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Chapter 6 - The Rise and Fool of UK Paintball ...

Discussion in 'The History of UK Paintball ... Warts an' all.' started by Robbo, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. Robbo Owner of this website for my sins ....

    Jul 5, 2001
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    Some of this chapter will include quite a few events in the US - the reason I have included these incidents is because they are of general interest and will help punctuate our potted history.

    As far as the UK went, the nineties was a period of change both for the teams and for the tournament industry alike. The lure of the greenback was such that people really believed, me included, that we could eventually get our sport mainstreamed on TV … it proved to be a forlorn hope but back then, we were intoxicated with the prospect as different commercial interests juggled production ideas with a view to courting the networks to invest in televising paintball.

    Networks, especially in the US, aren’t idiots and they effectively refused to have anything to do with investing in our sport and so we realised that if there was to be any successful TV initiative, then it would have to be self-financed.
    This meant that someone in the paintball industry had to pay for a production company to film a series that was based around televising a league format program, or a single event program such as televising the world cup, or a lifestyle format that was a fly on the wall production following a specific pro team as they played throughout a season.

    These were the format choices for the production company but the problem was, at the very heart of these proposed program formats, lay a ‘sport’ that cannot transition to TV, in an accessible way [to the viewer] .
    All of those proposed productions have to hang on the sport itself and if that core sport isn’t attractive to watch, then all of those programs crash and burn as people switch off because our sport isn’t able to sustain interest much past the novelty factor.
    Initiative after initiative proved fruitless, and even now, people haven't learned the lessons and continue to chase the TV rainbow but it's futile.
    Domestically, our tournament scene was coming to terms with the Preds’ dominance being questioned as the new Millennium approached.
    During this period of about 3 years, Marcus and myself were talking a lot more than we were used to, maybe, we had both mellowed a bit, who knows but as the new Millennium approached, Marc seemed, not so much depressed but despondent.
    It was as if he could sense his team’s demise was imminent – now this happens to every great team or individual but that’s because of a natural loss of form due to age.
    The Preds dominance wasn’t being tested because of jaded performances, it was because the playing format was changing and Marcus realised his guys weren’t cut out for the arena game.
    The new paintballer, was young, slim and fast …… and this transformation in player-type was bought about because the arena-based game had sooo much paint in the air coupled with so much shooting access to one’s opponents.
    Shooting lanes were clear of branches and trees, attacking routes were open and obvious, there were no hiding places in the new game .. there was however, tanker-loads of paint being shot with brightly-coloured whippets criss-crossing all over the place …. This wasn’t paintball, it was something else … it was …. inevitable, that’s what it was.

    For myself, I was lucky in that my game relied on shooting straight and staying tight and so the change was a welcome one because it allowed me to sit back and pot-shot fools all day long but as the sport evolved, I was nearing my retirement but I had no clue it was coming, leastwise in such a relatively short time

    Back in the US and A

    It's 1999 and Renick, Aftershock’s captain and owner had really pissed me off because he didn’t include me in a five-man team that was going to the SkyDome in Toronto.
    It’s true to say, I was big-time annoyed with him and just couldn’t understand why he had left me out but…. I eventually realised he was right to. I was past my sell-by date and I needed to retire and it was his way of telling me that - I was then 45 and so shoulda been grateful for lasting that long in the game but still, having to face up to the end of my career was one of my worst experiences in paintball, no it wasn't, it wasn't 'one of the worst' .. it was the worst.

    I’m pretty sure Renick knew me well enough to realise I wasn’t gonna take the news well and so he did it in a way that was easier for me to take as against Ren telling me flat out.
    He did what a friend does .. and I’m grateful for that, and I'm also grateful for the opportunity in playing for the greatest, most successful [6 world Cup titles] team there has ever been in paintball … what a fuhking privilege it was to play alongside those guys … it sounds schmaltzy and American but it was an honour playing for Renick.

    I was absolutely gutted to be leaving them ….but I knew I wasn’t good enough anymore.
    Three years before I had won the world cup for the first time and been voted the MVP [Most Valued Player] for the team, I had been voted the world’s best player in 96, the year after in 97, I had won the world 7-man in Toulouse and was awarded the tournament’s best player … and two years later, I wasn’t good enough, ouch !!!

