The end of March brings the end of the Preseason tournaments for the 2019 NSW Quidditch League. It's been an exciting start to the year, with two new teams on the ladder, old teams on the rise, new rivalries emerging, and plenty of new talent. What will the rest of the year hold in store? Ajantha Abey recaps the past two tournaments.
The University of Sydney’s top team, the Unspeakables, have won the annual Melbourne Mudbash tournament at Fawkner Park, defeating NSW-based mercenary team The Art of Yeeting 120*-100.
The Macarthur Weasleys beat us to the punch and have already published an article about their games for the day, which you can find here.
University of Sydney Unspeakables 70* – 30 Sydney City Serpents
Cameron Caccamo – Manager, Sydney City Serpents
The University of Sydney Unspeakables have, for the first time, defeated reigning NSW Champions Sydney City Serpents in an absolute thriller. USyd’s Alex Cunningham caught the snitch shortly after the snitch entered the game, giving USyd a 70*-30 victory and first place in the NQL Divison 1 rankings.
From brooms-up it was clear this would be a very physical game, with an opening drive from Brandon Frison barely stopped by a bludgerless Serpents defence. USyd continued to pepper the Serpents defence with drive after drive, with Keepers Max Brenner and Nicholas Albornoz working in tandem with point-Chasers Frison and Cooper Fitzgerald to muscle their way through to score. The Serpents defence, with the inclusion of Raj Kapoor and Luke Derrick returning to Beating, did well to restrict USyd to just four goals.
USyd were just as strong on defence, with a star-studded Serpents line-up finding it difficult to execute under such pressure. Samantha Chittenden was especially unrelenting, leading the way to restrict the Serpents to the lowest score of the season.
The Beating game was glorious to watch, with Derrick and Harry Jones having another scintillating face-off to the delight of the crowd. USyd’s Breanna Lee also showed off excellent defensive skill against a far more experienced player in Rhiannon Gordon, consistently denying her a bludger late in the game as the Serpents threw everything at USyd to regain bludger control just before snitch-on-pitch.
This top-of-the-table clash was the third heart-stopping encounter between these two teams I’ve been a part of, and the first one the Unspeakables have been able to clutch out. The roar from the sidelines and the jubilation from USyd after the catch was called showed just how much this win meant to them. With so much history between the two sides, you can guarantee that this rivalry will continue to throw up classic games like this one.
Ana Barciela – Captain, Macquarie Marauders (AR for this game)
There’s nothing worse than refereeing a game as exhilarating as Unspeakables vs Serpents, as you do not get to properly appreciate the high quality of their game play. The clash between, in my opinion, the two top teams in New South Wales, is always anyone’s game, and twenty-plus of adrenaline for both players and spectators.
I can mostly comment on beater play, as that was what I was watching, though it seems to me as it was what controlled the game. Every goal seemed to stem from the chasers perfectly reading and taking advantage of an opening made by the beater battle. This game saw the return of Luke Derrick to his main position, which gave us beautiful moments of Derrick v Harry Jones, a fight of both strategy and skill, and mostly even throughout the game. You could tell that Derrick hadn’t been beating for a while, but even on an off day he still sits comfortable amongst the best. However, Dropbear reserve Jones is one of the players that can, and will, challenge him, as we very well saw in incredible plays that felt impossible to referee with how quickly the beats were being thrown around.
Of course, this was only made possible by the high calibre beater rotations on both sides, to clean up or back up the havoc these two can cause. There is strong talent on both sides, that may not always be noticed due to their main beater’s shadows but having to watch solely beater play it was very apparent that those two players are not the sole reason behind both team’s general beater dominance.
Recent addition to the Unspeakables, Harry Huang, proved he deserved the upgrade, fearlessly challenging the opposition in their zone, and participating in a good number of possession changes. On the Serpents side, Rhiannon Gordon refuses to stop improving, covering for chaotic plays at moments, and leading successful beater attacks in others.
This is all I can say from an AR’s perspective, but I do hope to be a spectator for the rematch of this game!
