The Return Of National Dodgeball Leagues!

The Return Of National Dodgeball Leagues!

This season, there are a total of six national dodgeball leagues for adults in England. In the women’s division, there’s the Super League and League 1; for the men, there’s Super League, and Leagues 1, 2, and 3. This isn’t even counting the numerous other leagues that have already gotten underway or are starting soon, such as the BUCS University League (which we’ve covered here), Junior Leagues, Mixed Leagues, and Regional Leagues. There’s also men’s and women’s Super Leagues in Northern Ireland this year, though none in Scotland or Wales – though Carmarthen Wizards and Rhondda Dragons have been welcomed into the English Men’s League 2.

That’s a lot of leagues to keep track of; a lot of teams to cheer on; and a lot of reshuffling that can make it hard to know exactly where we stand at the start of the season. So, to help, here’s a breakdown of what to expect in each league going into this opening weekend – compiled by yours truly, with some help from the new Beverz Rating and the wise minds behind the Neutral Zone Podcast (NZP). 

Women’s Super League

Aside from the promotion of the fresh-faced Leicester White Tigers, the table looks pretty much full of the same old, same old. An in-form Bedford Eagles will be trying to win back the crown from Nottingham Sheriffs, and while they’ve been a notable absence at pre-season opens (making Beverz’ lovely new ranking system a little janky when it comes to them), they’re a pretty safe bet when it comes to the top three. Leamington Spartans have been a ferocious presence in the pre-season, alleviating any concerns about what their mass overhaul of players might have done to their club reputation – and that’s with Holly Gedling hardly appearing for them. And then there’s old reliable Storm: always up there, always fighting for it, and never quite clinching that top spot. Like Bedford, Storm have the advantage that they haven’t seen many player changes over the pandemic, and so should be operating like a well-oiled machine. Derby Phantoms equally have had a phantastic start to the season in the opens, thanks again to a great recruitment drive and very few experienced players leaving – but will this transfer to the league tables?

From NZP:
“Is this choice a cop out or just a nod to a team that has dominated the Women’s leagues as long as they’ve existed? Possibly both, but Bedford Eagles are a club with experience and talent to burn, and so often this league comes down to all the little mistakes you didn't make. 

London Storm have been pushing for this for years and getting closer and closer every time. With a distinct playing style that many teams in the league struggle to cope with and many experienced hands returning, this could be Storm’s year to finally push all the way to the top. They’re a tight knit team with the will to win, and this might be their time. 

A few notable signings have changed the look of the Spartans' team quite a bit. There's certainly no shortage of passion or throwing power, so the real test will be how quickly these individually talented players can gel together to convert the potential into points. There's a depth of coaching experience behind them as well, so once this team starts to click, it's going to get really interesting.”

Matches to watch this weekend: 

Using the Beverz Rating, here are the matches that should be close and competitive this weekend. Favourites are noted with an (f); though these rankings are also using the pre-season team results, which may not reflect the league line-ups well.

Derby Phantoms (f) v Manchester Queen Bees

Bedford Rangers v London Storm (f)

Leamington Spartans (f) v Nottingham Sheriffs

Women’s League 1

The league of the 2s teams: this one is quite likely to mirror the results of the Super League, albeit with absences from Leamington and Bedford Eagles, who have no 2s. Manchester Honey Bees, who were previously struggling in the Super League, have voluntarily taken relegation. All that Super League experience might well pay off for them – on the Beverz system, they’re currently predicted to lead the table. Following close behind them we get Norwich Nighthawks and Nottingham Sheriffs 2s. However, experience tells us that this may just be the system being a little rough due to the lack of data. London Storm 2s should feature pretty strongly at the front of this league, as always. Stafford Raptors are a little harder to pinpoint, though they’ve had an impressive number of new signings (as we’ve all heard through their ample social media), which could be enough to pull them up to the top of the table. This league promises to be a very interesting one: tricky to predict, truly anyone’s game, with plenty of fresh blood and older players mixing together. 

From NZP: “London Storm 2s will likely be at the business end of League 1 - statistically one of the strongest teams in the league, based on their league position last “season”, and Storm as a club seem to have been one of the main beneficiaries of player movements over the course of the break. If this team can stay fit and settled for the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their name on the trophy at the end of it. 

Derby Phantoms 2s are not to be underestimated this season. In the same way that Storm have benefitted from player movements, Derby have also gained several top-quality players on the women’s side - that not only feeds into the personnel in the 2s, but the quality of training for them. They’ll definitely be a tough nut to crack this season! 

Stafford Raptors may well be the archetype of a surprise package - a serious recruitment drive gives us a team that everyone’s still trying to size up! There’s no denying the individual brilliance of some of the players, but whether they can gel and operate as a team will determine whether they get found out by some of the savvier teams in the league...”

Matches to watch this weekend: 

Manchester Honey Bees (f) v Norwich Nighthawks

Derby Phantoms 2s (f) v Stafford Raptors

London Storm 2s v Norwich Nighthawks (f)

Men’s Super League

There should probably be a name for the meetup of Spartans v Meteors at this point, akin to El Clasico. You’d have to be a bit green to think these two won’t be battling it out at the front, as always. Meteors, like Bedford Eagles in the women’s game, have opted for the Frozen tactic re: opens (“don’t let them in, don’t let them see”), so it’s hard to know what form they’re in. Spartans, for their part, are on fire. They (in)famously won the last season on a bit of a technicality; it’ll be interesting to see if they can clear any doubt as to whether that was deserved with their performance this season. Beverz’ rating shows these two at the front as expected, though nipping at their heels are Rangers, Bees, and Storm (though the latter’s performance at Regional League has affected their ranking a tad). Rangers in particular have been climbing rapidly over the last few months, with some impressive performances in the opens. Any one of those three could create some key upsets and topple the frontrunners, or at least cause some very, very exciting chaos.

