Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Southern Cup

Sally Higginson via QuidditchUK
As above, so below, and so it is in the UK quidditch community. Since the Northern Cup earlier this year, itself only created due to the announcement of a Southern Cup beforehand, the south have been bereft of a way to determine just who exactly stands supreme. Come the 9th of November, that question will have been answered, as the Southern Cup rears its beautiful head for a weekend of quidditch between the best that the south of England has to offer.

So we have eight teams squaring up against each other for the weekend, in what is set to be a hotly contested championship. With some of the biggest names in the UK quidditch game clashing over just two days, predicting an outcome is not only difficult, but probably ultimately pointless. However, it is my job to give it my best shot, so gosh darn it. Here… we… go.

8th: Bristol Brizzlepuffs I hate to do this, but someone has to be predicted to come last, and that, unfortunately, goes to the newest team in the tournament. With a team composed almost entirely of players new to the sport, only the one player (Will Buss) with any competitive experience and the other teams including some truly terrifying opponents, it is hard to see the Brizzlepuffs come away from this with anything other than last place. However, from this first tournament, they have the opportunity to learn a heck of a lot from the wealth of talent they will be facing, so don’t expect their next appearance to turn out the same way. Here’s hoping for big things from you Brizzlepuffs!

7th: Norwich Nifflers In penultimate position, perhaps pessimistically, comes a team that have been relatively quiet on the quidditch scene over the past year. Consequently, I have almost no knowledge of their current squad, but they did come to the first BQC, and have had a year to train since then, so by dint of their extra years experience, I have to place them above the Brizzlepuffs, but below the other, more experienced teams. I am, however, supremely excited to see how they’ve progressed since last season, and will be looking forward to their games with keen interest.

6th: Reading Rocs Oh, hello there Reading. Reading are a wonderful team, with a lot of potential, which unfortunately doesn’t translate that often into success on the pitch. Standout players from the Reading side include Team UK chasers Lee Baughan and Nicole Stone, both of whom are true threats to an unprepared side. With a lot to prove, and lots of capability to do so at Southern, I would dearly love to see Reading finish a few places up this list, but my cynicism keeps them here.

5th: Falmouth Falcons Falmouth have been putting on a truly impressive and intimidating show recently, and so placing them here may seem a little harsh, but this is only due to two factors. First, I am yet to actually see them play in person, and second, the top four teams are just too good. Another team I hope to see outplay my predictions, I look forward to seeing what they can do on the pitch with my own two eyes. And of course, many of those who attended Highlander II will be eager to see a rematch between Falmouth and London - I know I am!

4th: London Unspeakables London will struggle. A line once repeated jokingly many times last season, but not any more. London have come on not so much in leaps and bounds, but in Tigger-like pounces of giddy abandonment, defying all natural laws of progression. Truly, with the many guest coach sessions they held over the summer keeping them fit and bringing new skills and tactics into their game, London can boast one of the broadest experience pools to draw from, and if they use this in their strategy to wrong-foot their opposition, I truly expect to see great things from this team. Looking through their roster, I see some impressive names, including Bex McLaughlin, Ellie Aaen, and the incomparable Fiona ‘Brienne’ Howat, all of whom have been expanding their experience with trips to foreign tournaments recently and will be truly amazing to watch!

=2nd: Oxford Quidlings Oh my, but this was a tough call… in the end, however, I just couldn’t split the Quidlings and the next team, because they both have so, so much going for them. The Quidlings have got a ridiculous amount of new talent joining them for this season, including Team UK chasers Tom Heynes and Travis Manuel, as well as the plethora of raw and experienced talent already present under Jack Lennard’s fine, if rather loud, leadership. With a defeat of Bangor under their belt at the end of last season, the Quidlings have definitely shown they belong right at the top, and here is their chance to prove it to the whole of the south.

=2nd: Southampton Well, here are the hosts, battling it out for second place in the predictions. By now it should be patently obvious who is sitting pretty and smug at the top of the predictions, but for now, let’s have a chat about Southampton. Battling Nottingham for fourth place in the rankings last season, Southampton have some pretty awesome talent in their player pool, of immediate note of course are Robert ‘Dugald’ Young, one of the most experienced players in UK quidditch (somewhat ironically given his surname), Sarah Dorricott, Simon Bidwell and Natasha Ferenczy. Many of these players have international experience, some have trained as part of Team UK, and all will have a home advantage, and would rather not lose their own tournament...

1st: Radcliffe Chimeras Well that’s a truly mind blowing prediction, I hear you mumble, sarcastic internet people. Well, what did you expect? There is a reason that the Chimeras were the team that contributed the most players to Team UK, a team that was itself captained by a Chimera: they were head and shoulders above nearly every team last season. I do not think they are infallible, far from it. They have had changes to the roster this season, with the loss of several seasoned players and the addition of new ones. However, with the addition of new faces including Dale King-Evans and Dr Evan Edmond, I can only see the squad going from strength to strength.

There you have it, quidkids, my personal opinions. I could be wrong. (I will, most likely, be wrong.) My suggestion is you go along to watch the tournament yourself as, win or lose, every team is certain to provide a thrilling performance, and make it a wonderful weekend to remember.

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