”

 

Three Percent Malta Magic - Captain: Kresten Hougaard (b)

Squad Members: Alistair Prades (b), Sebastian Hedlund (s), Piers Boden (b), Svenja Kleb (b), Anastasiya Bruzgina.(g)

Overview

Nothing quite prepared the UK Racketlon panel for Kresten’s first pick, the shockwaves temporarily disrupting the internet feed, as Alistair Prades became the most unlikely of first round picks. Kresten’s tactics in the draft clearly focussed on securing the men he was aiming for with Sebastian Hedlund and Piers Boden also joining the Malta squad. As a result of his picks, Kresten has his hands on two of the hottest youth properties in the UK. With Svenja Kleb and Anatasiya Brugina covering his female bases, Kresten has assembled a nicely balanced set of players.

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Captain Kresten shocked everyone when he took Alistair Prades in round 1 and Anastasiya Bruzgina in round 6. However, with picking the youth of UK Racketlon in Alistair and a round 4 pick of Piers Boden and shoring things up with IWT finalist in Sebastian Hedlund for Sweden, this will be a team looking to impress with something to prove.

 

Technifibre Copenhagen - Captain: Morten Jaksland (b)

Squad Members: Zuzana Severinova (b), Patrick Lorenz (b), Loic Cencig (s), Mark Harris (g), Julie Irby Norregaard (s).

Overview

Morten has selected a strong core of his squad who can play in both Sweden and Germany, including Zuzana Severinova, one of the up and coming ladies and a previous doubles partner of Morten. They will be joined at both events by Patrick Lorenz, a fearsome competitor, while Loic Cencig (in Sweden) and Mark Harris (in Germany) round out his male selections. Julie Irby Norregaard, adds a second lady for options in Sweden. There was (on the UK Draft programme) a noted theme to Morten’s picks, he has a squad that all seem happiest on the tennis court….

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Morten Jaksland has picked a unit that will devastate on the tennis court with Zuzana Severinova as the woman for both events and then tennis strength with Patrick Lorenz and Mark Harris, this is a team you absolutely don't want making the tennis court!

What Morten Said

“I am very satisfied with my team, we are all good friends on and off court, we will be very much ready for battle in both Sweden and Germany”. On his tennis specialist heavy squad “It wasn’t my intention to be so tennis heavy, however I can see this being a strength, no one will want to play us in a gumi-arm!”

 

What Next?

So, there we have it, the squads have been drafted and the captains have revealed their thoughts. The Champions League is ready to produce a mouth-watering spectacle of Racketlon. Leg 1 takes place at the IWT Dillon Swedish Open (24th-26th February) and leg 2 at the IWT German Open (28-30th July). The Champions League is running alongside the first day’s play of both tournaments, so even if you have missed out on being drafted, you can enter either or both of these events, play your tournament and enjoy all the action in the Champions League.

Finally, good luck to all the teams.

 

James Pope
Racketlon Great Britain