The Wildfire are a new addition to the AUDL this season, and they’ve been making more offseason noise than any other team. Not only did the Wildfire bring in Brodie Smith from the Alleycats last year, they also brought in the League MVP in Jonathan Helton, a player from Chicago’s elite club team Machine. Helton isn’t the only player from Machine on the roster either, 10 of his teammates from last year’s Machine team are joining him on the Wildfire. In addition to Brodie and the Machine players Ron Kubalanza is also playing for the Wildfire this season. Kubalanza spent last season playing Master’s, but it wasn’t too long ago that he was representing Team USA on Sockeye back in 2008. Before then he played on teams like Furious George, Jam, and DoG. His experience should be especially valuable to John Hock, the Wildfire’s head coach.
With the Machine making up the core of the team and adding a top player like Brodie, there’s a reason Ultiworld has the Wildfire ranked first in the AUDL power rankings. They’ll have to play teams made up of frequent club team rivals Madison Club and SubZero, but over the past five years they’ve proven to be the most consistent of those teams.
More words have been written about Brodie than just about any other Ultimate player in history. While he’s coming off a difficult season, he was a big part of the Alleycats offense in the AUDL, but injuries prevented him from playing the whole season, and from making an impact for Doublewide in the club series. After playing on the USA All Star team at the Dream Cup in Japan Brodie looked like his old self, with 21 assists and 11 goals. As long as he stays healthy Brodie will be the top playmaker in the AUDL.
Not only do the Wildifire have some of the best players in the league, so far they have demonstrated to have one of the better organizations as well. The Wildfire have used their star power to film promos on behalf of the team, and have had one of the more active presences when it comes to social media as well. Having Ultimate’s biggest star certainly helped in making sure that half of UXtv’s games feature the Wildfire. They’ve done a good job supporting youth Ultimate in Chicago, arranging for high school teams to play during halftime. Early returns have the Wildfire being the class of the AUDL in organization and on field talent, much like the Spinners last year.
Last year most of the Midwestern teams were fairly evenly matched, no one team pulled away from the pack and none of them fell behind either. Every team finished between 7-9 and 9-7. The Wildfire will do what they can to make sure that isn’t case this year, anything less than a championship would be a disappointment for this squad.