    It was true, I wasn’t the player I was a few years previous, I was now facing a period in my life that didn’t include playing pro paintball … I’m not saying I cried or anything as gay as that but I was kinda crushed by it … my ego had been knocked spark out and I couldn’t seem to get my head around it.
    But when I thought about this impending loss in my life, it was something deeper than a bruised ego; it hurt me more than that.
    The previous ten years of my life had been playing the game I loved at the very top level, it was an integral part of me. My own identity was a pro-baller, and now, I was nothing.
    I was now an official has-been … a description that didn’t sit well with me.
    It’s all well and good being at the top in any pursuit but when Father Time calls your name out, you either put your hands up and admit defeat or you look a fool by playing for teams further down the league … and I was NEVER gonna do that.
    I played a few times for a few teams afterward but I wouldn’t allow myself to believe it was anything more than an indulgence and not a desperate grab for times past.

    Evolution Sucks!!

    Europe led the way with its tournament promotions, with the Yanks proving resistant to change in terms of embracing the new arena formats that had paintball dragged out of the woods and into a spectator-friendly arena.
    Events like Laurent Hamet’s Toulouse tournaments led the way, in fact, the Yanks came over in droves for the Toulouse event because they preferred these events to their own.
    Laurent had realised that promoting events wasn’t all about making money, he had created an event that inspired everyone and eventually, the Yanks got the message and followed suit albeit a somewhat poor cousin to the original Toulouse events.

    What made these events special was something as amorphous as the ‘atmosphere’ – hard to define I know but when your team had played its allotted games for the day, nobody ever thought of leaving the site because there was so much going on, it was fun, and everyone lapped it up, player and vendor alike.
    WDP's tent was always the place to be, you needed a VIP pass to get in and once you entered, it was a whole new world - I shall say no more other than to utter .... Wow, fuhk, Jeeeeze, what the hell is that, I want one more please !!!!

    The world cup eventually saw the writing on the wall and held hybrid events that used both woodland and arena ball fields and so it took a few years for the World Cup to complete the transition to the arena format.
    The players loved it, but this was because most loved the prospect of spectators watching them play; this is all well and good, and natural I suppose but in embracing this new era meant we had to shed some of the positive aspects of woodland play but the momentum of change proved too much for the conservatives of our game and the radical and more imaginative elements of paintball forced the necessary changes through.

    As the new Millennium loomed, the Preds had realised they were not going to lift the world cup for themselves; I think the last time they played the world cup, the NWC - Predator rivalry came to a bitter and dramatic finale.

    I think I’m right in saying that NWC were in the same semi-final bracket as the Preds at that particular world cup and with the final game coming up in that semi-final group, the Preds were poised to make it into the final and all they had to do was to beat NWC.
    NWC, as far as I remember, didn’t need the win and so a UK sympathiser might think it would be good to see the Preds win the game if only to further nationalist interest in getting a Brit team to the finals of the WC.

    Normally, the Preds would beat NWC but there’s always the fuhk-up factor and nobody wants one of them to come knocking when there’s a chance of getting into the world cup finals.
    At this point, I need to clarify something - the pro team hierarchy, both in the US and Europe, were all well aware of deliberately thrown games. It wasn’t so much commonplace but it wasn’t a rare occurrence either.
    Usually, these games were thrown whereby the result of a game made no difference to one side but the other team would stand to win or qualify for the finals if they won. The reasons for this were because both teams involved might have had the same sponsor or, were of the same nationality … not only were we all aware of such games but every pro team I know had been involved, one way or another in this type chicanery.

    It’s hard to win an event in the US, not just because of the talent base of their teams but because partiality was given to home teams by the judges, this is not sour grapes or BS, it’s true; remember here, I played five years for two American pro teams, I know what went on when we played non-American teams – if anyone wants to suggest any different then I have a message, be quiet and go suck a banana !

    We did the same when the Yanks came over here and so I‘m not gonna moralise here, I’d be a hypocrite if I tried.
    Prior to this game between the Preds and NWC, an assurance was given that NWC would attack the Preds.
    NWC wasn’t gonna hand the game over to the Preds by people just walking off the field, NWC said they would attack the Preds .. which meant, the Preds would now be assured of a win because NWC weren’t an attacking side, and the Preds were all good shots.
    For all intents and purposes, we should have all witnessed a turkey-shoot but fate had a different idea .. well, not so much fate but treachery.

