Friday, June 5, 2015

Third Annual Mercian Cup: Preview

The Quidditch Post is delighted to bring you a bumper feature of coverage on the Third Annual Mercian Cup, taking place in Derby in the UK this weekend! We start off with some old fashioned team-by-team analysis by QP regular Fraser Posford, before taking a look at what our combined analysts think the final rankings of the tournament will be, with Ashara Peiris explaining how the predictions were reached. And finally, Ben Pooley will be tipping off some of the players to watch this weekend!

Team-By-Team Analysis
Fraser Posford

Pool A:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Murtles
Captain: Tom Heynes
Heynes has drafted a very strong all-round roster for his defence of the Mercian title after his victory last year captaining Brooms of Requirement. Patience in the draft paid off for the Radcliffe Chimeras chaser who successfully managed to acquire a large amount of current and former Team UK players including utility players Lucy Q (his most expensive player for 86) and Warren McFadyen, both of whom have found success captaining in fantasy tournaments this season. Durham’s captain-coach duo of Jackie Woodburn and Robbie Gawne along with SQC2’s Ajay Gohil and Anjit Aulakh (both off the back of some great form at Whiteknights III) join their captain in what looks to be a very exciting quaffle player lineup that should score plenty of goals. Whilst Lucy Q is the standout presence in the beater corps, she is accompanied by the experienced Zoe Ford as well as new Nottingham captain Lucy Edlund and Durham vice-captain Marcus Buechel, a player who could really make his name at this tournament. It is difficult to identify one, but a potential weakness of this team lies in the seeking game. They do possess capable seekers in the likes of Gohil, Woodburn and Heynes himself. However, none have had too much consistency this season so if a team can suck the life out of TMNM’s fast-paced quaffle game and remain within snitch range then it may just stop Heynes from retaining the crown.

Night Fury
Captain: Dave Goddin
After a lengthy period out with a shoulder injury, Dave Goddin will be very excited to get back into playing action at the Third Annual Mercian Cup as captain of Night Fury. When you look through the team’s roster, there appears to be an obvious lack of beaters, something that was not helped by Goddin’s agonising defeat in a bid for Keele and Team UK beater Alice Nightingale. Goddin had clearly been waiting for this player throughout the draft but she was cruelly snatched away by the Honeydukes Sweetshots after Goddin went all in on 56, and this may have interfered with Goddin’s plans. On the other hand, the Leeds keeper has drafted some exciting prospects in his chaser line-up such as London Unspeakables’ Luke Trevett and Leeds teammate Sash Steele as well as one of the UK’s most experienced utility players in Ben Morton. The ace in Goddin’s pack may prove to be Andrew Price, a player bought for a bargain price of 10. The towering keeper has enjoyed a fine season with the Nottingham Nightmares and if there is one thing we have learnt from players like Ollie Craig and Seppe De Wit at Valentines Cup II, it is that a powerful quaffle carrier such as Price could have a devastating impact if utilised properly.

Honeydukes Sweetshots
Captain: Chloe Watson
The Honeydukes Sweetshots are the team of seasoned fantasy captain Chloe Watson, and she has assembled a very interesting side this time around. Although at first glance it is easy to dismiss the Sweetshots as having a dearth of experienced drivers, and it is for this reason that they have been predicted in the bottom half of the table, Chloe has assembled a lineup of consistently good quality which should do reasonably well. TeamUK beater and Chloe’s most expensive buy Alice Nightingale is the standout name on the beater lineup, and her fast, intelligent play will offer the Sweetshots a dynamic in the beater game which some may struggle to counter. The only player offering keeper as a primary position is Bex McLaughlin, who has been taking to the position very well with the Mighty and Amazing Quercs, and under their direction the quaffle lineup, which includes very solid players such as Ben Guthrie, Olivia Payne, and Joel Davis, should develop a good passing game quickly. There are a lot of experienced and dependable players in this lineup, but it is possible that it lacks the flair to take it all the way. That said, mercenary teams thrive with squads of consistent skill levels, and they could surprise - especially if the indomitable Fiona Howat is unleashed with the team still in SWIM range.