From NZP: “The defending champions: Leamington Spartans. I think it will be a very close run again between them and Meteors. However, Spartans have been in imperious form at the opens whereas Meteors have been conspicuous by their absence. The last league was so close, I feel Meteors lack of pre-season could cost them a few sets early on which could define the season.

Most people (and rightly so) may expect a two-horse battle for the league title. However, like Spartans, Rangers have been in great form this year so far at both Regional League and at Opens. Some very experienced signings added to an already impressive squad makes them one to watch this year. If this team can find balance at full strength, they can beat anyone.

Bees are now a very experienced team. They have been pushing higher up the table every year and this could be the year they crack it. A great draw against Meteors last year proves they can go toe to toe with the top teams so there’s no reason why they can’t go that next step. Not only great, and sometimes underrated players, but a solid team unit. Maybe the most solid in the league.”

Matches to watch this weekend:

Bedford Rangers v London Storm 1s (f)

Leicester (f) v London Storm 2s

Men’s League 1

This should be a pretty tightly contested league – there really isn’t a single frontrunner that can be identified. On the ratings, Coventry Silverbacks take the edge, just. They’ve been slowly and quietly growing over the last few seasons into a truly impressive squad. Their high ranking however is mostly due to some fantastic work against Spartans in regional league – something we should commend, but which may not be a great indication as regional squads and national squads differ. Derby Phantoms have had a great pre-season, though again, whether that transfers to national league is anyone’s guess. This’ll be a league that comes down to which players show up for their clubs, and which ones disappear after the glory of the open season. 

From NZP: “Derby Phantoms will fancy themselves for the League 1 title this season - they were close to the top two in the league last “season”, they’ve been mainstays in many of the opens in the off-season (medalling in a large number of them), and the addition of Ed Raven gives them one of the fastest throws in the league. They’ll take some beating, but they could well be their own worst enemies if some matches go too close to the wire...

Bedford Mighty Eagles are a club that have been dripping with Super League experience over a number of years, albeit with that taking a bit of a hit with recent player movements. The experience that sits on court may well prove vital at some of the critical moments that prove to be a turning point in the match and means you’ll never be able to write them off in each and every set - if the right Eagles turn up they’ll give everyone in the league a serious headache!

Coventry Silverbacks may prove to be a real handful this season. They have a decent amount of League 1 experience under their belts, as well as adding plenty more firepower into their ranks, and that’s been reflected in their regional league exploits of pushing Spartans every step of the way. This team on a good day will give any team a run for their money.”

Matches to watch this weekend:

Bedford Eagles (f) v Derby Phantoms

Bedford Rangers 2s v Coventry Silverbacks (f)

London Storm 3s (f) v Thunderdodge

Men’s League 2

Ah, the English-Welsh hybrid league, where Wizards and Dragons come to battle Nighthawks and Wolves (sidenote: the Welsh have definitely already won this league on club names alone). Raptors, as mentioned in the women’s league, have had a pretty eventful recruitment season, but it all depends how many of those many, many names have stuck around and not already defected to other clubs after getting some swanky new kit. Manchester Soldier Bees stick out pretty high on the rating too, though looking at the overall spread of the ratings for this league, it becomes clear that more data needs to be collected. Spartans 2s may have a good showing, especially considering the talent on display in Warwick in the BUCS league (aka the Spartans Recruitment Pool). This is a league that’s divided between some smaller clubs’ first teams, and the second squads of big name clubs: which would you rather play for?

From NZP: “Norwich Nighthawks are an experienced team with some excellent players. A year in league helped them gel as a team, as well as gain a good understanding of teams they’ll play against.

Leamington Spartans 2s are a potentially overlooked team owing to Leam 1s success; they can possibly follow in the footsteps with the training and coaching they will have received.

Derby Phantoms 2s are the wildcards. Plenty of practice at opens throughout the summer means this team can surprise by putting into practice the experience they would have gained over other teams”

Matches to watch this weekend:

Carmarthen Wizards v Rhondda Dragons (f)

Manchester Soldier Bees (f) v Carmarthen Wizards

Men’s League 3

League 3, like regional leagues, can be a wildcard of a league, full of new players and new talent which make the whole system incredibly volatile. Anyone who thinks they can predict the top 3 of this league is either lying or clueless. Sheffield Bovines are the only predictable ones here, who are the easy favourites for the league. . 

From NZP: “Sheffield Bovines have an established squad of very good players with plenty of experience under their belt. Shouldn’t have any particular trouble in this league. Then there’s Virtue Empire Slayers, often not taken seriously enough, which leads to some surprising plays and a well-structured game. Canterbury Crocodiles are a complete unknown entity in community circles which can easily lead to a surprise finish for these guys.”

Matches to watch this weekend:

Sheffield Bovines (f) v Norwich Nighthawks 3s