    Basically, this was a case of Brits making sure another Brit team got into the finals .. that was the premise and the understanding between the two teams. It happened before, and it would happen again ..
    The Brit teams had been on the receiving end of these type agreements many times before and now there was an opportunity to address the balance.
    The Preds went out in that game knowing that all they had to do was sit and wait, and the inevitable assault would come, all the Preds had to do was sit back and shoot.
    Unfortunately, somebody didn’t keep their promise … NWC dug in deeper than the Mariana Trench and whilst the Preds waited for the promised onslaught to begin, nervous glances were flashed across the Preds’ line wondering what the fuhk was happening.
    I‘m not really sure why NWC didn’t live up to their word but they reneged on the understanding and by the time the Preds had worked out they were being had over, a win proved beyond them as they attacked like banshees more in anger than design.
    Anger drove the Preds forward and this was their undoing - they were unable to get that win that would have taken them into the finals, it must have been a right kick in the bollocks for the Preds, I can only imagine how they felt.
    If the Preds had been able to compose themselves before attacking NWC’s line, they would have won, of that I’m sure but sometimes history doesn’t wanna read your script and it follows its own line, and in this case, it wasn’t to be for the Preds.

    This was to be their final assault on the World Cup – the irony is sickening, in that, Marcus had believed he couldn’t win there because of judicial bias and chicanery of the US teams that had happened to the Preds on previous occasions but it was the treachery of another Brit team that proved their undoing at this world cup.
    I can only imagine how the Preds must have felt as they walked back to the staging tent …Raw anger was now coursing through the Pred’s veins … Marcus was looking more furious than I had ever seen him before and I knew something was gonna happen and as NWC started to put down their gear on the staging tables, the Preds moved ominously towards NWC's players.

    One of the Preds, walked up to one of NWC and hit him over the head with a chair, crash!!!!
    Ashley, [a guy I had to clump once for being an as$hole] the alleged traitor of his promise was knocked to the floor…. Normally, a fight would ensue but NWC knew better than to tangle with Marcus and some of the other Pred guys … It woulda been a massacre if people hadn’t intervened because no amount of rhetoric or attempted justification was gonna placate the Preds, and in my estimation, the Preds were right to be pissed off.
    Even though the point had been made, the Preds weren't leaving and if it hadn't been for Jerry Braun stepping in, there would have been more violence I'm sure.

    I don’t like cheating, I hate it but sometimes playing pro, it’s forced upon you by circumstance and pragmatism. I don’t mean someone actually makes you cheat, they don’t but circumstances do, leastwise they pave the way for you to indulge yourself in the darker side of the game. I realise there’s no mitigation in stating ‘all pro teams were doing it, and so we had no choice’ but sometimes in life, if you wanna win, you have to dance with the devil, especially when your opponents weren’t so much dancing with the devil as giving him a BJ.
    And so ended the era of the Preds.
    Their legacy in the UK is immense, unique and unassailable – never again we will see teams as successful and as dominant as them …. and their success was down to one man, and not one player on that team would disagree, it’s all down to Marcus.
    He was my Nemesis, my opponent, and now my friend – it’s funny how life goes sometimes.

    When we now survey our domestic landscape when it comes to characters, all we seem to have is Jason Wheeler and Clint Moore –…. Maybe it’s the fault of the media and the fact we no longer have printed magazines that promote individuals, I dunno really, all I do know is, we’re short on characters.

    Notorious Instances of Cheating - The Jeremy Salm Incident

    Some of you may have heard of this but for those who haven’t, here goes :-

    The location was the World Cup in 2002 - Jeremy Salm was playing on a pro team called Avalanche. The team was a pretty good outfit ran by Ed Poorman of Warped Paintball . On the roster was none other than Chris Lasoya, one of the sport’s first ever superstars of old and recent past. He had it all, he looked like a film star [Lassie] and could really set the game alight with his bunker moves, he was one of the original bunker monkeys who gave the sport of paintball some glitz and glamour.

