Ultimate Test Matches
A new competition format for international competition.
WFDF recently announced a new sanctioned competition format for international ultimate: the test match.
The WFDF press release tells us that the idea was proposed by AFDF who wanted to host two showcase games between the Australian and Japanese World Games teams and have those games recognised as sanctioned WFDF competitions.
The proposal itself is very clear that these test matches should be full strength games and not just warm ups for bigger tournaments. So even though Australia and Japan will be fielding their World Games squads, the two test matches will be standalone winner-takes-all competitions.
What Can We Hope To See From Test Matches?
Test matches in other sports, like Rugby and Cricket, are well established events steeped in tradition. It will take a long time to build up the same spectacle in ultimate, but jumping on the Great Britain vs Australia rivalry bandwagon (as perpetuated by The Ashes) could make for a excellent event in the ultimate world.
Certainly the USA and Canada could have extremely exciting test matches on a regular basis, much more easily than GB and Australia could. In fact, such events have happened in the past as team USA and team Canada have warmed up for Worlds and the World Games.
The main problem, of course, with the test match format is the logistics of getting a full strength national team to another country to play one game of ultimate. We will more likely see small series of test matches (like the inaugural Australia vs Japan two-test series) but this is still a large undertaking for a an amateur sport. That being said, test matches do present an excellent opportunity for players to represent their countries and get more international playing experience.
Hopefully national teams will embrace the opportunity that test matches present to showcase the sport and create rivalries between nations outside of international tournaments. Watching your national team playing at Worlds against a team which recently beat them a in close test match series makes the game much more of spectacle than it would otherwise have been — especially if tournament life is on the line.
The live stream of the Australia vs Japan test match should be an interesting watch and I look forward to seeing how other countries will use the format in the future.