Newcastle Fireballs 70* – 40 Macquarie Marauders
Ana Barciela – Captain, Macquarie Marauders
Macquarie and Newcastle are destined to be each other’s closest games this season, as this game has shown. The game was low scoring, due to a combination of Newcastle’s physical defence making it hard for Macquarie’s still unpolished offense to score, and in return Macquarie’s successful implementation of the Baylor defense (three players each guarding a hoop, fourth is a roving point defender) forcing Newcastle out of their usual offensive game and making it harder, though not impossible, for them to score. An unfortunate – from our perspective, of course – goal from Newcastle right before Macquarie’s snitch catch send the game into overtime (I’m sensing a trend starting for Mac?). Overtime started in Macquarie’s favour, with the team gaining possession of the quaffle and holding tight onto it, relying on the snitch catch to win the game. With intense beater battles around the snitch, it was anyone’s game for a while – until a red card deprived Macquarie of one of their beaters, making defending their seeker and beating the oppositions nearly impossible. The game ended with a catch from Newcastle, bringing the score to a tight 70*-40.
University of Sydney Unspeakables 220* – 90 Australian National University Owls
Cooper Fitzgerald – University of Sydney Unspeakables
The Macarthur Weasleys beat us to the punch and have already published an article about their games for the day, which you can find here.
University of Sydney Unbreakables 250 – 80* University of Sydney Unforgiveables
Anita Granger – University of Sydney Unforgiveables (with additional reporting from Cameron Caccamo)
Despite coming from the same club, the USyd Unbreakables did not take it easy on their Unforgivable stablemates, using defensive seeking to ensure a maximum points differential win in their quest to top Division 2.
The Unbreakables did not have a perfect start, with two quick Unforgiveable goals leading to a 20-all scoreline early in the game. The depth of the Unbreakable squad started to show soon however – with dynamic beater pairing Haydn Johanssen and Julia Baker giving the Unbreakables plenty of breathing space in the chaser game and leading to quick points.
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Ana Barciela – Macquarie Marauders
For Div 1, I’d say at the Serpents are the best at the moment. After all, they are a team comprised of top level, committed players, who take the sport seriously and train accordingly, all seemingly well versed in quidditch strategy and passionate about it. Their strict recruitment is understandable when you want to play in a team where all the players take the sport seriously. I hope they are paving the way for more competitive, high level community teams to rise, but right now they have that edge on all other teams. I think there’s a clear distinction in Div 1 between the top four (Serpents, Unspeakables, WSQC and ANU) and Newcastle and Macquarie.
Although any of the top teams could challenge Serpents for that first place, especially with the plethora of experience and national and state players they have between them, I consider the Unspeakables their biggest threat. They escape the curse of university teams, that have to work around a squad of players with different level of commitments, due to their ridiculous numbers and three teams. This gives the Unspeakables the advantage of fielding the most competitive, committed and talented players, mirroring what I previously said about Serpents training ethics. Their match up this weekend will be thrilling to watch!
“Any of the top teams could challenge Serpents for that first place, especially with the plethora of experience and national and state players they have between them”
As for what the teams outside the top four need to do move up, it’s different for each team. Newcastle has been in a consistent level for quite some time now, and I attribute that to a combination of using the same tactics repeatedly, and a reliance on the same players. For elite teams, their pattern is easy to pick up and counter, as they have both the player skill and tactical knowledge to do so. A dynamic change could help Newcastle catch up. As for Macquarie, they’re one of the three teams that had to rebuild after a mass exodus, but the only one in division one. Although a lot claim this to be ‘unfortunate’, it is a great chance to train the new squad up by being thrown in the deep end. As they’re starting back basically from scratch, what they need at the moment is patience, and a lot of training, and to finding the right balance in doing so as to not overwhelm new players and at the same time not bore the experienced ones.
It’s harder for me to pick the best team in Div 2. I think it’s a tight fight for the first spot, but I’m putting my money on Weasleys at the moment. They have worked hard throughout the years to bring themselves to a competitive level, and it was shown last year with them giving top teams close games, and even upset victories. Their relentlessness and unwavering acceptance of all players in the past has provided the team with enough experience and skill to push for that top spot.
