Midwinter 2014 Preview

This weekend, Newcastle host their third annual Midwinter Cup, but a fresh beginning for the tournament is guaranteed as a new champion will be crowned and new faces will step into the limelight.

The vagaries of the packed quidditch schedule and all it demands means that 2014’s edition of Midwinter comes without either champion from 2012 or 2013 and without more than a dozen would-be tournament stars. Australia’s 21 fairest and finest are spending the present fortnight plying their trade across the Pacific Ocean, representing their country on a grand tour which culminates in Global Games 2014 in Canada next weekend. While any tournament will of course suffer to an extent without its most eye-catching superstars, there is instead an air of even greater excitement at the magnitude of unknowns going into Midwinter 2014.

So many of the absent players have defined the successes of their teams, at Midwinter and beyond, for more than two years. The powerhouse UNSW and UWS units are understandably the most affected by far, with five legends each missing. UNSW have such depth that they may still be impossible to beat. UWS on the other hand will relinquish their title. Unable to manage a full and competitive squad after being so decimated by the loss of their leadership core, their remnants have put the icing on the newly risen Victory Belles mercenary team, who structurally revolve around an experienced sextet of Sydney Unspeakable travelers. This means that the 2013 champions join inaugural title holders Perth in not returning this year for a second tilt at glory.

Meanwhile, Newcastle and Macquarie bring their own new cards to the table, even without any major Global Games disruption, while Wollongong will need all their experience to overcome their personnel shortfall.


UNSW were undefeated until the final last year only to fall to UWS. They are yet to engrave their names on the Midwinter trophy and with captain Rajtilak Kapoor, Andrew Culf, Minh Diep, Emmanuel Berkowicz and Rhiannon Gordon all missing, it looks at a glance like they won’t be able to do it this year either. But any complacency against the Snapes from any team and they will be punished.

Deputising captain Michael Thomson has the temperament and guile to run an efficient well-oiled machine. Filling that leadership void and creating a sense of purpose will be their biggest challenge, because they will have no trouble filling the quality void. Phil Vankerkoerle remains to steer the chaser ship, while Nick Allan and Holly Shuttleworth’s vast utility experience will serve them well. New generation talents like Leigh Morrell, Chiani Sharma and Emily Webster fill out an impressive line-up which though depleted is at least still perfectly balanced.

Prediction: Should make the final really. Their best seven still looks near or at the top on paper, so they’re every chance of winning the whole thing. Only question mark is over depth and how an unusually small squad of 13 will hold up over a weekend.


Newcastle come into Midwinter 2014 with only Dameon Osborn of their central old guard busy across the Pacific. Yet the old guard still barely remains. Drastic rebirth in early 2014 has seen the Fireballs dramatically power their way back to top form, with new general James Mortensen marshaling troops from the back and a plethora of spectacular new talents. The Fireball chaser stocks have been given a distinctly muscular and athletic injection with the rapid development of Marcus Bradtke and Liam Dawson, while the beater team also has newfound variety thanks to Jordan Hunt’s wily work and a further influx of rookies.

Experience is clearly what’s lacking, especially considering the reshuffle that has taken place even within the old hands. Matt Ingram rarely finds himself beating and Desany Phanoraj now sits firmly planted at the back, while the keeping power of Roy Velting is often witnessed with bludger in hand these days.

Prediction: If you look at things in terms of outright firepower and pure peak performance potential, Newcastle will win it. But the Fireballs possess an alarming lack of big game experience and they’ll need to hope that their revitalised squad has left behind the old habit of falling at late hurdles as well as it has left behind its former structures and strategies. A big step to say that they should win it, but anything less than a final berth would me a major disappointment. Call them slight favourites.


The Macquarie Marauders have certainly flown with the winds of change in terms of personnel shuffling, but not in terms of form. Macquarie’s annual pattern now seems set in stone. They slowly build over the second half of the year and compile all their resources for a huge tilt at QUAFL glory. Then in the afterglow of that hard work, things decay to an extent and the opening half of the subsequent year meanders alarmingly. Midwinter last year represented the lowest point of their indifferent mid-season. It may be slightly cruel but not necessarily unjustified to suggest that this year will mark the same, if only because their results have been reasonable, even if consistent form has been hard to come by.

