by Joke Daems
Belgian quidditch is rapidly evolving, and part of that evolution can be found in the creation of the Belgian Quidditch League (BQL), the official competition for competitive teams in Belgium. Out of 11 official teams in Belgium, six currently play competitively. Each team plays one game every month. The Belgian Quidditch Federation (BQF) decides which games are played and provides the necessary officials, but the teams decide on a date themselves. An official game consists of three sets, corresponding to what used to be a full game. Winners are decided on a best-of-three basis.
Now that the first few games have been played, it is time to evaluate the new system and take a look at the gameplay and ranking after Round One.
Deurne Dodo A - Leuven Leprechauns
|Photo credit: Belgian Quidditch Federation|
Deurne Dodo A is a tough team to take on. They are the oldest team in Belgium, currently reigning Belgian champion (although the Belgian Quidditch Cup took place after this league game), and they have a strong international reputation as well. Especially during the first half of the first game, they showed the Leprechauns it was more than worth the notoriety, keeping the play restricted to Leuven’s defensive side of the pitch and barely allowing their opponents a shot at the hoops. Bludger control was maintained almost all throughout the game, and the Deurne chasers (most notably, Tim van Huygevoort, Seppe de Wit, and Louis Lermytte) worked together like a well-oiled machine with Charlotte Buelens knowing where to be to best support her fellow chasers while moving seemingly unnoticed behind enemy lines. Though gameplay intensity diminished toward the second half of the game, Deurne still managed to stay on top of things, finishing the game with more than maximum QPD.
|Seppe de Wit trades quaffle driving for lawnmower driving in preparation for the game | Photo credit: Louis Lermytte|
Perhaps because of their first victory, Deurne Dodo made some mistakes during the second game that the Leprechauns managed to capitalize on. The Dodo’s usual clean passing game was nowhere to be found, and the first snitch catch – by Deurne – was ruled no good because the seeker was off broom during the catch. In addition, the Leprechauns’ keeper, Vinni Versonnen, proved especially hard to tackle. The game ended with the Leprechauns scoring a few goals and Gust Lumbeeck catching the snitch. Overall, though, Deurne Dodo was still the more dominant team.
Ghent Gargoyles Quidditch Club - Leviathans Quidditch Liège
|Photo credit: Belgian Quidditch Federation|
For a while, it looked as though this game was doomed to never take place – referees were found only at the last minute. The wind kept blowing down the hoops on both sides, but that did not stop the teams from playing their best. Compared to the Gargoyles, the Leviathans are still a young team, and they are also the competitive team with the least experience. Still, if the Gargoyles thought they were in for an easy win, they were mistaken. Though Ghent was the more dominant team in regards to quaffle points, they still struggled to keep the Leviathans from scoring, and the teams seemed fairly evenly matched. Liège ended the first game on a cold catch, presumably saving their strength for later games.
The second set proved even tougher for the Gargoyles, with the Leviathans better anticipating their moves and managing to stay within SWIM range throughout the game, which ended in a snitch catch by Liège.
|Micah Unruh | Photo credit: Quidpic.be|
It was not until the third and final game that the Gargoyles started playing at full strength, possibly encouraged by the signs of exhaustion from Liège. Both teams have a distinct playing style. The Gargoyles’ team seems to be built around their talented new keeper, Micah Unruh, whereas the Leviathans have a more homogeneous team. Ghent shows how much difference one key player can make – the downside being that the opponents know which player to focus on – whereas Liège counts on the advantage of having potential danger from all sides. Predictable or not, Ghent’s strategy paid off, and it won the game by catching the third set snitch well out of snitch range.