That being said, they will face quite a challenge from other teams. The Unbreakables have a very solid chance of topping the division as well, now that USyd has made a split between a B and C team. They have shown promising plays in the games I have watched, and have some stand out players, that hopefully don’t get poached by the Unspeakables so that they can help bring the team up. They’re certainly relentless, and some of their plays in offence are quite risky and unadvisable against elite teams, though mostly successful in their division. Playing against equal teams this year will give them plenty of opportunity to learn hands-on strategy and the right calls to make in a game. We can also not discount UNSW or UTS. Their recent turnover of players makes it hard to predict how well they will do this year, but their history as strong teams, and the coaching of veteran players could guide them to the top of division as well.
My hot take? There are quite a few rematches this tournament of games that did not go well at all in the previous ones, and this is the tournament that will smooth things over and solidify rivalries.
Cooper Fitzgerald – University of Sydney Unspeakables
I’d say the Serpents are the strongest side in NSW right now. Their sheer depth and experience place them above all the teams in NSW. Their chaser game is incredibly powerful and can muscle through any defence if their beaters get the upper hand.
However, the Unspeakables have the ability to challenge the Serpents. Both Serpents and Unspeakables won all of their round 1 games out of range, with the Unspeakables beating Western Sydney out of range, the team who seems likely to place third. The Unspeakables have an upper foot on the Serpents in terms of all round beater play, and the chaser play isn’t too much weaker. The game this Sunday will be very telling as to how the rest of the season will go.
The Unspeakables have the ability to challenge the Serpents. The Unspeakables have an upper foot on the Serpents in terms of all round beater play, and the chaser play isn’t too much weaker.
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Benjamin Watson – Captain/Asst Coach, La Trobe Trolls
As we stand, the Whomping Willows are currently looking the strongest of all of the Victorian teams. I think currently the Willows have quite a strong chaser line up and also then have a very strong beater lineup -they have such depth that they can also afford to have the likes of Bodie Nash or James Osmond seeking.
The Manticores are a very close second. They also have a very strong chaser line up and beater line up. However other than Neil Kemister they don’t have as much depth when it comes to the seeking. However, in many cases Kemister is all you need.
I think potentially anything can happen come finals in December. I think the Manticores will be running a lot smoother with all of their new recruits well and truly settled in and I would still rate them both very highly to take it out.
“I think potentially anything can happen come finals… The Ravens and the Monash Muggles aren’t too far off the pace”
The Ravens and the Monash Muggles aren’t too far off the pace and as is the case with the Manticores and their new recruits. As the team cohesion continues over the coming months we’ll see those teams and a number of others really challenging those elite teams. I think this year there will continue to see some upsets and I definitely see both La Trobe Trolls and the South Melbourne Centaurs really knocking on the door of those elite and upper bracket teams as well.
Mark Kadabra – South Melbourne Centaurs
Right now, the Vic Cup is dominated by 3 teams, The Manticores, Willows, and new contender, The Melbourne Ravens.
At the time of writing, The Whomping Willows are on top of the pack. Now in their second season, the Willows are a formidable side to be facing, one able to take full advantage of any slip-up in offence, or imperfection in defence. The Nathan Morton and Anthony Hogan beater combo feels like trying to crack into a perfect sphere; there’s no strategic edge to exploit, no soft spot to pressure, the whole team plays with a level of polish rarely seen in quidditch.
The Manticores have always been at the top end of the league, and this year is no different. That said, they’ve had a series of important roster changes, losing key, core players such as David Blamey and Dropbear James Williams to the newly formed Ravens, whilst picking up interstaters Emmanuel Berkowicz (UNSW beater/seeker) and Queenland Thunderbird Dylan Waller. Perhaps most notably, the Manticores managed to snag Dropbear seeker, Mr. Foot-Catch himself, Neil Kemister, bringing extra punch and danger to their snitch-on-pitch game.
In their last meeting, the Manticores were leading the Willows on quaffle points, but a snitch catch amid frenzied beater play handed Willows the win. Rest assured though, that this competition is certainly not over.
