The reason the Tribaal was attractive to me was not the marketing, not the international players using the sticks, not the reputation. Purely the exclusiveness. The uniqueness in that this Tribaal that I hold is the only stick in New Zealand (as far as Tribaal were aware of, I am their first NZ based customer). Originally I had set my sights on the Red Mamba. Its grooved shaft and triple core features were what I had been lusting over for nigh on 36 months. But alas, I had to settle for the dual core, plain shaft Impi. A textured face being the only fancy feature on the Impi.
After Tribaal ensured me that the Impi was not a lesser stick, I settled for a discounted price ($400NZD) and a 37.5 light weight. When it first arrived the atmosphere was palpable. I gently peeled back the bubble wrap to reveal a semi-gloss black blade. The red/black colourway is subtle, yet bold. Classy, but funky. I was mildly disappointed with the plain endcap and rather average grip, but more on that later.
Naturally my first port of call was to trim half an inch off and regrip the stick. Out of the 6/7 sticks I’ve dealt to, the Impi’s endcap was the most resilient. After about 20 minutes the cap finally came away and progress was made. The original grip was cast asunder like the remains of a substandard dinner, replaced with a Grays traction grip (not picky on under grip, just what the shop had) and covered with the Shammy Shack on display in the photos. A temporary grip, until I can source some EAB/Leukoplast adhesive bandage.
The stick itself:
The weight of the stick is not amazingly light, but not cumbersome. Just another dainty light weight stick. Heavier than my Velocity 1, but lighter than the Gx7000 Micro. Nice balance point makes dribbling/general stick work nice and easy. I wasn’t given the specs (weight/BP/composition) of the stick, but the balance point is fairly high, as is the norm with flick sticks.
The touch on the ball when dribbling is palatable. For a carbon percentage supposedly in the 90s, the feel is very supple. Not very forgiving for mis-traps/poor technique, but that is part of the top flight low bow sticks appeal. Punishes bad behaviour like an overzealous teacher who wants her pupils to perform at their best. Forces you to perfect your technique or play dismally. 2D dribbling is very nice, the textured face acting the same as all of its competitor’s versions, looks good on paper but purely a placebo feature. The flat dribbling is very good, but compared to Malik, doesn’t hold a candle. Little pop and lifts, unsurprisingly, is where the Impi excels. The stick just wants you to try some fancy aerial play, inviting you to lift the ball up to shin height and move it around in that area of uncertainty for the defender.
Pushing is pretty standard. Composition matters not when pushing, so the Impi is comparable to other low bows. Cradles the ball nicely, so power is easy to generate. Need to remember to follow through with the top hand, otherwise the bow can pick the ball up at the end of flick it at ankle height towards your team mate. Which as I found on Sunday, they consider the height of rudeness.
The power for hitting/slapping is fairly potent. I would say above that of the Ritual 1s and marginally below the Blue Steel. Like a Ferrero Rocher, the sweet spot is small but delicious. Hard to judge vibration as the times that I have hit the ball have all been 30+ degrees. Not much flex in the stick, so nice little ping of the head when striking the ball. Slapping is once again the same as low bows, need to have a reliable technique for hitting the ball in the sweet spot and not the apex of the bow. The adjustment from the Velocity/Dynabow (250mm from head) is quite narrow, so at the moment I am still over reaching or falling short with my slaps. Similar story with upright hits. Need to make the tiniest adjustments, like re-jetting a carburettor.
Deceptive sweeps/slinging the ball is enjoyable with this stick. The bow is maybe too low for my personal preference for deceiving other players, having become accustomed to the ‘dribble bow’ of the Velocity/Dynabow. But again, after additional sessions I am confident that I shall adapt. The Impi’s weight and balance point make sweeping neat, but not amazing.
The original purpose of low bow sticks was to aid the player’s ability with flicking the ball. The Impi does this well. Overheads were incredibly simple to perform. Requiring minimal effort to get under the ball and loft it thirty to fourty yards was simple. Being a lithe lad, I’m not physically dispositioned to throw baseline to baseline aerials, but the improvement from the mellower bows of the Velocity and Dynabow was noticeable. Little penalty flicks/aggressive flicks at goal were likewise great with the Impi. Able to get a little ‘whip’ action with the bow meant more force could be expelled faster. Propelled at waist height into the net from six to sixteen yards out. The hot topic of drug flocking. Better than sticks with softer bows, but not as good as similar bowed sticks with concave faces. A middle ground. Nice to pick up, good for the dragging action and the release is satisfying. The weight /balance point could be altered to produce better results, but for my substandard flicks, the Impi is superb.
Tribaal have been in the stick market for a decade. Not possessing the same level of marketing and budget as bigger brands (eg: Adidas, Grays etc) Tribaal sell relatively few sticks in comparison. But for a somewhat underground brand, the quality is phenomenal. The build quality is on par with bigger brands like Mazon/Gryphon. Clean, sharp graphics and very resistant to poor tackling as I found in my last game. My only gripe would be the endcap/grip. I know the endcap isn’t a necessary feature, but something other than the plain black plastic would be great. Like Gryphon’s colour coded ones, or some rubber that is softer on the hands. The grip is a similar cheap effort. A plain, unbranded strip of rubber that lacks feel and wouldn’t absorb sunlight let alone vibration. To be blunt 90% of players I know change the standard grip to whatever their preference is anyway, I’m surprised sticks even come with grips from the factory. So while the grip on the Impi is poor, even if it was amazing it would not have changed its destiny, to end up in the trash without seeing a game.
Overall I shall grant the stick an eight out of a possible ten. The performance is not that of a larger, stronger R&D brand, but it is very competitive for a small company. The feel on the ball is sublime and the bow makes you hone a reasonable technique and not just play absent mindedly. I will continue to use this stick in the summer months, and when it starts getting colder see how it reacts to the Siberian climate of a New Zealand winter.