Brussels Qwaffles - Deurne Dodo B
|Photo credit: Belgian Quidditch Federation|
About as experienced as Deurne Dodo A, the Brussels Qwaffles are one of the top teams in Belgium, but Deurne’s B team can count on the same driven coach as the A team (Louis Lermytte) and is therefore not to be underestimated either. Despite Dodo B missing two key players, chasers Tim Steenbeke and Jeroen Spruyt, and relatively low player number, it played an extremely strong first set. Toon “DJ” De Jonge got the team off to a good start while the Qwaffles suffered from what is commonly referred to as their “Diesel problem:” they need some time to really get into the game. In this case, a full set. The Dodo’s tactics seemed to outweigh the Qwaffles’ experience at some points, keeping the teams within snitch range. The snitch was caught by Dodo B, making them the second Belgian team to ever have beaten the Qwaffles (Dodo A being the other one).
|Brussels Qwaffles vs. Deurne Dodo B at the Belgian Quidditch Cup | Photo credit: Quidpic.be|
The Diesel engine seemed all warmed up by the second game, and the Qwaffles anticipated the Dodo’s tactics better and played a strong set. Dodo B kept their collective head up, but the team struggled with exhaustion and a lack of beater subs in particular. De Jonge still managed to score a few goals, supported by beater Katrien De Doncker, but the Qwaffles were the more dominant team and took the second set home.
The deciding third set continued in much the same way: Deurne continued with only nine players after Nathan De Ridder got injured, putting even more stress on the remaining and already exhausted players. The more experienced and better-stocked Qwaffles managed to win the set and secure the game victory without too much effort, although the Dodo’s tenacity is admirable.
Players and referees alike seem happy with the league in general and the three-set system in particular. Finding referees in time for each game is still a rather stressful endeavour, and teams would like to see that improved. The Belgian Quidditch Federation has taken these concerns into account and is now granting referees a refund of their travel expenses in addition to their volunteer reward. Referees are generally happy with the evolution, as well as the chance to put theory into practice more often thanks to the regular games. Although playing three sets on one day can put more strain on the smaller teams, the consensus is that it is a better way of gauging a team’s strength. It takes some teams a full set to get their heads into the game, and teams learn how to play one another along the way. There is a clear evolution in gameplay from one set to the next.
When asked about possible downsides of the current league system, the community has responded that the distinction between developing teams and league teams is not necessarily a good one, especially considering the relatively small number of teams currently active in Belgium. Giving all teams access to the league would make for a more interesting competition, better experience, and faster growth. At the same time, voices are heard that complain about the large discrepancy in level of gameplay between the teams currently participating in the league, saying it is not motivational for younger teams to be crushed by the more experienced teams, and that the latter do not gain much additional experience from defeating the first.
Sébastien Fraiture, coach of Leviathans Quidditch Liège, raises another concern: the age gap between the different players in the league.
“We realised some of our players are almost old enough to be the Deurne players' parents!” Fraiture said. With around half of the Leviathans’ players being older than 30, Fraiture has an idea for the future of whom he lovingly calls grabataires (bedridden/elderly quidditch players). “I’d like to share this exclusive with the QP readers: in one or two years, Liège Leviathans will probably create a league especially aimed at the older generation of quidditch players.”
Upcoming Rounds Predictions
The next round consists of the following games: Ghent Gargoyles Quidditch Club versus Leuven Leprechauns, both Deurne Dodo teams (A & B) facing off against each other, and the Liège Leviathans taking on Brussels Qwaffles. Although experience does not necessarily outweigh talent, the more experienced teams (Ghent, Deurne Dodo A, and Brussels) will presumably win these games. Leuven has been struggling with a lot of board changes and a lack of players, Dodo B should – by default – be the lesser of the two Dodo teams, and although the Leviathans definitely show promise, they will need just a little more experience before they can take on the Qwaffles.
Building on last year’s performance and play at Belgian Cup, one can expect this trend to continue throughout the season, with Deurne Dodo A and the Brussels Qwaffles taking the highest spots in the final ranking. Although Leuven has a few good players, they lack the numbers and experience to take on the other teams, which will probably land them somewhere along the bottom of the ranking. It is harder to predict where the other three teams (Ghent Gargoyles Quidditch Club, Deurne Dodo B, and Liège Leviathans) will end up. The Leviathans are showing promising progress, but it might not be happening fast enough to upset any rankings yet – although they are definitely a team to watch out for in the future. Deurne Dodo’s B tactics might prove too strong for the Gargoyles, so a tentative prediction would be third place for Dodo B, fourth for the Gargoyles, and fifth for Liège Leviathans.