“Looking forward, I think Vic Cup will come down to the Manticores and Willows”
The newly minted Melbourne Ravens are an interesting mix. Though not what you’d call a ‘super-team’, like the kind seen emerging in 2017, they nonetheless pack a ‘super-team’ kind of punch. Founded by Dropbear partners in crime, Deni Tasman and James Williams, they assembled players from a variety of teams from across Victoria, most notably the recently Thanos’d Wrackspurts, and the Melbourne Unicorns, and have made them into something more than the sum of their parts. The Unicorns, for instance, have always been in the bottom half of the league, but the Ravens managed to take a chunk of their core team, and with the right combination of experienced coaching, training, and on-field support, have enabled them to hit well above their old weight. That said, they may still have some work ahead of them. When they squared up against the Willows a few weeks ago, we saw a side that hadn’t quite developed the polish to really flourish at the highest level, with some of the most insistent slowballing I’ve seen in Victoria. They had difficulty penetrating the Willow defence, and their chasers didn’t seem comfortable committing to an attack until, and unless, the beater battle was decidedly won. There was a stark difference between the cautious Raven slowball, and the hard and fast Willow offence on each quaffle turnover. That said, they’re not a team to be taken lightly, and I’m excited to see how they square up against the Manticores, in coming weeks.
Beyond the big three, we’ve always got the Monash Muggles, eternal gate keepers to the big leagues, eternally trying to break in, themselves. This year, however, they just might have a serious chance. With some nice new pick-ups from their sister team, the Monash Mudbloods, and the return of prodigal beater, Zach Giofkou, the Muggles are sporting a slick side with some serious depth. Though they may not be able to match the consistent technical wizardry of teams such as the Willows or Manticores, they play a strong strategic game, and are in the unique position of having all of their beaters fill virtually the same, highly aggressive role, such that their pace doesn’t shift much as the sub. They remain a team for which to watch out.
Perhaps the final big-mover on the Victorian quidditch scene so far this year, are my own South Melbourne Centaurs, who’ve recently expanded to a second team, the Minotaurs. We made a point of balancing the teams, to ensure each was functional and cohesive, with a spread of experience. However, this has left the Centaurs – the more competitive of the teams – with a very narrow 9 player roster. So far this has proved our greatest challenge, as the solid core we currently have can dance with the best of them while fresh, only to slowly lose pace as the game progresses. That said, with some promising new recruits to the club, and the inevitable increase in fitness that comes with consistently playing near-full games, the Centaurs are optimistic and looking up the table with hungry eyes.
Looking forward, I think Vic Cup will come down to the Manticores and Willows, I don’t quite see the Ravens, or anyone else, being able to dislodge those two at this stage. I do think the Ravens will grow into a powerhouse, but they may need a season or so to get there. I’m also very interested to see what the Muggles can pull out.
Tim Scott – Captain, Melbourne Ravens
Four teams have established themselves at the top. The Willows, Manticores, Muggles and the Ravens look to all be slightly ahead of the rest of the competition
As for the best of them, the Willows are yet to drop a game and are looking good for back to back state championships.
I think beating is what’s setting the top teams apart. The Willows have Morton and Hogan, Ravens have Tasman and Clementine Round, Dean Rodhouse leads a new look but very strong Manticores beater line up and the Muggles beater rotation is quality player after quality player. The presence of these beaters on offence and defence makes the game so much harder for the opposition.
“I think beating is what’s setting the top teams apart… also depth of talent. The top teams can make subs and their overall team is still incredibly strong”
QA Today’s Cameron Caccamo takes a look at the teams that make up Div 2 – including each team’s record, how they’re tracking, and what to expect from them now that we enter pool play. Division 1 analysis can be found here.
Division rivals: 2 games, 1 out-of-range win (WWQC), 1 in-range win (UNBR)
Other games: 4 games, 4 out-of-range losses (WSQC, SERP, ANU, NEW)
The Weasleys had by far the toughest schedule over the two pre-season rounds, with four games against Div 1 opponents. The experience should serve them well for the pool play rounds, where they are certainly amongst the best teams in Div 2. Their squad runs deep, with plenty of experience and plenty of people to ensure they will always have a full squad – and against many Div 2 teams, that will be invaluable.
