Wednesday, December 7, 2016

QUAFL Preview 2016 - Pool 2

By Daniel Fox, Minh Diep, Liam McMoppin, Arfy Papadam, and Daniel Scharf

Editor’s Note: Minh Diep is a player for UNSW and Arfy Papadam is a player for the Macarthur Weasleys.

QUAFL is the Australian national championships open to all teams held at the end of every calendar year, signifying the end of the Australian season. The year 2016 will see 23 teams from six states travel to the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra. Here we preview the teams from Pool 2 in order of Pod seeding, with guest writers from around the country.

Australian National University (ANU) Owls
The year of 2016 has been one of quiet achievement for the ANU Owls, and has been their most successful year to date. In addition to moving into second place in the NSW league, this year the Owls won their first tournament ever as a combined ANU/USC Dementors team at the Midwinter Cup, and followed it up by becoming the inaugural Asia Champions two weeks later at the Asian Quidditch Cup. In interstate competition, ANU reached the semifinals of Melbourne MudBash, where they were knocked out by the eventual winners, the Melbourne Manticores.

This season the Owls have largely maintained their previous roster, but have added a number of new recruits who have solidified the depth and in-game structure of the team. Other teams would be unwise to focus purely on the old guard of the Owls, including Dropbears Captain James Mortensen, player Shu Ying Lee, and reserve Oscar Cozens. Newer faces such as Matt “the Dreamer” Theophile and Thomas “Arms-for-Days” Morrissey, should not be underestimated.

Thomas Morrissey chasing for ANU at August NSW Triwizard Tournament | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The Owls will be looking to vastly improve on last year’s QUAFL, where they did not make finals, and this year finish top of their pool. However, they have drawn two teams that they have historically poor records against – the Monash Muggles and University of New South Wales (UNSW). For ANU to make a deep run in bracket play, we can expect to see them maintain their methodical and structured gameplay that has been developed over the course of the year. In addition, they will be looking to demonstrate greater adaptation on pitch and offensive team chemistry than has been seen in recent form.

University of New South Wales Snapes on a Plane
The 2016 season has been a rollercoaster of a year for UNSW.  Several important losses of key players from the core squad throughout the season has left UNSW needing to train and teach a lot of new players.  The resulting inconsistencies must be disappointing for a team that is so used to consistently cruising through past seasons.  UNSW ended up placing third in the NSW season, and made it past the semifinal against a flustered ANU team, but fell short at the grand final hurdle to a superior University of Sydney.  The season ended on a reasonably high note, but the team and its management is now very aware of what they need to improve on to repeat previous results at QUAFL.

Emmanuel Berkowicz, returned to UNSW | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The return of Christopher Rock and Emmanuel Berkowicz will be a big advantage for the team, meaning they have more depth in their beaters this year, as well as two very capable seekers again. Rajtilak Kapoor and Andrew Culf were missing at key points throughout the season due to university commitments, but both of UNSW’s star quaffle players will be hungry for points and for wins.  The loss of Michael Thomson is huge, and their new keeper, Stephen Wang will need to step up in his first QUAFL if UNSW aim to top their group and progress through finals.

Monash Muggles
The Muggles have grown into their 2016 season exactly as we have come to expect from them. At the beginning of 2015, the Muggles experienced a large exodus of players, resulting in the team falling short in the final four at QUAFL 2015 against eventual runners up UNSW. The team this year, however, now has another year of experience, and we have seen the rise of some very good players, including Team Australia players Nathan Morton (chaser) and Caitlin Thomas (chaser), as well as State representatives Dan Leane (keeper), Nicola Gertler (beater), and Zachary Giofkou (beater). The Monash-based university team has recruited well, and under the tactical smarts of Captain Nicola Gertler, Monash is looking in fantastic shape to bounce back into the final four.

Dropbear and State Representative Caitlin Thomas | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

With big wins against top Victorian teams throughout the year, including two-time QUAFL winners the Melbourne Manticores, many realised just how dangerous Monash are becoming. Such results seem unrewarded as Monash were seeded, perhaps controversially, into Pod Three for QUAFL 2016. The Muggles are not a team to let such things keep them down, however, and with Dan Leane growing into an exceptional quaffle user, ably supported by an extremely hard working and well trained side, watch out for the Muggles to prove their doubters wrong and push deep into Sunday’s finals.

Macarthur Weasleys
The Macarthur Weasleys are the longest-running community-based team in NSW (founded in January 2013), but they have only been playing ranked matches since August of this year, when the prospect of travelling to QUAFL appeared realistic for the first time. The Weasleys enter QUAFL coming off their best form to date. Despite their final results, spectators and opponents alike would agree the Weasleys were impressive against UNSW and Newcastle in October, ahead on the scoreboard in the early stages, holding snitch range longer than previous tournaments, and making opponents work hard for their wins. However, they were still unable to notch up any wins against the top seven NSW teams this year.