Merc and JD
Captain: Natasha Ferenczy
Merc and JD captain Natasha Ferenczy has recently been elected as the inaugural Southampton Quidditch Club President and will be looking to test out her leadership skills captaining her first fantasy team. The side she has drafted are not scrubs by any means and have a genuine chance of taking the title, largely due to the majority of the players having played with at least two other members of the team as well as being the type of players that are capable of fitting into an SQC-style of play that Ferenczy is likely to implement. The most notable acquisition in the Merc and JD roster is without a doubt Vincent Fouré, the most expensive player in the draft going for 145. The new Southampton coach is a giant of a keeper who is notorious for his powerful drives to the hoops, bullet-like shots and boundless confidence to try out complex manoeuvres and passes. Fouré can certainly carry this team to glory but he is also surrounded by some very capable and talented players. In the beater department, Southampton seconds beater Jordan Moss comes into Mercian off the back of an impressive performance throughout Whiteknights III (earning him the nickname ‘MossVP’), Nottingham Nightmare Matthew Blindt brings a great deal of experience, and Chester Chasers’ Fiona Staub is an accomplished conservative beater. It may not be the strongest beater lineup in the tournament, but it is one that should hold its own against most sides. Joining captain Ferenczy and Fouré in a speedy quaffle player lineup is Holyrood Hippogriffs’ chaser Ollie Riley who shone for the Scottish side at BQC, new Nottingham coach Mikey Ansell, Leicester and Paris Frog chaser Sophie Osborn, and Chester’s Beth Quayle whose recent switch to keeper has been noticeably impressive (although she is likely to play chaser in this team). Similar to TMNM, one thing Merc and JD lack, if anything, is an established seeker. However, the likely first and second choices (Chester Chasers’ Connor Climo and SQC2’s Moss) will see this as an opportunity to prove themselves. The match against TMNM looks set to be the pick of the action from Group A and although the green team are likely to be up on quaffle points prior to the release of the seekers on the 18 minute mark, if they are in snitch range Merc and JD will definitely fancy their chances to literally snatch victory.

Pool B:

Honey Badgers
Captain: Ben Honey
Having recently tasted victory with Bangor Broken Broomsticks winning Whiteknights III, Ben Honey will be hoping to lead the Honey Badgers, who are controversially playing in yellow, to a similar fate at 3AMC. Honey drafted well and was able to construct a team which perfectly suits his individual style of play whilst maintaining an excellent balance of quality throughout leaving no position appearing particularly weak. For his chasers and keepers, he has gone for mobility over power in players such as Keele’s Ollie Hymers, former Loughborough Longshots captain Dan Bridges, London Unspeakable Ellie Aaen (recently named on the Norway roster for July’s IQA European Games), Durham’s Peter Hobson, and Honey himself. For this reason, it looks like the Honey Badgers will be capable of scoring plenty of goals particularly on fast breaks but may get found out in defence when faced with some of the stronger quaffle drivers from other teams. They are joined by Gina Allyn, a Utah Crimson Elite chaser who was Honey’s most expensive purchase of the draft for 50. Bearing in mind her experience of the US game, it will be interesting to see how much impact Allyn will make within this team, something that was noticeable with Ryan Smythe and Rebecca Alley in Gorik Or Die Tryin’ at Valentines Cup II. TeamUK reserve Jade Strange, Southampton’s Vinicius Costa and Honey’s Bangor teammate Gemma Davies feature in what appears to be quite a small beating lineup which suggests Honey and Bridges may be required to beat at some stage in the tournament, weakening the team quaffle play in the process. A lack of physicality may well be the Honey Badgers' downfall but they look set to be competitive against any team they face and, like Bangor, they have the potential to pull off a few surprises along the way.