Match ups this weekend: OPAL, HIHO, UNFO
UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY UNBREAKABLES
Division Rivals: 3 games, 2 out-of-range wins (WWQC, SOAP), 1 in-range loss (WEAS)
Other games: 4 games, 4 out-of-range losses (WSQC, SERP, NEW, ANU)
When USyd decided to have a proper B and C team – as opposed to two evenly-matched B teams – there was considerable hype over what the Unbreakables could achieve. With a strong beater squad and a couple of high-performing new players, this is a team capable of winning any game in Div 2.
Their game against Newcastle was close until snitch was on pitch, and impressed considerably in their other losses. Expect them to challenge for the top of Div 2.
Match ups this weekend: SOAP, OPAL, HIHO
UNSW SNAPES ON A PLANE
Division rivals: 2 games, 1 out-of-range win (UNFO), 1 out-of-range loss (UNBR), 1 forfeit (OPAL)
Other games: 3 games, 2 out-of-range losses (UNSP, ANU), 1 in-range loss (MUQC)
Another team with plenty of new players, UNSW is a team on the up. They’ve got plenty of the right pieces, and just needed the preseason to bring it together. A close game against Macquarie will hopefully be a sign of things to come for a team that can definitely challenge teams across Div 2. The game against the Unbreakables should be a good sign of how far they have come since March pre-season.
Match ups this weekend: UNBR, HIHO, WWQC
Division games: 1 game, 1 out-of-range win (WWQC), 1 forfeit (OPAL)
Other games: 1 game, 1 out-of-range loss (SERP)
A hybrid team with only two games of experience, it’s difficult to rank “HiHo” fairly. Given their dominance over Wollongong and the fact that most players on the team have considerable experience – just not with each other – we’ll leave them in the middle of the pack for now, but with games against the Weasleys and the Unbreakables they could prove to be among the best in Div 2.
Match ups this weekend: WEAS, UNBR, UNFO
Division games: 3 games, 3 out-of-range losses (UNBR, WEAS, HIHO)
Other games: 3 games, 3 out-of-range losses (ANU, WSQC, MUQC)
It’s fantastic to have Wollongong back in the fold, and their new players would have appreciated the experience across the pre-season. While three out-of-range games against division rivals isn’t the ideal preseason, the Warriors will get better and better every tournament and will definitely look to make a splash in Div 2.
Match ups this weekend: UNFO, OPAL, SOAP
Division games: 1 game, 1 out-of-range win (UNFO), 2 forfeits (SOAP, HIHO)
Other games: 1 game, 1 out-of-range loss (UNSP)
Not having the extra pre-season games in March hurt UTS, but at the April games they impressed in their game against the Unforgiveables. If they play like that again they can absolutely mix it with the best in Div 2 – and this weekend they get three of the best in the Division to prove it. The problem are those two forfeits – here’s hoping the team can recruit and keep a full, healthy squad for all of their pool play games.
Match ups this weekend: WEAS, UNBR, HIHO
UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY UNFORGIVEABLES
Division rivals*: 2 games, 2 out-of-range losses (SOAP, OPAL)
Other games*: 1 game, 1 out-of-range loss (WSQC)
It may look from the results that the Unforgiveables had a stellar day at March pre-season, but that was a totally different team; with none of their new players ready to play, USyd had several players team up with ANU reserves. The April results reflect the real Unforgiveables going forward, a team of almost completely new players.
With the new USQL these new players will be getting far more game experience than many of their counterparts at other teams, but will still need a bit of time to learn the game – and games exclusively against Div 2 opponents will help immensely with that. Expect rapid improvement from the Unforgiveables.
Match ups this weekend: WWQC, WEAS, HIHO
The NSW State League, NQL, finally reaches pool play, with a new division system ensuring close matches all the way through the competition. Cameron Caccamo checks out Division 1, six of the best teams in NSW, and what to expect from them this weekend.
They may have only been pre-season friendlies, but for many teams there was a lot to prove at the first NQL of 2018. Cameron Caccamo reports on the big winners and up-and-comers to watch out for.