Thursday, March 24, 2016

Victorian Fantasy Tournament 2016 Recap

By Liam McCoppin

Editor’s Note: Liam McCoppin was the GM for Team Grey at the tournament. 

On March 5-6, Melbourne hosted its second annual Victorian Fantasy Tournament at La Trobe University, Bundoora, where players from around Australia had the chance to play in teams and with people they had never played with before. Tournaments like these appeal to those who wish to try new positions, work with different playing styles, or perhaps learn new skills from experienced players. This tournament continues to grow, with 91 players participating this year and a record number from interstate. Here is a short rundown on how each team performed, including analysis of their mistakes, highlights, and how they went right or wrong.

Carrot 0-6
Not ‘the Carrots,’ not ‘Team Carrot,’ not ‘Carrot-182’; general managers Deni Tasman and Michael Braham simply named their team ‘Carrot.’ Carrot boasted some of the best female players available in the draft, including Caitlin Thomas and Samantha Chittenden. However, it quickly became apparent that no matter how skilled your players might be, they cannot achieve anything if the ball does not get to them. Braham and Mark Dorman went down with injuries, but even before losing those key players Carrot struggled to find consistent and accurate ball carriers to utilise its strong female chaser line. Thus, Carrot’s female chasers struggled, with only three goals from all of them combined.

Caitlin Thomas chasing for Carrot | Photo Credit: Courtney Clark Photography 

James Thorpe was his sneaky and accurate best; he was the top goal scorer for Carrot with a total of eight goals. This still was not enough, though, as Carrot had the most goals scored on them of all six teams during pool play, conceding 50 goals in five games. This may be attributed to Carrot’s attempt to play a zone defence, as it was the only team to do so. Playing a zone defence which requires each member of the team to be on the same page in a fantasy tournament was a questionable option that did not end well for Carrot. Perhaps other teams could make it work, but it was not a successful gamble this time.

Red Ned Redemption 1-5
Red Ned Redemption promised tough, hard, uncompromising quidditch, but instead delivered an impotent offence and a lack of leadership. The team was named after the Blue Monkeys GM Ned Smith, in an attempt to show their determination to grind opponents into the growing amount of dust behind them. However, Red Ned Redemption’s two general managers, Bodie Nash and David Blamey, perhaps should have played a little more like the team’s namesake, as both failed to deliver the goal scoring prowess that got them into the Victorian state team. Between the two of them, they scored only three goals all tournament.

A shining light for the Redemptions was the rise of new Blackburn Basilisk player Patrick Kelly, making his quidditch debut at this fantasy competition. Despite his performance as the Redemptions top goal scorer – scoring seven goals throughout the tournament – this was not enough to carry the team over the line. With almost no offensive tactics or threats, and key beater Dean Rodhouse sustaining a broken hand, Red Ned Redemption scored the least goals of any team in pool play. Did Red Ned Redemption talk the talk pre-tournament? It most certainly did. Did it walk the walk during the tournament? It most certainly did not. Did the Red team have fun and learn from this tournament? Definitely.

Patrick Kelly scores for Red Ned Redemption | Photo Credit: Courtney Clark Photography

Blue Monkeys 3-4
General managers Ned ‘Nedrick Lamar’ Smith and Natasha Keehan looked to bring both talent and a little guile to their managerial roles with the Blue Monkeys. Although it appeared to be a well-rounded squad, the Blue Team never quite clicked into gear, and it was costly. However, numerous individual players from this team performed well.  Miles Sneddon, who scored 24 goals, and Smith, who scored eight, provided the team’s offensive ball carrier role. This combined with the highest female goal score output of any team in the tournament Madeline Coleman-Bock with five, Jacqui Kleiner with one, and Bianca Gibson with one meant the Blue Monkeys had admirable quaffle presence from some players. However, an injury to Logan Davis, and less demonstrated prowess from names such as Kenji Fujihara (five goals) and Ed Farrell (none), meant the Blue Monkeys could not find enough avenues to give them a chance against the better teams.

Miles Sneddon for Blue Monkeys | Photo Credit: Courtney Clark Photography

The Blue Monkeys almost managed to achieve the upset of the tournament in their semifinal against eventual winners Gandalf the Greys. At one point, the Monkeys even led by two goals. However, it was the same signature weakness seen throughout the tournament that ultimately let them down: the beaters. The Blue Monkeys beaters never seemed to gather themselves together, even as names such as Hussain Al-Qalaf, Hannah Jackson, Zach Giofkou, and star manager Natasha Keehan all were expected to dominate lesser combinations. Ultimately, the shortcomings lay in their inability to gain bludger control, even against weaker duos. Their patchy play was strong at times yet torrid at others, and this is what undid the Blue Monkeys.

