BAFA NL ’19 | Way Too Early Predictions… Division Two North

The season hasn’t even got underway, most teams are playing their cards close to their chest… Surely now’s hardly the time to be taking a look at which teams we think will be rising to the top in their respective conferences this year… right? 

Well, those awesome chaps over at the UK American Football Scene have already been quizzing the Britball Nation on who they think’s gonna top out each table in 2019, so in a time-honoured tradition, DC’s gonna take a swing at it too!

We’ll take a peek at each conference, working our way up the Divisions to the Premiership, picking all the winners along the way and seeing how DC’s picks compare with the community’s!

Division Two North

No conference in Britball has seen more change than the NFC 2 North during the offseason, as the new season will see just two teams that competed under its banner in 2018 return to the border-spanning section of Division Two.

Learn more about the shape of things in this border-straddling conference in our NFC 2 North Preview.

For now, let’s jump into who we think’ll be finishing where this summer:

Who’ll take the crown?

The polls over in the UK American Football Scene group have the Clyde Valley Blackhawks edging this conference over the Dumfries Hunters – though also with a very respectable showing in the polls for new boys, the Darlington Steam!

To their credit, the Blackhawks are certianly the veteran outfit in this conference, and the only ones with experience of the British game at a higher level, having been a Division One outfit only a few seasons ago.

However, for me the Blackhawks stumbled down the stretch last season after an encouraging start, and rounded out the year with a hefty loss to the Hunters. Not willing to take a gamble on any of the new kids on the block just yet, I’ll take the Hunters to follow up last year’s postseason trip with a first title in 2019.

Left holding a spoon?

Coming up last in the UKAFS polls were the are the Carlisle Sentinels, and given their struggles last season I can understand why.

It’d also be easy to pluck for either of the unknown variables to end up propping up the table, as in truth we know very little about the shape of the Goliaths and Steam… However, I’ve got to trust that BAFA’s more rigorous Associate process isn’t allowing any teams into the league that aren’t ready to mix it up at this level, so I’ll go with the pack and pick the Sentinels.

Dark Horse?

Hey, the Darlington Steam were picking up a lot of traction in the polls, and there ain’t no smoke without fire…

Certainly, this new programme hasn’t shirked away from preseason action, testing their mettle against D1’s Northumberland Vikings, and promotion hopefuls, the Halton Spartans. That’s definitely not a cushy way to ease yourselves into a first league season, so the Steam are clearly here to play – let’s see what scalps they can take in their first summer of league action!

There were two new additions to the NFC 2 Central during the offseason. As the Sentinels departed for the NFC 2 North, the Knottingley Raiders might be relieved to find themselves back in the Central after a tough season in the NFC 2 South, while the Leeds Bobcats also return to the conference after an unsuccessful attempt at making the leap up to D1 football in 2018.

Take a deeper dive into what the changes mean for this rejigged conference in our  NFC 2 Central Preview.

For now, let’s see who both the ‘Nation and this pundit think’ll be taking a title come August:

Who’ll take the crown?

The polls had this one as a two-horse race between the Halton Spartans and the Leeds Bobcats, and its pretty easy to see why.

Ultimately, it’s likely to come down to how much of their roster the Bobcats have managed to keep hold of following their morale-crushing 0-10 2018 campaign. If they’re back to their 2017 form? This is their conference to lose…

But I’ve got to work with what I know, and I think the Spartans will be eager to build on last year’s success with a first title in 2019.

Left holding a spoon?

UKAFS has this looking like a threeway split between the Phantoms, Raiders and Storm, but in fairness, they’re only asking who the community think’s gonna win the conference, not who’ll finish where.

I’d agree that each of those three are certainly longshots to wear a crown, but to my mind the Phantoms found enough success in 2018 to not be considered spoon contenders coming into the season. Rather it’s a toss-up between the two 2017 additions to the league, and I think the Storm showed more teeth last season than the Raiders, outscoring the Knottingley team two to one last summer.

Dark Horse?

Truthfully? I’m not sure there is a Dark Horse in this conference. If I’m forced to choose, I’d take a long shot on the Phantoms to steal an extra win somewhere and potentially make things interesting down the stretch.

 

And last, but by no means least, we take a glance at the NFC 2 South, which following realignments might well be considered the most talented of the three northern conferences coming into 2019.

Uniquely, the South was the only conference to not gain any teams during the offseason – rather they’ve exported Raiders across to the Central, and kept hold of all the biggest rivals from 2018!

I explore what this means for the remaining rosters in our NFC 2 South Preview.

However, for now, let’s check out who both the wider community, and DC, believe will be fighting their way to the top of the table in 2019:

Who’ll take the crown?

The polls have this as a showdown between the Birmingham Bulls and Staffordshire Surge, with the Bulls emerging from the polls as the eventual victors. Given each team’s form last season I can’t argue with these two being favourites to contest the top spot once more.

As last season showed, splitting these two teams is difficult – they were evenly matched this most of 2018, and both have had active preseasons testing themselves against teams that will similarly be considered contenders for promotion this year.

On this occasion, I’ll back the Surge to repeat their title – if only because they showed more firepower than the Bulls last season and Birmingham’s 0-0 preseason tie with the South Wales Warriors doesn’t make me think they’re suddenly gonna start dropping big numbers this summer either.

Left holding a spoon?

The polls have the Crewe Railroaders going off the rails this season, but I’m not buying it. They fought their way to four wins last season and while their schedule certainly looks like a tougher slog since the departure of the Raiders to the NFC 2 Central, they took two wins over the Warhawks last year, and I see no reason why they can’t look to repeat that in 2019, too.

If the Warhawks start putting up more points, then I’ll have to rethink my pick, but for now I’ve got Humber in fifth for a second straight season.

Dark Horse?

This one was an easy pick for me – five more points in one game and four more points in another? And the Lincolnshire Bombers were a 6-2 team last year and potentially even bagging themselves home football in the first round of playoffs!

Sure, they ended up coming a cropper in the postseason versus the Romans, but if they can ride some of the momentum they built up last year into 2019? They’ve definitely got the talent to compete for a title.

Week One versus the Bulls will tell us a lot about whether the Bombers are ready to take off in 2019.

So we’ve learned which teams we think will be contesting it, but who do we have actually fighting their way all the way to silverware this summer?

The Division Two southern champs will be…

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Nick

Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1