“Best New Player of 2016” Arlyta Andrew | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The Weasleys squad is headed by Captain and Coach Ben Hosford, who has been with the team since August 2014. Hosford leads the team with a slow and calculated approach in attack, and believes he can drive the Weasleys to the QUAFL playoffs. Players to watch include chaser Arlyta Andrew, awarded “Best New Player of 2016” in NSW, in addition to representing the NSW B team in the 2016 State of Origin. However, it may be new chaser Michael Moustakas who steals the show, having made his tournament debut this past October. Maya Andrew and David Morrin are also new chaser recruits to watch. The Weasleys beater contingent will be led by Nic Radoll and Jason Taylor, both of whom joined the Weasleys this year from other teams. Julia Baston brings a wealth of experience to the table, having been with the Weasleys since their tournament debut in March 2014. Jasmine Robinson will lead the charge as head seeker, in addition to being a nimble and skillful chaser. Notable absentees include beater Brodie Macnamara and powerhouse keeper Lincoln Macnamara, and the potential loss of beating pair Arfy Papadam and Clare Thorn due to injury.

The Weasleys are proud of their Pod Four placement, and are excited by the prospect of playing interstate teams for the first time. While the Owls, Snapes, and Muggles will likely prove too much for the Weasleys to handle, they will make them work hard for their wins, and QUAFL provides the perfect place for a shock upset.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Lycans
The QUT Lycans return this year for their second QUAFL, with another year’s worth of experience under their belt. They defeated the ACU Paladins in the State Finals with a snitch catch, however they were unable to defeat the strong USC Dementors for the title. This QUAFL the team returns with four previous players: Matt Hoole, Kaitlyn Moore, Hayley Grice, and Alistair Muir-Smith. However, the Lycans will only have 11 players in total, which will make for a difficult weekend. The absence of powerhouse chaser Cody Christensen means the team will be relying on the State representatives Jacob Davis (one of the second-highest goalscorers in the state)  and Kallum Strachan to do the bulk of the work.

State Representative Kallum Strachan | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

It is unlikely the Lycans will be able to break into finals with the strong teams at the top of their pool, but the games against the Weasleys and South Australia Bunyips will be interesting – can they match the fast pace of the Lycans? Last QUAFL, the Lycans managed a decisive win against another debutant team, the Adelaide Augureys, but lost all other games outside snitch range. Another year of playing experience should give them the advantage over the Bunyips, and maybe even surprise the Weasleys, who have been playing for longer but are only attending their first QUAFL.

South Australia Bunyips
The Bunyips are a conglomerate of the teams in South Australia that could not bring their own full rosters. Players come from the Flinders Fantastic Beasts and the Glenelg Gargoyles, as well as two players set to establish the Adelaide Abraxans and Adelaide University teams. How well this mash up of teams comes together remains to be seen.

The chaser lineup is very light on experience, with Sara Wilkinson the only chaser who has played at QUAFL, while Joel Stanley has only played a single game against the Adelaide Augureys. New Glenelg Gargoyles quaffle players Mike Slattery and Matt Brummeluis have showed fearsome tenacity and commitment on the field, but have yet to play in a formal match. This lack of experience is concerning in the face of seasoned veterans from UNSW, Monash, and ANU, especially considering how lost on offence the Flinders University team looked against the Adelaide Augureys while star player Dania Ruminski-Smith was seeking. The Bunyips’ beating lineup is similarly new, with former Augureys’ beaters Danielle McCormick and Annalise Turner joined by Flinders’ Sakura Lim and newcomer Ethan Francis. The Bunyips will be relying on their utility players, with William Gow, Ezra Juanta, Victor Tan, and Tessa Jensen filling multiple roles for the team. The absence of Flinders Captain Nick Telenko and utility players Krishna Moorthy and Meg Kinniburgh could prove problematic, particularly in hot weather where subs will be crucial.

For the Bunyips, QUAFL will be all about having fun, learning the fundamentals of the game, and taking away enough experience to enable the building of new up-and-coming teams next year.

The South Australia Bunyips | Photo Credit: Kirsty Lucas
Overall, it will be interesting to see which of the three teams comes out first from pool play. Each of the Muggles, Owls, and UNSW have a strong chance of topping the pool after their strong seasons, though none emerged victors of their respective leagues. State of Origin proved Victoria to be the superior State, but can the Muggles live up to their name, or will NSW win out? It would be surprising to see any of the Weasleys, Lycans, or Bunyips take a finals place, but the game of quidditch is not played on paper, and stranger things have happened. Who defeats whom between the lower three is also a mystery. Will the Weasleys longer playing experience win out, or will the pressure of a first QUAFL prove too much? Can the newer Bunyips do better than their Augurey predecessors and come away with their first win? Find out on Dec. 10th!

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