Sunday, March 15, 2015

Onward to Oxford: Oxford Quidlings

As part of our efforts to preview all 32 teams competing in the European Quidditch Cup (EQC), the Quidditch Post is chatting with representatives from each team. Today we spoke with Jack Lennard, captain of the Oxford Quidlings.

Photo by Lizzie Walton
Quidditch Post: Last year, the Quidlings got a little taste of European play, and of course you all have the luxury to train with the defending European Champion Radcliffe Chimeras. How has all of this impacted your squad?
Jack: So the EQC last year was a very different affairthere were no qualifying restrictions, and it was really a case of whoever could afford to go, got to go. However, I do think the fact that the Quidlingswho were the only second team in the UK at that timebeing the only other UK team present at the tournament certainly accelerated our ambitions beyond simply providing a less competitive atmosphere for players who were not selected for the Radcliffe Chimeras. After a strong performance at the EQC, there was definitely a sense that we could attain both a strong team identity and become a competitive force in our own right. This has obviously been bolstered by training with the Radcliffe Chimeras twice a week, and that gives us an edge when playing teams that otherwise we might struggle againsttheir experience and mentality certainly rubs off on us as a team. However, I would say that the squad from last year is one that is vastly different to that of this year, and so the taste of international quidditch we got in Belgium can't be the only factor making us one of the more threatening teams despite being a (still rare) second team.

QP: You've recently boosted your ranks with a number of prominent ex-Chimeras in Dale King-Evans, Emily Hayes, and James Burnett. How do you think those players will transition into the Quidlings, and what impact do you expect them to have?
Jack: Any captain would be delighted to have those players in a roster; they're all world-class playersfor example, Dale was actually one of the very few non-American names in the Quidditch Post's 'Best Player Bracket', which is amazing! However, I'm really pleased with the talent of the squad as it is overall. We have a team of consistently excellent players who I would back to do well in the upcoming fixtures even without the new additions to the squad. So really, whilst I think these three new players will have a very positive impact on pitch in terms of their talent, where I really foresee them aiding us is in their experience. By playing alongside these ex-Chimeras with so much international experience, I really hope to see our team dynamic evolve to a new and extraordinary level. You also have the fact that, with all three players carrying a great deal of experience, they are more likely to be able to exercise flexibility and creativity to fit in with the Quidlings existing players from the very beginning. In short, I couldn't be more delighted to unleash the newly bolstered squad on our opponents.

QP: Who would you say are some of the key players outside of those three? Anyone who doesn't get their proper due?
Jack: Oh gosh, I could list so many players. I think we have a wealth of talent new to the sport in general, plenty of people who could realistically be considered for Team UK. Jamie Cash, Ruth Harris, and Claire Evans have all excelled at learning the beater game, as shown by a clinical lock-out of the Nottingham Nightmares twice at the Nightmarish Tournament a few months back. A lot of that is down to natural talent, but you can't ignore the brilliant tutelage of David Dlaka (my Vice Captain) and Rix Dishington (herself a former Chimera). I think our two main keeper options, Michael Holloway and Rob Brignull, are always overlooked, and it's a travesty because you'd struggle to find two more consistent, dedicated, and talented players in that position in a team outside of the top three. Sarah Melville is frankly a wonder, catching the snitch almost every time and able to play pretty much a full game brilliantly without tiring. It's great to see her getting the attention she deserves, but I'd also commend players like Travis Manuel, Jack Gallagher, and Dani Ellenbythey give us so much creativity and speed in the chaser game and have really formed a core to that area of our squad this season.

QP: Your team seemed to struggle a bit at Southern Cup, where you failed to advance to the semifinals before rebounding to qualify by winning the Nightmarish Tournament. To what do you attribute the disparity in performances?
Jack: Put simply, it was experience. Only eight of our players at Southern Cup (out of 17 on the roster that weekend) had actually played competitively before (one of those players being me, and I rarely play on-field myself, preferring to manage the team in the subs box), and our fixture that had been planned against the Falmouth Falcons for before the Cup fell through. However, even with that inexperience, we were ahead on quaffle points in our losses to Falmouth in the group stages and the London Unspeakables in the knockout stages, losing both on snitch catches. It's our experience that keeps the game together and cements wins when we are marginally ahead on quaffle points; we learned this in the weeks between Southern Cup and Nightmarish. The raw potential on display at Southern was given the chance to be moulded and refined before being deployed in an incredibly effective manner in some highly tactical matches at Nightmarish.

QP: Do you think being a second home team will have any benefits?
Jack: I think it naturally makes it easier to be playing on home turf, and we're so excited to be hosting it! But the tournament is actually a week or so before the university term starts, and so any benefit that we might get from being 'at home' will probably be counteracted, I suspect, by people not being able to make it back to Oxford that early for the tournament. Given the importance of the tournament, however, I'd hope to see almost every Quidling wanting to take part!

QP: Do you have any goals for the tournament?
Jack: It's my last tournament as captain, so I'd love to go out on a high. There are a lot of unknowns at the moment, and we'll cross those bridges when we come to them, but needless to say we expect to represent Oxford University Quidditch Club on a very high level and continue to grow the club's established international record.

QP: Are there any teams you'd particularly like to face?
Jack: It'd be great to play Lunatica Quidditch Clubthe Quidlings played this team last year and couldn't quite pull off a win, so it'd amazing to go up against it again. But the EQC is an incredible opportunity to face teams you'd never otherwise get a chance to playit'd be great to play a Turkish team, or one of the German teams. There's nobody we'd shy away from playing, though; we'll take on anyone the draw throws our way.

QP: How would you describe the Quidlings’ style of play?
Jack: I'd say that what we might lack in physicality, we utilize in smart quaffle passing play and beater strategy. With a strong bludger defense and some real rising talents as chasers, we might not seem like much from afar, but anyone who even remotely analyses our playing tactics sure could appreciate the effort we put into them. We obviously take a lot from the Chimera game, but, as the entry of new talent into Oxford University Quidditch Club, we very much create a style that can limit potent quaffle offences and their scoring potential, whilst the use of fast and effective passing helps us rack up hoops.

QP: Is there anything else you think our readers should know about the Quidlings?
Jack: Readers will know everything they need to by the way we distinguish ourselves in the coming tournaments. But I can assure them of thiswhatever happens, this is only the beginning of our legacy.

QP: Thanks for your time, Jack; we appreciate it.
Jack: Cheers, Andy.

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