    I got on well with all those guys especially Ed and Chris and so I was kinda surprised when this incident went down and sent shockwaves through our sport.
    By that time [2002] most of the fields had migrated out into an arena and I think I’m right in saying, there was one woodland field being played at that particular world cup.
    In fact, this world cup hosted two significant incidents, the first being the Salm incident which I’m about to tell you of and secondly, a schism between WDP and Jerry Braun who by then was representing a cabal of about 5 promoters who put on the 5 NPPL events in that year culminating in this world cup.
    I’ll come to this later ….

    Avalanche were playing against Ground Zero, [Jerry Braun’s sponsored team] and down one side of the open field ran the tree line of a woodland that was punctuated with thick bracken and bushes.
    During the game, one of GZ’s players, Pete Uschtig was playing the tape-line and was eliminated, which in itself is nothing too strange but Pete had realised the shot could not have come from any of Avalanche’s players because he was tucked well behind his bunker position when the shot hit him.

    Instinctively, he realised the shot had come in from an entirely different angle to that of any of his opponents on the field; he immediately focussed his attention to the bushes and trees that flanked the field alongside his bunker position.
    As he stared into the bushes, he saw a flash of sunlight reflect from inside one of the bushes; as he got up to try and find out what the fuhk was going on, he saw movement.
    At which point, the reason for that movement got up and ran like a whippet with a firework stuffed up its ass; problem was, Pete Ushtig was a fit guy.
    The chase began ….
    The perpetrator of this somewhat unique and inspirational dollop of cheating was a guy called Jeremy Salm, one of Avalanche’s players and Jeremy wasn’t so fit.
    The outcome was as predictable as it was embarrassing … for Jeremy at least.

    Pete Ushtig stayed on his tail as Jeremy ran his little heart out trying to escape but eventually, Salm slowed to a stop and put his hands up in true American style.

    He was breathless and contrite, and pleaded with Pete to let him go – Jeremy knew full well what was waiting for him back at the event ….. shame and notoriety.
    Pete would have none of it and grabbed his arm and marched Jeremy back in full view of everyone …. Word went round that event like Usain Bolt with Tiger Balm on his nuts … the whole place was buzzing amid gasps of the predictable ‘oh my god’ from the Yanks, if I heard that expression once, I’ve heard it a million times .. The ‘Salm’ incident was hilarious as it was shocking.

    Unfortunately, the team’s plan went disastrously wrong and they got caught but they hadn’t covered their tracks well because just before that game, some of Avalanche’s players had been trying to borrow markers that were extremely quiet, from other players. Obviously, they didn’t tell these other players what the marker was gonna be used for but when the incident was exposed, it was obvious why.

    Avalanche were a heavily sponsored team and they lost that in a heartbeat but a question loomed ominously over the team, who knew what was going on and who participated?
    Accusations flew around the event with most people believing all the team must have known. The truth is, nobody really knew who knew what but there was always gonna be one sacrificial lamb and so Jeremy fitted the bill perfectly – he was thrown out of the team and banned from playing in the NPPL as it was then. This incident became known as the ‘Sniper in the Woods’ and overnight, Jeremy Salm was made famous as most paintball magazines had a field day at his expense, and rightly so.
    I always liked Jeremy and was amazed he’d been so bloody stupid but it livened up the event, that’s for sure.

    The Mikey Bruno Affair

    Mikey Bruno was a one-off individual who played for Aftershock, he was the sole resident of Nut-Bush City, Nutsville - meeting Mikey for the first time was like having a firework stabbed in your face – anything and everything happened around him.
    No matter what he did, you couldn’t help but like him.
    There are two notorious incidents that Mikey got involved in and so I will start with the first in terms of chronology.
    I was playing for the All Americans at my first NPPL event in San Diego and aside from playing, I had to write an article about the event for PGi.
    Mikey Bruno played for Aftershock [always has] and one night at this event, a lot of the pro players slipped across the Mexican border and went to Tijuana.
    To cut a painfully long story short, Mikey got drunk outa his skull and decided he needed some relief; the bar they were in had a back room where customers used to frequent after handing over a few bucks to their woman of choice.
    Mikey duly went in there with his selection; after a few minutes, the door flew open and he came flying out with an expression that looked like he’d just crapped his underpants.
    He looked terror-stricken as he pleaded with the rest of the guys to leave the bar with him, they soon found out why Mikey had his somewhat hasty change of heart.