The basic infrastructure is still there for Macquarie to succeed. They provide the tournament’s biggest squad, anchored by the imposing rotating duo of Dan Phipps and Scott Palmer and shaped by the collective wisdom of the Laura Bailey, Allison Hore, Amber Williams and Maria Wizbicki brains trust with all its vast experience. Kieran Richards and Adam Halliday are also developing into classy chasers who could provide the ball-carrying support needed for Phipps and Palmer to achieve penetration. QUAFL megaseeker Daniel Commander is on hand to ensure that every team will have to work to get forty clear as their top priority.

Kieran Tolley is always talismanic with bludger in hand as well and in Morgan Thorndyke he has an able starting partner. But beater depth is where the Marauders’ problem lies and the issue is major. Tolley may find himself unrelieved and no-one can carry a team with that kind of workload no matter how stellar.

Prediction: Most of the key ingredients are there to be fundamentally competitive, but they lack of bit of star power and more than a bit of necessary beater relief. Watch for them to start strong in both individual games and in the tournament as a whole, but even despite their healthy roster, sustaining that form may prove tough. Don’t rule them out, eventual glory is far from out of the question, but it would be worth riding a good dollar or two on because the odds are long and juicy. Expect them to come in 3rd  at a stretch, though 4th  might be more realistic.


For Wollongong, Midwinter looks to be yet another example of the frustratingly pleasant problem that has dogged their season so far; everyone is amazing now. The Warriors are now a classy team but somehow, because there are no true easy-beats anywhere in NSW quidditch, they’ve once again been shuffled to the back of the queue and are finding victories extremely hard to come by. This is likely to be the case this weekend too, thanks largely to their lack of numbers. Just nine Warriors have made the trip and though they are all high quality Warriors, nine just isn’t enough to cut the mustard with in such a quality field.

Defensively, expect Wollongong to be as sturdy as ever, with Brandon Heldt’s goal-saving guile and Huw Tomlinson’s physicality both providing high quality presences in goal. Aman Nalli remains one of the country’s very best off the ball beaters and Hannah Davidson is steadfast at the back. Jacob Fleming is a highly astute leader and knows how to get the best out of his team, especially his rotating chaser unit which the energetic Jarrod Simpson and Ezekiel Azib fill out, alongside the ever-present experience of Morgan Legg and Nicole Cabrera.

As good as they are at stopping them these days though, the Warriors’ problem all year has been scoring goals. This is where they badly miss the services of Michael Krysa and Daniel Lowe. Josh Nielsen’s absence may be felt just as keenly this weekend though, for his unwavering plant defence takes crucial pressure off Nalli and relieves Davidson.

Prediction: Given the quality of the squad, it feels sad and cruel to have to say 5th, but it is probably the reality. It all comes back to numbers. The Warriors will be fantastic in periods and if they can find a way to efficiently sustain their resources for whole games on multiple occasions, then they could win a couple and who knows how other results might fall their way. But a win or two and maybe 4th place seems to be the likely peak. 5th is even more likely.

Victory Belles

As with any mercenary team, it is impossible to judge just what the Victory Belles might bring to the table. The team is made up of six Unspeakables, five Thestrals, a Manticore and a Muggle. What is immediately clear is the intimidating quality of the core UWS quartet present. Daniel Ormshaw and Bianca Connell are always immense at the back. But the real difference for the Victory Belles, which may genuinely propel them from typical mercenary also-rans to legitimate title chances, will surely be Christian Barquin and Stephen Butler. In this Global Games depleted tournament, no-one can lay claim to such a mighty beater unit. This pair will no doubt start and if they can gain beater control, that alone may completely control proceedings, regardless of how well their disparate chaser elements gel. Emma Morris will be the crucial third point in this beating triangle, a triple threat which may very easily take the Victory Belles deep into Sunday.

The chaser unit is far from a weak one. Sydney’s experienced and reliable rotating quartet of Ajantha Abey, Kathryn Cooper, Belinda Toohey and Meredith Apps will provide the strength in depth around which Lachlan Chisholm and Ormshaw can work, with Nicola Gertler’s passionate and demonstrative leadership rounding out proceedings. Connell gives permanent assuredness in defence. Liam O’Callaghan, whose catches in the QUAFL quarter final and World Cup have built him a serious reputation, will also keep the Victory Belles in any game as long as the margin is thirty or lower.

Prediction: The hardest prediction to make. 1st and 5th are equally likely, or perhaps anywhere in between. It will all depend on how long Butler, Barquin and Morris can retain the control they will almost without question gain in most matches. I’ll tip them to lead at some point early in every match. But I’m not sure they have the depth to win too many. Looking at 3rd or 4th.