Valkyries Quidditch Club – An Introductory Interview

In this interview, we talk to Phil Vankerkoerle and Amber Williams, two veterans of the sport from UNSW and Macquarie respectively, who have recently embarked on the great challenge of starting and leading a new team – the Inner Western Sydney based Valkyries Quidditch Club. They discuss the club’s origin story, their aspirations for the year, and the story behind #broccolis.

What is your role with the team?

Amber – I am co-captain, along with with Kathryn

Phil – I am one of the 3 coaches and treasurer for the club [the others being Raj Kapoor and Isobel “Obel” Rennie].

How did the Valkyries come about?

Phil – Raj and I have been talking about making our own team for years now. It started as a joke that when we graduated we would start an ex-Snapes team, this was before the Serpents was made. Last year we started to talk to people who either wanted something different from their current team or wanted to train closer to home. We found 2 gaps in the type of clubs in Sydney: the first was teams that trained in the Inner west, and the second was teams that trained hard but didn’t care much about game day results. This was a perfect gap for Obel, Raj and I as we live in the Inner West and have been around long enough that we just want to get better without having to worry about winning every game. So after QUAFL last year we put out that we were making a new team and waited to see how many people wanted to join.

Valkyries Brooms Up for their first game (Featuring the coaching team of Obel, Phil, and Raj, as well as Steph “Panda” Barakat, Jessica James-Moody, and Terry Koutzas | Photo: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Who makes up the Valkyries?

Amber – Most of our team is made up of older players who’ve been in the community for a long time. Our players come from a few different teams, including WSQC, Macquarie, Serpents, UTS, and Newcastle.

Phil – First we were getting players by talking to our friends that we knew would probably want to train and play with us, this way mainly in a casual way to see who would make up the team and if we could make a team. Then we opened up interest to the community as a whole and had people from all over Sydney wanting to join.

What do you think the vibe of the team is going to be this year?

Amber – If the first tournament is anything to go by, I think we’re going to have a pretty chill but competitive vibe, which is honestly what the team is aiming for. Everyone has been supporting and encouraging their teammates, on and off the field, and that is something we hope continues throughout the year.

How did you come up with the ideas for the team’s name/branding? Was anything left on the drawing board?

Phil – The team name was difficult to decide. We knew we wanted to be in the Inner West so we were trying to make some alliteration with suburbs around but nothing really fit. When talking to people about the team we realised that we would most likely have a lot of female players, as most of the women from WSQC wanted to join, and wanted to have a name that reflected that. Obel did some research and got super into the Norse mythology and suggested Valkyries to us at QUAFL. We instantly took a liking to it and it stuck with us on all of the conversations from then on. You can still see some remnants of ideas we had on the drawing board in the team, for example our leadership group is called the Melon Lords as one of the earliest names we had was the Inner West Melon Lords, which came from the Avatar TV series, and of course the Broccolis which I will get to later.

What are your hopes for the team this year? Competitive goals?

Amber – My hopes for the team are that everyone continues to support each other at trainings and during games and to keep helping each other improve but to make sure they’re still enjoying themselves and the sport. As for competitive goals, see what Phil wrote, as that sums it up nicely.

Phil – My hope it that we continue to train at the same intensity, while still keeping the stress levels to a minimum. Some of our players tell us it’s the most intense training they have had without being stressed or pressured to be perfect. In terms of competitive goals I just want the team to do the best we can while utilising every player to their full potential.

The Valkyries after defeating North Sydney Nightmares at the second NQL Preseason | Photo: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

What are you most excited for this year?

Amber – Getting to play with a new team of people! My entire quidditch career prior to this was with Macquarie, so getting to play with completely different people and finding where I fit in play-wise and learning from everyone is definitely what I’m most excited for. Plus I’m super interested to see how we compare to everyone else, whilst still maintaining the team culture we’re hoping to build.

Phil – Personally I am most excited about trainings and the social aspects. The last few years that I was with UNSW I wasn’t able to attend training very often as they trained on a Uni timetable and I was working. Now I am able to attend almost every training and share my years of experience with a new group of people. The social aspect has been great, we are a group of people that have mostly known each other for years so it’s good to hang out with friends that previously I would only hang out with 1 or 2 times a month.

What challenges have you had in setting up the new team? How have you overcome them? How much preparation is involved in setting up a new community team?

Phil – Where do I begin with this one, there is a lot of work involved when setting up a community team. First is the obvious setting up the branding, making logos, designing jerseys (which by the way is still happening), and making a social media presence. We do have some designers on the team that helped out with the logo design and the original jersey designs that were sent to the jersey company. Ensuring that your designs look good and reflect the team was quite challenging.

Another challenge was finding adequate fields to train on. I went around the Inner West and checked out a lot of fields. You need to look at the space, the parking options, nearby dinner options, if the field have lights, if you need to book the field etc. It took some looking but finally we set on 2 fields that we use for training.

Setting up the bank account was another interesting and complicated procedure. We wanted to get a business bank account so if needed we could change signatories and have easier access. There was a lot of paperwork that we didn’t realise we would need just to set up the account, such as signed board meeting minutes documenting who would be the signatories and exactly what roles they held. I think in the end we went to the bank like 3 times before our account was properly set up.

The final preparation was finding companies to make our jerseys and other merch, and see if we could get any sponsorships. Luckily our team rep Jess [James-Moody] has experience talking to companies and getting sponsors. With Jess contacting companies we found the best value jersey company and also the company that made our amazing pins.

Captain Amber Williams fights Peter McKenzie-Hutton from the USYD Unbreakables for the quaffle | Photo: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Who are the up and coming stars that we should be watching out for on your team?

Amber – Considering 99.9% are old players that most people already know, this was actually a hard question to answer. However we do have a newbie in the form of Matt Rennie, Obel’s younger brother, who has shown a lot of raw talent and I’m interested in seeing how he develops.

What’s the story behind the broccoli?

Phil – The story behind the broccoli. As I said previously we were trying to come up with alliteration with suburbs in the inner west, and some of the WSQC players that were helping us were adamant that we should have a food based. One of the names that stuck was the Burwood Broccolis. We knew we could come up with something better but it kept coming back in discussions and we couldn’t really just leave it out of the team. So now our team group chat is the Broccolis and every post we make we ensure that we use the hashtag Broccolis as just a bit of fun.

You can follow the Valkyries Quidditch Club on their facebook page and their instagram @valkyriesqc