Yaegar Bombs
Captain: Will Johnson
The Yaegar Bombs, captained by Will Johnson of the Bangor Broken Broomsticks, are a very well-constructed squad, showing a comfortable balance of genders and positions. In quaffle play, the Bombs can boast Abbi Harris and Callum Humphreys of the Leicester Thestrals, whose familiarity with one another’s play style should prove helpful; another same-team pair in the chaser lineup are captain Johnson and Thomas Dutton, and these two pairs should help to anchor the team in the early games. However, Johnson is likely to be a very strong contender for first seeker, and the chasing lineup will suffer without him. On the beating front, the defence should be excellent, spearheaded by Jade Saunders (Bangor Broken Broomsticks) and El Hull (Derby Union Quidditch), but it is difficult to see where they will be able to regain bludger control should it be lost. With some very powerful beaters making appearances on other teams, it seems likely that the Yaegar Bombs may have to deal without bludger control for a lot of their time on-pitch, and this is likely to cost them. I think most of the Bombs’ matches will be close, as is characteristic of merc tournaments, and I expect them to put even the tougher teams under pressure. However, I would not be surprised to see the team struggle with snitch on pitch and ultimately come off worse towards the end of games, especially if they cannot regain bludger control during that period.

The Apostles
Captain: James Burnett
Oxford Quidlings beater James ‘Jesus’ Burnett has assembled a team of more players than suggested by their very creative team name, but it certainly is not a team to be taken lightly. As the former Team UK beater coach, Burnett knows a thing or two about those that wear the black headband which seems clear when looking at some of their draft picks. Burnett hinted at having a more back seat role in this tournament and with the likes of Leicester’s Dan Trick, Nottingham’s Rachel Lily, and Southampton’s Matt Drummond, they appear to have constructed a beater lineup of great variety that will allow them to do this. Amongst the quaffle players, there is powerful driving in the form of keepers Anthony Tatman and Sally Higginson. The Apostles also have speedy players in the form of the St. Andrews flyer Alex Harrison, and Reading’s Nicole Stone. Despite this, they may struggle on chaser defence due to a lack of recognised big-hitting tacklers. The Apostles do indeed look to be a strong team on paper but arguably the team’s biggest weakness may well be when it comes to catching snitches, with the Holyrood Hippogriffs’ Johnney Rhodes and new Bangor captain Jay Holmes being the only recognised seekers on the roster. There is certainly reason to suggest why this team could go far in the competition but the possibility of a SWIM defeat or two is also high.   

Captain: Rob Barringer
Former Southampton Seconds captain Barringer may be better known as the founder of QuidditchUK and, judging by his approach to the 3AMC draft, quidditch players across the country may be glad that he was not in charge of the national governing body’s financial department. After spending big to harness the services of Team UK reserves beater Holly Kerslake and Reading utility player Lee Baughan, the ex-Keele Squirrel and London Unspeakables keeper-turned-beater was the first captain to declare bankruptcy despite only having one designated keeper in Leeds’ Kunal Ramchurn at the time. He did, however, manage to snag a few players for free during the re-auction which allowed him to make amends for this error to a certain extent. The quaffle player lineup may lack the household names of some of the other teams but it does contain the likes of Nottingham’s Jon Salt and Evelyn Goodall as well as Leicester’s Tom Hutton: up and coming players who will be out to impress. Their beater lineup in comparison appears to be fairly strong with the inclusions of Kerslake and the Brizzlepuffs’ Eamonn Harrison. This suggests that SQC3 will aim to redress their keeper deficiency by holding bludger control for as long as possible, keeping teams within snitch range before sending Baughan on to seek out that all-important SWIM catch. Arguably one of Barringer’s strongest abilities as a captain is the ability to motivate his players with inspirational team talks and superb camaraderie which in fantasy quidditch could actually go along way. Win or lose, this team will have a lot of fun with ‘The Basilisk’ as their leader.

  1. TMNM
  2. The Apostles
  3. Merc and JD
  4. Honey Badgers
  5. Honeydukes
  6. Night Fury
  7. Yaegar Bombs
  8. SQC3

Explanation of Predictions
Ashara Peiris

As with many mercenary tournaments, a number of the teams at Mercian are, on paper, very well-balanced. The format for the tournament, as with many others is that the top two teams from each pool at the end of Day 1 will go on to play in the semifinals the next day. Due to this format, it is a real possibility that some otherwise strong teams may struggle to make their way through to the upper bracket.

