Team Previews – Queensland Thunderbirds
The Queensland Thunderbirds joined the state competition in the third round of the 2016 edition of the title, when NSW Blue Tongues and Victorian Leabeaters were playing their finals series and the relatively new Thunderbirds faced off against the NSW B team. Coming away from their first experience of state competition winless but rapidly improving across the series against NSW B to play the last game in range, the Thunderbirds came into their home State Shield in Brisbane 2017 fighting hard and extracted a narrow win against Victoria. This demonstrated that they had done much to close the gap between them and the more developed states but still had a way to go. Going into 2018, the Thunderbirds were now much more experienced and had their first win against the NSW B squad, however the Victorians and NSW Blue Tongues were careful not to underestimate the growing Queensland force. The NSW Bluebottles were also able to adapt and eventually win the finals series against Queensland 2-0. As a younger state in the development of quidditch in Australia, Queensland have always struggled to match the NSW and Victorian A teams, with less experienced players and less players on the National “Dropbears” Team. However, with the rapid expansion and development of Queensland quidditch in the last two years and the steady improvement of the Thunderbirds, the writing is on the wall for times to change.
Interview with Team Leadership
1. How are you approaching State Shield and what are your goals for the tournament?
Chloe: We are going into the tournament with a winning attitude and believe that we have the team to do it this year. Our goal is to win as many games as possible and work as a team.
Josh: State Shield has been approached with a little more preparation than in previous years and with some goals that were outlined with Queensland Association of Quidditch (QAQ) at the beginning of the year. We have had state trainings a lot more frequently than previous years, with a training every week for the last couple of months. As for goals for the tournament, I would love to see us put in a really great effort and show that we can take it to the teams down south and try to match their quality of play. It would awesome to come away with a win or some snitch range games against the top NSW and Victorian teams.
2. How have you prepared for State Shield and how confident are you at this point?
Chloe: Well this year we started a lot earlier, with our first selection camp happening on the 3rd of March and we have been working hard since then to create the best team we can and have a good team dynamic. We have the right players to get it done and if we work together we can pull it off.
Josh: Our trainings have been a lot more regular than in previous years. I have brought more structure to the skills and drills that have been worked on and built upon throughout each session. Due to the isolation of some players, we have found it quite hard to have everyone in the same place for a single training session. Despite this, I am still quite confident in the team and know that this will be the strongest and most talented squad that Queensland has ever sent to a State Shield. This year’s team is on a totally different level to previous years.
3. Where do most of the players on your team come from? Any players you would like to highlight?
Chloe: We have 14 USC players, 2 UQ players and 4 BCQC players. For 14 of our squad this is their second or third state shield with some of them even representing Queensland in the 2016 State of Origin games. Five of our squad are debutants this year and bring an element of surprise to our game that NSW and Victoria might not be prepared for. One player definitely to watch is Kaysanne Hockey, her chasing instincts are killer. She can throw the ball with deadly accuracy and isn’t afraid to take on people bigger than her and be tackled herself. Jason Capello is also one to watch being one of the fittest and fastest players in Queensland, he adds a lot to our team with his ability to be where he needs to be all the time. To date, our only Queensland Dropbear is Simon Spann, but with national trials occurring currently all of our players have something to show.
Josh: Most of the players come from the USC Dementors team, who have been quite dominant in this year’s QSL match days. The last 12 months have seen a large amount of growth and talent arise from the Dementors, and this is reflected in how dominant they have been this year. As for Dropbears, everyone in quidditch already knows who Simon Spann is and that he represented Australia in the 2018 World Cup in Italy.
We have some returning players who have consistently made the Queensland Team. If you count the unofficial Queensland Team of 2016, we have four players who are playing their fourth State Shield in a row (Jordan, Kia, Niamh, and Tim), along with myself, Alise, Ruth, Jake, and Simon are also playing their third year in a row for Queensland at State Shield.
As for debutants, we have Chelsea, Emma, Daisy, Jason, Jono, Jessica, and Kaysanne. With a third of the Queensland line-up being debutants this year, you can expect to see a totally different Thunderbirds Team on the pitch and we are confident that this will make the difference.
Players to look out for would have to be Jason, Jessica, Kaysanne, Daisy, and Joe. As you can see, four of the five players are debutants for this State Shield, and they each have an average quidditch playing experience of only 18 months. This is a testament of their strong individual backgrounds in sport and their ability to transfer their skills and athleticism over to quidditch. I have no doubt that they will all play key roles in our games over the State Shield weekend.
4. Why should people be excited to see your team playing at State Shield?
Chloe: Because Queensland are improving every year and we are always underestimated, so this year we are coming with a point to prove.
Josh: As mentioned previously, this year’s team is very different to that of previous years, and I truly believe that this will be the strongest showing that Queensland will have to date. I hope to see that we make the games interesting and show that Queensland is developing some great and talented players.
Analysis & Commentary:
Quidditch in Queensland has grown slowly over the years, lagging behind the dominant Victoria and NSW, whose players have dominated the National Dropbears squad at World Cups and whose teams dominate the later stages of the Australian National Championships. Nevertheless, with ever-expanding quidditch programs such as the University of the Sunshine Coast Quidditch Club with their intra-mural league, the recent development of more graduate community clubs such as Brisbane City Quidditch Club and founding of new regular inter-mural leagues in the state has all contributed to its rapid growth and improvement. Importantly, the regular presence of the Thunderbirds at state competitions since 2016 and the selection of Simon Spann for the 2018 Dropbears, the only non-Victorian/NSW player on the World Cup squad, has allowed Queensland to further develop higher level quidditch and move closer to matching the Victorian and NSW A Teams.
