Pulling The Flag

BAFA 2017: This Time It’s Serious

Howdy folks.

We’ve been quiet of late as we re-charge our batteries for the new flag season next year. And – let us tell ya now – it’s going to get interesting.

For a few seasons now, flag players have been discussing the pros and cons of a tiered system. Will it end the days of major blowouts, or add to the horrors of long day-trips? Well, we’re about to find out.

Details aren’t all on the table at this point, but in 2017 teams won’t just be fighting for playoff spots. They’ll be battling for their places in 2018’s regionalised “Flag Premier League”.

There’s not much more to say than that at this stage, but you can find out a few more snippets after the jump.

SO WHAT’S NEW?

Even without the prospect of a Premier League in 2018, there’s still a lot to chew over.

This year, the conferences have been further broken down from two to three divisions. Each division consists of four teams, with the exception of the SWC South that has five. Teams will play everyone in their own division twice, and those in the other divisions in their conference once. That means that every team in the HNC, MEC and SEC will have five league gamedays, while the SWC North and Central will have six and the SWC South will have eight.

In essence, the “expanded playoffs” that launched last year are still in place. Two teams from each division go through to the playoffs, and will also secure a place in the Premier League in 2018. That means that there’s even more to play for this year. The teams that do not make the playoffs will represent Division 1 in the 2018 flag league.

The playoffs will once again consist of three rounds, with the top seed in the region (across both conferences) getting first-refusal on hosting the playoffs themselves. The Southern playoffs will take place on Saturday August 5, with the Northern playoffs on August 6. Once again, two teams from each playoff go through to Britbowl.

So let’s break it down, and head to the HNC…

Pic by Jimmy Thomson

EASTCENTRALWEST
Aberdeen OilcatsCarnegie SteelersCarnegie Renegades
Carnegie ThunderDunbeth DragonsClyde Comets
Edinburgh OutlawsGrangemouth BroncosGlasgow Hornets
Midlothian SabersWest Lothian ChargersPaisley Spartans

You’ll notice that the HNC has different division names than the rest of the league, and that’s no typo (it’s a geography thing). But the rest of the league has the names we know and love.

Last year’s semi-finalist Aberdeen Oilcats will get their hardest test from the Edinburgh Outlaws, while it’s looking pretty good for the Glasgow Hornets in the West against the Renegades and two rookie sides (the Clyde Comets and Paisley Spartans). In the Central, the Steelers and Dragons resume their rivalry, and will be likely battling the Chargers for that other playoff spot.

NORTHCENTRALSOUTH
Calderdale KnightsCheshire CavaliersMansfield Honey Badgers
Darlington SteamManchester CrowsNottingham Bears
Leeds SamuraiManchester TitansSheffield Giants
Newcastle BlackhawksWigan WarhawksSheffield Vipers

It’ll be a mouthwatering season in the MEC South, where the Sheffield Giants (formerly the Predators) will be facing both the Vipers and Honey Badgers. It’s likely that the best team to miss out on the playoffs in the North will come from that division. The Beeston Bears have also re-branded to the Nottingham Bears.

The Central will surely present the Crows with a chance to shine after the Giants have been moved out of their way, and they’ve still got the Manchester derby to look forward to. The Newcastle Blackhawks lose the Vipers, but will be re-united with the Knights, Steam and Samurai.

NORTHCENTRALSOUTH
Aylesbury Vale SpartansBaker St ButtonhookersChichester Sharks
Bedford BlackhawksHackney CougarsReading Knights
Ware WolvesLondon RebelsReading Lions
West Essex ShowboatsVictoria Park PanthersSolent Thrashers

In the SEC, we’re getting our first league glimpse of the Baker Street Buttonhookers, who find themselves in one of the UK’s toughest divisions alongside the champion London Rebels, the Britbowl semi-finalist Panthers and the new Hackney Cougars. The North features the West Essex Showboats alongside the Wolves, Spartans and Bedford Blackhawks, while the Sharks, Knights, Lions and Thrashers make up the South.

Pic by Rob Connor

NORTHCENTRALSOUTH
Birmingham LionsCoventry Cougars WomenCardiff Hurricanes
Coventry Cougars MixedLeicester EaglesExeter Falcons
Coventry PanthersNorthants PhantomsHereford Stampede
Northants Titans WhiteNorthants Titans BlueMerthyr Tydfil Thunderducks
Plymouth Buccaneers

The Birmingham Lions are back once again after their playoff forfeit in 2016. So what will the playoff picture look like in the SWC in 2017? The Lions are in with the Coventry Cougars Mixed side, as well as the Panthers and Titans White. The Cougars Ladies enter the mixed league as a unit for the first time, and the Opal Series champs will be lumped in with the Eagles, Phantoms and Titans Blue.

In the five team division, the rookie Exeter Falcons will play the Hurricanes, Stampede, Thunderducks and Buccaneers.

So who’s your pick for 2017’s Britbowl? Check in with Pulling the Flag for more details when we get ’em…

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