    Mikey had paid for a bj and a grope from his Mexican partner with the latter proving to be the problem.
    The first part of Mikey’s entertainment went ahead [pun intended] with no real problems but when it came to Mikey exploring ‘her’ nether regions .. he stumbled upon something that really shouldn’t have been there … this is not a joke, nor an exaggeration, or a story, this actually happened – Mikey had struck gold, or to be more precise, he discovered a pump and tool-bag instead of the expected cockpit.
    The next day there was a knock on my hotel door and Mikey stood there sheepish faced and walked straight in my room.
    Mikey was well aware I used to write my articles for PGi and knew I would be writing one up for this event – he begged me, literally begged me not to include his experience from the night before .. I felt sorry for him actually because I’d never seen him like that and so I assured him I would not be telling anyone about his testicular cupping adventure …..
    As soon as I got back to PGi’s office to write the event’s article up, I just couldn’t resist my role as a so-called journalist and the whole sordid affair was splashed all over the pages for all the world to see …. ‘Any publicity is good publicity’ …. Or so they say … Maybe Mikey might not agree with that sentiment.
    I think everyone but Mikey saw the funny side of it but that’s understandable I suppose.

    The second incident with Mikey is just as notorious – he was playing for Aftershock in Boston against the All Americans; the All Americans were doing uncharacteristically well against Shock and hopes were beginning to climb high as the game progressed … but …. Mikey was playing on one of the tapes and as he crawled along the tape line, he approached a large clump of bush and cover …. Mikey then crawled under the tape and out of bounds – he crawled into the adjacent field for about 15 yards before heading back toward the field he was supposed to be playing on. When he hit the tape, he looked left, and saw the backs of the All Americans as they pushed Shock up the field.

    It don’t take much to work out what happened next but it was another turkey shoot, I think someone said he shot out eight of the All Americans in his back-door move.
    As one might imagine, the All As were somewhat perplexed and went back onto the field to see what the hell had gone on … they realised Mikey had got behind them but how???
    They spent 20 or so minutes going over the field, they knew Mikey’s starting position and they realised the only way he could have achieved what he did was by going out of bounds … of course, Mikey denied any such transgression, putting his back-door move down to sheer brilliance but Billy and Adam Gardner were having none of it.
    Every team at that event privately chuckled in admiration at Mikey’s move especially because it was against the All Americans.
    I always liked the guys on the All Americans and could never really see what the problem was but other teams didn’t like them but hey, that’s paintball.

    The Worst Paintball Injury I have Witnessed ….. The Weasel Incident …

    Our sport isn’t known to have a high-injury incidence but this was something straight out of the horror book.
    I was playing for Aftershock in Atlanta and Bob Long’s Ironmen were there trying to snatch a win to consolidate their position as a pro team after splitting with the original Ironmen, a few years prior.

    I was walking over to the refreshment stand between games when I saw a judge and a guy called Weasel running across the track away from the field Bob’s Ironmen had just been playing on ….. Weasel, was holding his right arm with his left arm and looked distressed, that ashen-faced expression where you know this is not gonna be a normal injury …. And then, I saw it ……. WTF !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Holy Moley, my stomach turned over because I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing …..
    Back then, I think it was 98, we used to carry big-ass tanks [carbon-wrapped tanks hadn’t come in at that time] and these tanks could be remotely stashed behind you in your pot belt …. You then had a gas-line that run from this tank to the gun itself.

    As weasel had slid in to his bunker, he smashed the pressure-gauge on his tank.

    Air was hissing out behind him and as he lay behind his bunker trying not to get shot, he fumbled behind trying to locate the problem … unfortunately, Weasel couldn’t see what was waiting for him because as he reached behind him, he grabbed the top of the bottle and one of his fingers was pierced by the sharp point of the pressure-gauge needle … this in itself isn’t bad but what happened next, makes you feel sick to the stomach.
    As his finger was punctured by this pressure needle, it immediately inflated Weasel’s arm with 4500 psi …….his arm, literally went up like a balloon in half a second …. The air forced itself between Weasel’s skin and muscles making his arm look grotesquely disfigured and about twice its normal size ….. eeeewwwww !!!!
    He obviously got whisked off to the hospital pretty damned quick and I remember talking to Weasel afterwards and he had said, the doctors had to squeeze all the air out, starting at the top of his arm and working downward to his fingers. To make sure they got all the air out, they had flayed the skin on his fingers making them look like bananas that had had the skin pulled back, ready to eat.
    If the valve-needle had punctured an artery or vein, he woulda been dead in a heartbeat.. he was lucky, or maybe unlucky, I spose it depends upon your view.
    The consultant ‘sympathetically’ informed Weasel, that on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of pain, this procedure was a big fat 10 …. Comforting thoughts indeed for poor Weasel as the consultant began his deflationary procedure.
    Weasel thankfully recovered but anyone who was at that event will never forget that injury, I’m sure - And now, nor will you guys :)