With so much new and emerging talent in the Thunderbirds Team and within Queensland, we can expect to see a new level of Queensland quidditch at State Shield this year. Most notable is the calibre of the female chasing lineup this year, with all women having very strong and accomplished sporting backgrounds in netball and AFL, as well as previous state and national level javelin and hammer throw. Kaysanne Hockey is one such stand out, who made waves at Melbourne Mudbash earlier this year with the height and receiving ability to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Taya Rawson. These women all bring a great level of athletic experience to the game. Despite some of them having just under a full season of quidditch under their belt, they have shown a natural talent for picking up the skills of the game to represent at the state level and are not to be underestimated or left unmarked. As for the male quaffle players, there are many familiar faces including the hulking presence of Spann, Jordan Fraser, and Joseph Dodd, whose remarkable speed and physicality combined with the Queensland passing game has always presented a challenge for the NSW and Victorian defences. The new additions of Jason Cappello and Jonathan Rawlings breathe new life into the physicality and speed that Queensland will be aiming to match in the southern teams. With backgrounds in rugby, water polo, athletics, and surf life saving, both are comfortable with quaffle in hand and back their ability to handle contact.
The beating game also brings some consistency with all but Emma Foots and Chelsea Markot having worn the Thunderbirds jersey before, though both are great, emerging, talented players within the beater lineup. With four of the six female beaters coming from the USC Dementors and such high attendance at trainings, their ability to work together and understand each others’ roles on pitch will be vital to Queensland’s success against the historically much stronger southern beaters. Queensland’s youngest player and beater, Lachlann Ward, has also developed greatly as a player since his Thunderbirds debut last year. He brings an aggressive style to the Queensland beater game alongside his USC beater buddy, Jake Quinlan. Against so many Dropbear level beaters spread through the NSW and Victorian teams who have previously spelled grief for the Queensland side before, it will be interesting to see how this evolution of the Queensland beating game will prevail.
As alluded to, USC’s Dementors represent the dominant team in Queensland and form the backbone of the Thunderbirds, like the USYD Unspeakables/Sydney City Serpents for NSW and Monash Muggles for Victoria. A staggering 14 of the 21 players hail from the Dementors, who have always been able to present a challenge to even the top division club teams in NSW and Victoria. Indeed, earlier this year when an undermanned Dementors competed in Melbourne Mudbash, they were able to create some very close games against the Muggles (who went on to win the tournament) and show that Queensland has really stepped up. As they have also put on such a dominant performance throughout the Queensland State League match days this year, conceding an average of 1.5 goals per game and with no in-range games, the Dementors core will be what Queensland rely on to compete at the highest level.
Given their mostly common origins and a largely returning team, excellent synergy within the Queensland’s passing game and on-field communication should be expected. This has of course been the case in the past, with a strong offensive chaser line and outstanding physicality on both offence and defence keeping Queensland in games just long enough for star Dropbears seeker Spann to snatch wins out of nowhere.
Also of note is that Queensland has decided to go with a different structure for their leadership team this year, and as such, do not have an overall captain. Instead, the team has opted for chaser, beater, and speaking captain roles, held by Spann, Quinlan, and Alise Fox respectively. The overall team captain position is filled by Joshua Lindley as a playing coach.
Spann is an obvious choice with his wealth of sporting knowledge from national-level sprinting and experience at the highest levels of Australian quidditch, being the only non-Victorian and non-NSW member of the Dropbears at the 2018 World Cup. He brings a strong level of focus and authority to lead the quaffle line-up, not to mention his dominating height. Despite Quinlan’s softly spoken off-field demeanor, he brings a high level of beating knowledge and skill to work with and advise any beater pair within the team.
Meanwhile, with the wealth of experience that Fox has had within the broader quidditch community and representing Queensland many times now, she brings a very calm and collected attitude to the speaking captain role that will no doubt be needed in the tough games ahead. It will be interesting to see how the Queensland team’s preparations have gone this year with debut Coach Joshua ‘Smugs’ Lindley who has approached the team trainings with structure and knowledge as an exercise physiologist. This preparation includes aspects of injury prevention and conditioning to ensure that the players are best prepared for the challenge ahead at State Shield.
Coming into State Shield this year, Queensland’s first targets will be the NSW Bluebottles, who have been their primary rivals in the 2016 and 2018 competitions. In both, Queensland was only able to come away with one win. Last year’s State Shield showed that the Thunderbirds were very much on par and even dominant in the chaser game, the incredible depth of NSW’s beater corps bailed out the team on defence and ensured control of the seeker game in SWIM situations. An every stronger Thunderbirds will pose a major challenge to the Bluebottles and newer Honeyeaters, and these will be match-ups that should be highly entertaining. The Thunderbirds will surely however have their sights set on the A teams, repeating their 2017 win against Victoria and breaking the tide against NSW. Against such strong and experienced teams, this will require an enormous effort from the Thunderbirds, though the trend of the competitions thus far tells us that we should be seeing some spectacular quidditch from the Queensland side this year.
Stay tuned to hear about the NSW and Victorian B teams, who will be gearing up for whatever challenge Queensland can throw at them, and make sure to come down to Sandringham this weekend or catch the tournament on our livestream to see how it plays out!
A further thanks to Josh Lindley for assistance in writing this commentary.