By Ashara Peiris
World Cup 2016 was the most international event that the world has ever seen, with a record 21 teams competing from around the world. Many of these teams had standout players, but who were the best of the best? I have chosen who I think were the best seven players from the tournament to make up the all-tournament team. The only restrictions for constructing this team were that the team must satisfy the gender rule and there could only be a maximum of three players from any one team.
First up, some honourable mentions:
Jayke Archibald – Keeper – USA
Michael Duquette – Beater – USA
Lucy Quidditch – Beater – UK
James Thanangadan – Chaser – UK
Louis Lermytte – Chaser – Belgium
Robyn Fortune – Chaser – Canada
Dameon Osborn – Seeker – Australia
Ashley Cooper – Coach – UK
And now onto the main team:
Callum Mayling – Keeper – Australia
As keeper for 2014 and 2015 QUAFL champions the Melbourne Manticores, Callum Mayling was one of the players who people knew to watch out for before the tournament. Throughout World Cup, Mayling proved to be an imposing player on both offence and defence. On the latter, he was extremely adept at stopping long shots and batting away loose quaffles. Where Mayling really shone though was on offence, where his strong driving enabled him to drive through every defence. Notably, Mayling was able to go coast to coast on a fully set up quaffle defence from the USA on a number of occasions, as well as setting up his teammates with picture perfect passes. This combination of physicality, driving ability, passing, and leadership is what set Mayling apart from his peers.
Tyler Walker – Beater – USA
Tyler Walker came into World Cup off an incredible US Quidditch Cup 9 performance, in which he was largely responsible for dragging his team – the Ball State Cardinals – all the way into the Final Four of the tournament. His impressive form continued at World Cup, where he was regularly able to shut down offences with a deep half-court press followed by swift transitions into his own offence. Walker was particularly instrumental in the semifinals game against the UK, where he was able to stem the tide of goals and open up opportunities for the USA chasers to score. In the early stages of the game against Australia, Walker was part of the line that was able to score 50 points unopposed. He possesses an excellent awareness at all times, and whilst he may lack the seemingly supernatural catching ability of Michael Duquette, Walker more than makes up for it with phenomenal positioning and a fantastic arm. When Walker advanced up the pitch – often with Alyssa Burton closely behind – few defences were able to cope with the extreme pressure.
Luke Derrick – Beater – Australia
Luke Derrick of the Sydney Unspeakables is one of the major stories of the event, as he was pivotal in ensuring that Australia could stay in range against the USA, as well as giving their seekers space to work, often creating one-on-one time with the snitch for both Neil Kemister and Dameon Osborn. Most impressively, Derrick was repeatedly able to hold his own and come out on top against the beating trifecta of Max Havlin, Michael Duquette, and Tyler Walker. His defensive positioning was excellent, continually stymieing the opposing offence by cutting off passing options before removing the quaffle carrier and quickly transitioning into offensive play that would wipe out the opposing beaters. His effective use of this aggressive style meant that, despite bludgers seemingly flying around haphazardly, he was always in control.
Bex Lowe – Chaser – UK
Bex Lowe of Durhamstrang had one of the best weekends of her quidditch career so far. Prior to the tournament, her fellow chasers Jackie Woodburn and Jemma Thripp were expected to be the stars of the UK’s female chaser lineup, but Lowe blew them all away with dominant performances all weekend long. Most impressive of all was that she was able to continue this amazing form in the semifinal against the USA and the third place playoff against Canada. In these games she utilised great marking to shut down other teams’ passing options and an uncanny ability to pounce on any loose ball. On offence she exhibited not only excellent positioning, but also the ability to drive her way through to the hoops despite facing off against some of the best chaser defences in the world. Her ability to get through the opposition in spite of getting hit hard is what truly puts her into the top tier.
Karen Douglas – Chaser – Brazil
As part of one of the smallest squads at World Cup and eventual 16th place finishers, a Brazilian player might seem like an odd choice for the all-tournament team. However, for anyone who saw Karen Douglas play, her spot on the squad is incredibly well-deserved. As a member of the Quidditch Canada champions, the Ottawa GeeGees, Douglas continually impressed over the entire tournament, with incredible positioning on offence and tight marking on defence. She also showcased great chemistry with her teammates, particularly Ben Whong, with whom she was able to score the vast majority of the Brazilian team’s goals. Douglas was pivotal in their defence, diving on loose balls and batting them away from Brazil’s hoops. Whilst Douglas may not have performed for one of the medal contenders, her performance was easily equal to those on better teams.
Jarrod Growse – Chaser – Australia
Australia boasted an impressively deep chaser lineup at World Cup with the likes of experienced players James Osmond, Andrew Culf, and Dameon Osborn all making notable contributions. However, it was newcomer Growse who really caught the eye in Frankfurt. The 20-year-old Wrackspurts player displayed an excellent all-round game characterized by his strong and determined finishing – such as his opening goal in the final, in which he forced his way through two tackles to score – and tenacious wing defence. In the game against a strong Belgium side, Growse dominated, consistently scoring and helping to slow down and stop the Belgian offence. Growse demonstrated great cohesion with his teammates throughout the tournament and, considering his age, he could well be a fixture in the Dropbears side for years to come should he maintain his form.
Ben Morton – Seeker – UK
Captain, leader, legend. These were the words spoken often about Morton over World Cup weekend. Now in his third stint as player and second as captain – he was a non-playing coach at Global Games 2014 due to injury – Morton continues to grow in leaps and bounds every time we see him. Whilst he performed admirably as a chaser, he truly excelled as a seeker. With a high-intensity seeking style, driving toward the seeker and throwing his limbs at them with a ferocious fervour, Morton was able to get through the defence of snitches, or weaken them sufficiently for the final catch. In the game against Canada, only the smallest movement by the snitch prevented Morton from having a firm grip on the snitch and denying him the catch, yet this attack was sufficient to wear down the snitch for a catch from Luke Twist. Morton’s performance over the tournament was excellent and, should he continue to improve at his current rate, he will undoubtedly be returning to the UK squad in 2017.
Rachel Malone – Coach – Canada
You would never be able to tell that Rachel Malone was only recently called up to be a non-playing coach – and speaking captain – for Canada after an eye injury ruled out one of their original assistant coaches Paul Gour from attending World Cup. Alongside playing coaches Chris Radojewski and Matt Bourassa, Malone performed phenomenally all weekend, giving clear instructions to members of the team and the bench at all times, as well as having good rapport and sportsmanship with opposing teams and the referees. Her level-headed coaching style clearly helped lead Canada to the Final Four of the competition, and whilst it was not enough to give them the edge over UK in the third-place game, Malone’s performance should absolutely be commended. Of all quidditch-playing nations, Canada’s dedication to developing their coaches to a high standard through both training and official certification has clearly started paying dividends, and if they continue in this vein, it will not be long before other coaches of Malone’s calibre enter the international spotlight.