Vancouver Riptide Sign Hibbert and Chatha
With their first two signings for the 2016 AUDL season, Morgan Hibbert and Gagan Chatha, the Vancouver Riptide have served notice that they intend to rule the air.
Morgan Hibbert, the D-line linchpin of any team he plays on, has been recognized as one of the best defenders in ultimate for more than a decade. With him covering the deep routes, using his experience and savvy to pick just the right moment to poach off his man to help out his teammates, the defenders covering handlers can put on their forces with gusto, knowing that the slightest weakness in any throw that tries to break the force will be gobbled up by the Morgatron. And he is arguably the best puller in the game, allowing the D-line to start each point positioned just the way they want.
Last season Hibbert set new standards for professional ultimate by averaging more than seven points played per game more than any other player in his league. When his team lost most of its veteran members due to a freak run of injuries, he stepped beyond his usual role on the D-line to also being one of the key players on the O-line, in the end also leading the league in blocks and assists and finishing second in scoring.
Hibbert started playing ultimate while attending Kitsilano High School in Vancouver in 1998, his size and strength leading to a rapid ascent in the sport. He has been a mainstay for Furious George, the top local touring team, for many years, and has been a member of Team Canada since 2004. Over the years he has played on many national and world championship teams, winning multiple championships and medals.
Hibbert may be getting old by the standards of top-level ultimate – he turns 35 the day before Christmas – but you would never know it by watching him play. He works hard to keep his body in top condition.
“The body feels super right now,” said Hibbert. “The non-frisbee playing season (there is no off season) always causes my body to feel fantastic I also have lots of really good people who keep me in top health. Without Stephan Mogatas and his fabulous Jointworks team, I wouldn’t be able to play the way I do.”
Hibbert is both looking forward to and not looking forward to having a lesser workload this season as he joins a deeper, more rounded team like the Riptide.
“On one hand, I loved how much I was playing. In fact I never want to leave the field and I would be happiest if I was playing every single point of every game. I love the thrill of trying to push your body beyond its boundaries, beyond your comfort zone, seeing if you can run one more step before you collapse due to exhaustion. On the other hand, my body did really feel the wear and tear from playing so many minutes the whole season.”
“I think this year I need to be smarter. I want to be at my best competing for Team Canada in June, so I need to manage my minutes better so that I am fresh for Worlds. But let’s wait and see if I will be singing that same tune when it comes to game time! Somehow I doubt it…”
Here are two more things to watch for from the Morgatron. First, note how he throws with both hands. When a wrist injury meant he could no longer throw a flick with his right hand, he simply replaced the throw by learning how to throw a backhand with his left hand. And then, watch how the kids from the stands come down and swarm him after each game. That’s when you see him give his broadest smiles.
If you stand near Hibbert, you are amazed at how big he really is. When you stand near Gagan Chatha, especially if he reaches for something, you are amazed at how long he is. Although he is reasonably tall, it is his extremely long reach that sets him apart from almost everyone else on the field. Add in a wonderful ability to read the flight of the disc, a good jump, and fierce determination to snatch that plastic, and you have a player who can dominate the downfield area for an O-line the way Hibbert can for a D-line.
Watch the way he came down with this catch against two defenders while playing for Team Canada at the recent World Under-23 championships. It’s hard to imagine anyone but him completing it.
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Chatha started playing ultimate in 2007 in his first year of high school, and although he captained both his high school soccer and ultimate teams, it is ultimate that captured his heart. Before long he was a member of the provincial junior teams which medaled three straight years at Canadian Nationals, and he has also represented Canada at several age-class world championships. Over the last few years he has become a core member of Furious George, and has also become an accomplished coach of junior teams in the Lower Mainland.
And what a season Gagey had last year! Although the team did not have a great won-loss record, in spite of being able to play only 10 of their 14 games Chatha led the Riptide in goals, plus/minus, offensive efficiency, points played per game, and minutes played per game. And the reason he missed those four games was due to his service for Team Canada, which finished second in the Open Division. Chatha was not only a captain, but led that team in scoring by a country mile.
But as with all top level athletes, great achievements like these are not going to cause Gagey to rest on his laurels. He’s been working hard over the mid-winter break.
“This winter I’m really trying to improve my strength in the gym. I’ve been working towards becoming a much more explosive athlete, and I’m trying to improve on my speed, quickness, and jumping ability. Flexibility is also a key focus of mine because I’m probably the least flexible person you know!”
Great athletes in team sports are always more focused on team achievements than individual goals, and Hibbert and Chatha prove to be no exception when you ask them about the upcoming season.
“The goal is simple,” said Chatha. “We want to build a championship team. With great veterans and awesome up-and-coming young players, the pieces are all there. The team will be a delight to watch for the fans and we’ll be contending for the title. I’m looking forward to getting in front of the fans and hearing them cheer. They’re going to fuel our wave.”
“My goal is team success,” said Hibbert. “I want this franchise to be viewed as the most successful franchise in the entire league. This requires success on the field and off the field. My goals for this team are to get the city of Vancouver excited about the Riptide and to generate a continent wide buzz about this exciting team.”
It is a given that their opponents this upcoming season are going to have to concentrate on trying to figure out a way to deal with the aerial dominance of the Riptide Air Force, but this leaves open one question.
Who wins when Gagey and the Morgatron go up against each other for a disc?
Perhaps befitting his up-and-coming status, Chatha is more diplomatic.
“Seeing as Morgan has a height advantage, you think he’d come down with a few more than he does. I’d call it pretty even, for now, but that’s only because I don’t want him to feel bad…”
Meanwhile, Hibbert exhibits his usual bravado.
“I win every single time. He does just enough to get posterized in the photo.”
Methinks these two will be having some great aerial battles at Riptide practises this season…