    More to come in Chapter 7

    The Brits Invade the US across the beaches of California
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2014
    Pebbles, wiggles01, frobinson and 6 others like this.
  2. phil-boy UK Redskins

    May 6, 2004
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    Wow, just Wow. Yet another good read Pete.

  3. NitroBall Volatile

    Feb 20, 2006
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    Best chapter so far...
  4. Spookls Active Member

    Oct 21, 2013
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    Cracking read as usual
  5. RichB Member

    Sep 3, 2010
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    Fantastic read Pete.
  6. I used to good.Honest UKPSF #7126

    Oct 20, 2013
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    For someone who was involved in the Preds V NWC game, I have to say it did leave a bad taste in my mouth, I have to say right off the bat that in no way did the preds ask any of the Nam to throw a game, but as we went to the field it was "indicated" to us that because the Nam had no way of qualifying, then they were not going to try that hard, Most of us knew most of the guys in NWC pretty well, and most of us took it as read that we were going to win, but there was two guys who said don't ****ing trust them, I wish now we had listened to them, we all broke out far short of where we normally would have broken out to, I was in the middle of the field, a position I NEVER play, I saw two guys, I shot them and moved up to a big old tree, I then started getting a lot of paint coming my way, I took a bit of spray on my goggles and the marshall came over towards me, not wanting anyone to be one for oned, even though I knew it was spray, I called myself , thinking I didn't want there to be any penalties, as I walked to the dead zone, there were 3 Nam there already and they were apologetic as soon as I got there, they were stomping up and down cursing because they knew that what had been indicated wasn't going to happen, I think that these guys knew that even though it hadn't been said to us directly, that were going to be screwed over, to be fair we should have just played our normal game and it wouldn't have been a problem, but we knew these guys and there's no way they would screw us, wrong, half the team did, half the team didn't.
    If memory serves, we hadn't lost a game in the 10 man, we had drawn one against the ironmen, but that was it, we were even made to replay a game that we had won in the early rounds, against the Jacksonville jaguars, Brittle had pulled a dead mans walk and got behind them and we took them apart, but apparently you had to wear your armband on your left arm, and the marshall (judge cos we couldn't call them marshalls over there) had said brittle had it on his right arm, we did find about a million pictures within minutes of that with players all wearing armbands on different arms, but what they hey, we had already qualified for the semi's so it didn't matter to us. Now that was a game we threw, because the opposite captain had asked us to, and they needed the win to qualify, we didn't. I had never been asked or told to throw a game before or colluded in any game I had played, I was told to, so I did.
    Pete has already stated what happened afterwards, so I won't go over that again.
    When we arrived back in heathrow, Marcus shook my hand and said it had been an honour to have played with me, this had never happened before, I got the distinct feeling that we would never play again as the Preds, normally when we get back from abroad or any tournament, it was just a case of "see you in a week or so", not this time, it just felt different.
    We normally had team meetings every week, this was the start of november, and I don't think I saw or heard from any of the guys until February, we did play a few more tournaments together and won a few of them, we even went into the arena and won the first hyperball championship,
    It just wasn't the same buzz and I gave up playing in 1997, I know the preds carried on for a few more years, in one form or another, but an era had gone, and I think most of us knew it. Our sponsorship deal with Titan went tits up, I for one was glad about that at least, because the titan paint was probably the worst paint I had used EVER, you could not hit anything with it, and we were all pretty good shots,
    I met a lot of people when I played and being part of the preds was without doubt the best time of my life.
    Only recently have I come to realise this, and I know I could have played on for a few more years at least, I just didn't feel it.

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