The Cheeky Pinkies 4-3
Somewhat similar to Carrot, Cheeky Pinkies General Managers James Osmond and Regina Atkinson chose high-end female talent in the draft, taking arguably the cream of the crop. Star picks included Australian Drop Bears players Hannah Monty and Taya Rawson. However, both players may have been picked too highly, with Rawson scoring only four goals and Monty’s beating excellent yet rarely game-changing. Osmond, like the similarly-built Sneddon, carried the torch in regards to goals scored for the Cheeky Pinkies, scoring a tournament-high 25 goals, while Leslie Fox contributed heavily with 18. The Pinkies proved themselves to be a force to be reckoned with, taking the lead at some points in both games against Gandalf the Greys and the Green Team, the eventual grand finalists. As the tournament wore on, a lack of depth was seen across the team once key players were subbed off, creating dramatically weaker sides.

Taya Rawson chasing for Cheeky Pinkies | Photo Credit: Courtney Clark Photography

The Pinkies finished third in pool play, losing to the Green Team 120*-110 after Green caught the snitch, a disappointing result considering they were up by 50 points only moments before. Therefore, it was a reactionary move to counter the beating of Green Team’s Luke Derrick that saw the Cheeky Pinkies put General Manager and top scorer Osmond in to beat during the semifinal. This decision proved to be one that resulted in the team’s second loss, as not only did the Pinkies look far weaker in offense moving the ball forward, but Osmond was less effective than the dominant Derrick. This decision, coupled with the aforementioned lack of depth, is what left the Pinkies looking not so cheeky after bowing out of the competition in third place.

The Green Team 5-2
The Green Team did not have a set name for the entire tournament, instead choosing a different name for every game they played. Some of these particularly original names include: Green Eggs and Ham, the Greenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Green Hornets, the Green Leprechauns, the Green McMoppins, and Green Day. Perhaps other team managers could follow the lead of Green Teams Jarrod Growse and Charlie Crutchfield by taking this ‘name-morphing’ tactic on board, as Green Team had a successful tournament with a second place finish. The Green Team followed the lead of recent strong fantasy teams by ensuring it acquired the best male players available, even with the strong talent already present in their general managers. Their picks continually bore fruit throughout the tournament, as the Green Team lost only to Gandalf the Greys.

Although praise can be heaped upon the Green Team for its grand final appearance, it is important to identify where this team went wrong. The Green Team fell apart in the grand final against Gandalf the Greys, losing 170*-80, perhaps due to their lack of a highly-skilled passer or primary ball carrier. The Green Team had great finishers and drivers, with Growse (16 goals), Will Hellier (13 goals), Crutchfield (8 goals), and Minh Diep (7 goals) providing dangerous threats on offense. What Green Team did not have was a strong passing game. Once its chasers were forced to pass around defences, there were too many interceptions and missed passes. The Green Team was no doubt a great group of individual players, but it was not a great collective team, and this let the squad down at the last hurdle.

Minh Diep chasing for the Green Team | Photo Credit: Courtney Clark Photography

Gandalf the Greys 7-0
Gandalf the Greys did not necessarily go into the tournament as favourites in many people’s books, perhaps due to the large number of interstate players drafted into the team by General Managers Nicola Gertler and Liam McCoppin. However, the Greys prevailed and finished the tournament undefeated, only rarely looking challenged. This team looked to take a number of high-end male chasers and then used a value-for-money approach by taking the most skilled players available later on to create the finished product. As such, the Greys finished with the most goals in pool play, the least goals scored against, and four of the top eight goal scorers with Nathan Morton (20 goals), Raj Kapoor (17 goals), Jack Ball (14 goals), and Evan Wright (13 goals) doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. Goal-scoring was not limited solely to male players, as Madeline Elliot (three goals), Emma Wright (two goals), and Rhiannon Gordon (one goal) all hit the scoreboard, and it was the second-highest female goal-scoring team. The spread of goal scorers showed that Gandalf the Greys did not rely on driving or long shooting but rather based their offense on a strong team passing game.

Occasionally, teams seemed to gain an edge over Gandalf the Greys’ beating, with both the Green Team and Blue Monkeys managing to withhold bludger control from the Greys for large periods of time. However, it seemed that even without bludger control, the team’s defence could still make enough tackles and intercepts to stop goals. It is difficult to fault the team effort from Gandalf the Greys across the tournament, and general managers in future fantasy drafts would be advised to strongly consider the drafting strategy employed by the Greys.

Further thanks must go to those involved in helping run the tournament, especially tournament director Nicola Gertler. For those wishing to have a closer look at quidditch in Melbourne, Victoria’s primary season began March 19, with matches held twice a month in Fawker Park, South Yarra.

Gandalf the Greys, Victorian Fantasy Champions | Photo Credit: Kassi Grace

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