Baker Street Buttonhookers (UK)
Victoria Park Panthers (UK)
Lalo Greyhounds (Germany)
Kaizen Flag (Austria)
Munich Spatzen (Germany)
Group G is probably the deepest group at Big Bowl with plenty of intriguing matchups and storylines. Playing without stud receiver Carl Szabo will certainly be a blow for the ‘Hookers. However, they will still boast plenty of firepower and a defense that is as tough as any at this tournament. They will need both in a key early encounter with Mayhem. The team of US soldiers stationed in Germany passed on Big Bowl last year after two consecutive top 6 finishes. Legendary quarterback Bobby Black pulled a Brett Favre, retiring for a hot second before coming back. Given the constant rotation of players, Mayhem will never match the chemistry of other top teams but they make up for it with truckloads of athleticism. Given the proximity of Walldorf to their base, you can expect a much stronger squad than the one that finished 2nd at NuOla. Don’t be surprised if they end up boasting the most athletic team there. With Black running the show, they are primed for a deep run.
While the ‘Hookers and Mayhem have talent, their progression to the top knockout round is by no means certain. The Panthers, last year’s Britbowl finalists, have impressed at consecutive Big Bowls while finishing ahead of Dutch Lions and Team Sweden at Flagging New Year. They are solid all around and will not beat themselves. They will also present a unique challenge for their division rival Buttonhookers as this will be their third match this season and won’t be surprised by anything Vince Machi & Co. throw at them. The Lalo Greyhounds quietly finished 4th two years ago at Big Bowl and will prove to be another disciplined and well-drilled opponent. Munich Spatzen is another one of those bottom seeded teams that could certainly be in the middle group. Two years ago they won the bottom knockout round before improving to a respectable 27th last year. Given their upward trend, they are by no means an easy out. Finally, beware the unknown team. Who are Kaizen Flag?
Allerød Armadillos (Denmark)
Atlantic Devils (Spain)
ASV Badener Griefs (Germany)
Purple Flags (Germany)
Group H is an interesting one as we most likely have three teams battling for the top two spots. The Chieftains will be looking to build upon last year’s impressive 12th place debut. However, the recent Super 5s champs have a tall order (pun intended) replacing Gary Elliot and Julian Holburn-White, who will be plying their trade for the Barbarians and Bulls, respectively. In the Armadillos, they will see one of European Flag’s golden boys. The immensely talented and well drilled Armadillos have fared okay at Big Bowl in the past, finishing third, first, and second the last three years. Should the Chieftains fall to the Danish power in their opener, they will need to regroup quickly as the Killer Bees await next in what should be this group’s most pivotal fixture.
Despite being Big Bowl debutants, Killer Bees will present a tough challenge to anyone. Last year, three Slovenian teams finished in the top 11. The Killer Bees are the latest Slovenian power looking to make their own mark on the tournament. In their home country, they frequently go toe to toe with the aforementioned Novo Mesto Knights and last year’s 9th place finishers, Domzale Tigers. While the Chieftains may have the edge in talent, I expect the battle-tested Killer Bees to have the edge in rhythm and chemistry. Therefore, I expect the early fixture to favour the Killer Bees in what should be a scintillating match. As for the rest of the group, Atlantic Devils defeated the Purple Flags last year and I expect them to do the same and finish fourth.