The clear favourite at this stage is Teenage Mutant Ninja Murtles, a reasonably sized team with incredibly talented players and significant depth. Tom Heynes has undoubtedly drafted a very strong team here and it is likely that anything other than another first place, after his win at Mercian last year with the Brooms of Requirement, will be a disappointment. The second place in his group will most likely be fought out between Merc and JD and the Honeydukes Sweetshots. Whilst Chloe Watson has drafted an overall deeper and more balanced team they don’t seem to have a single offensive force that mercenary teams often require. Merc and JD, on the other hand, have this in the most expensive player of the draft, Vincent Fouré - but splashing out on this player has cost them elsewhere in the squad. If the other teams can find a way to nullify Fouré, they will likely be able to succeed against Merc and JD.

In Pool B, the Apostles seem to be the team to beat: however, this seems to be a much closer pool overall. Both the Honey Badgers and the Yaeger Bombs have strong teams, with the Honey Badgers boasting the stronger chaser lineup and Yaeger Bombs the stronger beating lineup. SQC 3 seems unlikely to do the name of SQC proud, but if any captain can pick their team up out of their defeat, it is surely Rob Barringer.

On Day 2 the semifinals are likely to be TMNM vs Honey Badgers and the Apostles vs Merc and JD. Whilst Merc and JD will be hoping to continue their charge through their tournament, I full expect the Apostles’ very able beating lineup to halt their advance. It is likely that TMNM will be able to take their second spoonful of honey and topple the Honey Badgers.

The final is TMNM’s to lose. If the Apostles can put them under pressure and tire them out (Heynes has assembled a marginally smaller squad size) we could see the upset of the weekend and the Apostle being crowned champion. However, it seems likely that TMNM will be able to fight through and allow Tom Heynes to defend his Mercian crown.

Players to Watch
Ben Pooley

Abbi Harris

Having been around the UK quidditch scene since the very beginning, Abbi Harris is one of the most experienced chasers around. She will be representing Will Johnson's team, the Yaeger Bombs at Mercian, and I believe she will be integral to any success they achieve. Looking at Johnson's squad, there is a distinct lack of players with the ability to charge up the pitch with only Harris and her former teammate, Callum Humphreys, really standing out. This means that Harris could really shine here, her abilities as a tall, strong, determined player giving her the edge over many a chaser, and her quaffle handling game (catching, passing, shooting) is next to none. She is a great individual player, and Will Johnson will be most glad he picked her up. Excellent communication combined with an incredibly selfless style of play means any team would be lucky to have her.

Mikey Ansell

A relative newcomer to quidditch, Mikey already has some impressive performances under his belt at major tournaments for his primary team, the Nottingham Nightmares. After being picked up by Natasha for her team Merc and JD, she will be hoping he will continue his fine run of form, which I'm sure he will do. He will most likely be playing keeper, a position he excels in, as he controls the pace of the game wonderfully, knowing exactly when to storm up the pitch, and when to take it nice and slow. On the offence and defence he is not afraid to get physical, which could be key when Vince 'Frenchy' Foure is not on pitch for Merc and JD. Expect this powerhouse to not only make an impact on the score in terms of goals, but also snitch catches, with his prowess being shown at "I Ship It" Tournament. A very well rounded player with not many weaknesses, Mikey is most certainly one to watch out for.

Eamonn Harrison

Up next is someone mostly known for his performances in black and white stripes, with brilliant refereeing all season. What is often forgotten is his talent as a player, which will hopefully be showcased in Derby this weekend. Rob Barringer picked up Eamonn as a beater, a position which Barringer likes to have in abundance. With some talented beaters already in the squad, there will be fierce competition for game time in the black headband, but I see Eamonn showing he's got what it takes to be their key beater. Standing so tall that numbers do not accurately reflect his height, he uses this to his advantage in the obvious ways, but also capitalising on his long legs to win races for loose bludgers. Willing to be aggressive when needed, yet also able to sit back and play conservatively, his adaptability will be perfect at a merc tournament where playing styles don't always fit, and a Darwinian like player will shine. One thing I do know, is that Eammon is truly #SQC3 worthy.

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