Editor's Note: Leading up to the European Quidditch Games in Sarteano, the Quidditch Post staff will take a look at each of the 12 teams competing in Sarteano, Italy for continental glory. First up, TeamUK.
By Abby Whiteley and Ashley Cooper
Quidditch first made an impact in the United Kingdom after the 2012 Global Games in Oxford, at around the same time that quidditch started to grow across Europe. Although a couple of UK teams had existed beforehand, the Global Games was the catalyst that caused a series of more established teams and tournaments to appear during the 2012-13 season, and quidditch has only grown in the UK since then. Now, the UK is the biggest quidditch nation in Europe; it sent 23 teams to its national tournament this year, 11 of which made an appearance at European Quidditch Cup in April. After a frustrating day the UK finished fourth at Global Games last year, losing twice on snitch grabs, but nevertheless ended the day as the highest-ranked European team, which bodes well for the UK this summer. The depth of talent available to the UK team, alongside a strong performance by UK sides at the European Quidditch Cup, will mean that this is a team to watch in July.
|TeamUK | Photo by Fiona Howat and Tom Heynes|
An asterisk at the end of a player’s name indicates that they are likely to be seeking alongside their primary position.
Oliver Craig* (Southampton Quidditch Club 1)
Andrew Hull (Bangor Broken Broomsticks)
Luke Twist (Radcliffe Chimeras)
Tom Norton (Keele Squirrels) — Captain
David Goswell* (Radcliffe Chimeras) — Chaser vice-captain
Lydia Calder (Southampton Quidditch Club 1)
Robbie Gawne (Durhamstrang Quidditch)
Tom Heynes (Radcliffe Chimeras)
Jan Mikolajczak (Radcliffe Chimeras)
Ben Morton (Keele Squirrels)
Chris Noble (Warwick Quidditch Club)
Jemma Thripp (Southampton Quidditch Club 1)
Aaron Veale (Southampton Quidditch Club 1)
Jackie Woodburn (Durhamstrang Quidditch)
Bill Orridge (Loughborough Longshots) — Beater vice-captain
Lucy B (Nottingham Nightmares)
Alex Brown (Falmouth Falcons)
Alex Carpenter* (Southampton Quidditch Club 1)
Alice Faux-Nightingale (Keele Squirrels)
Imy Gregg (Southampton Quidditch Club 1)
Jacopo Sartori (Warwick Quidditch Club)
Ashley Cooper, last year’s TeamUK captain, and the ex-captain of the Radcliffe Chimeras, is reprising his role in coaching the 2015 squad. With a huge amount of experience both on the British and international scene, including the 2014 Global Games and two European Quidditch Cups, Cooper is an enormously valuable resource to the team and will apply his tactical mind with precision over the training weekends. He is accustomed to training and leading teams under pressure, and, although he will not be making an appearance on pitch, his excellence in the role of coach means that the squad with the greatest diversity of teams should be able to form powerful cohesion to match those with fewer disparate styles to reconcile.
Last season’s captain of the Keele Squirrels and returning TeamUK member Tom Norton will be leading the team in Sarteano. His experience of leading the Squirrels, ranked third in the UK, qualifies him for the role, and his boundless enthusiasm and positivity will be a counterweight to Cooper’s stern coaching. This will be a great boon to the squad, especially during tough games where stamina and optimism is needed from the leadership, and Norton will be able to command respect throughout the squad thanks to his knowledge of all four positions.
This iteration of TeamUK has two vice-captains: one for chasing and one for beating. The chaser vice-captain is David Goswell, an exceptionally keen chaser and seeker who recently graduated from the Chimeras after two years with Oxford University Quidditch Club; his expertise in both the white and yellow headbands will prove hugely helpful to the team, both as a player and as an advisor. Beater vice-captain Bill Orridge is at the end of his second season with the Loughborough Longshots and has become one of the most powerful and intuitive beaters in the UK since shifting to the position at the start of this season.
Unsurprisingly, the UK demonstrates the most diverse assortment of teams in its squad. This will work both in its favour and against it; on the one hand, the UK has a very large talent pool from which to select its squad, which means that every person on the squad has earned their place despite fierce competition and scrutiny. The stringent admissions process has resulted in the average level of athleticism and skill being very high, and the selectors had the luxury of choosing people who they thought would be able to work well together. On the other hand, the mixity of the team is similar to that of the average mercenary team, and, despite fantastic individual talent, this may work against the overall cohesion of its playstyle. The UK team has been able to train together a couple of times, and this should go a long way to reconciling their differences on-pitch, but it remains to be seen whether this newfound bond will hold up under pressure.
This may be more of a problem for the beaters than for the chasers. The quaffle lineup is beautifully balanced, with the three keepers (Oliver Craig, Andrew Hull, and Luke Twist) being amongst the best drivers and distributors in Europe, and the chaser lineup demonstrates a good blend of those more comfortable behind the hoops, in the wings, and in defence. Thomas Heynes and Jemma Thripp are some of the most valuable players one could have behind the hoops, and the distributors will know exactly how to maximise their potential on the attack.
On a different note, a marked characteristic of the UK squad is the proclivity towards aggression in the beater game. This is not necessarily a bad thing; most beaters who make their mark in their opponents’ half tend to do so because they have the technical skills, confidence, and athleticism to pull it off. Every beater on the squad is a capable and clever player, and the raw talent here is indisputable. For many of the teams the UK will face, finding beaters at or beyond the midway line will be a fatiguing and confusing challenge that they will struggle to counter. However, this excess of aggressive beaters may cultivate complacency, and the UK will have to be very careful indeed in making sure that its beaters are appropriately placed on the defence. It is difficult to predict how these people will play together; when they are all accustomed to being the primary aggressive force on their home teams, they will have to learn to settle into a subtly different role to avoid redundancy. The rise and fall of the UK beater corps will lie with the intuition of when to stay one’s hand rather than to make a flashy or ambitious move.
With a strong set of athletic and talented players, most of whom are accustomed to high-pressure games, it is reasonable to expect to see the UK in the top three. The depth and breadth of talent in this squad is unquestionable, and it will give a tough game to anyone it encounters. The colour of the medals that the team brings back is far from decided, however, and it will be facing fierce opposition throughout the tournament. The team is full of big personalities and talent, and could be at risk of conflicting voices trying to pull the squad in different directions, but the leadership should be capable of controlling this, and it will be stronger if they manage to do so. This is certainly a team with a chance at the top spot, but it will have to fight hard to get there.