By Ajantha Abey
This Saturday past saw trials for New South Wales’ newest team and the start of a new era of quidditch in Australia. After years of rumours and discussion, the Sydney City Serpents were announced as a new community-based team in mid-December last year. The club is expected to be made up mostly of players graduating from other university clubs, making this the first graduate community team in Australia, similar to Velociraptors Quidditch Club in the UK or Lone Star Quidditch Club in the US.
Alexander Enrico, originally of the University of Sydney Unspeakables, will be the coach of the new club. Enrico has been playing since 2012, though he stepped away from playing in 2015 to manage. It is also widely understood that Luke Derrick, originally captain and coach of the Unspeakables, played a founding role in the club, as he was the one who came up with the idea.
Enrico spoke about the emergence of the new club and rumours circulating around it. It is only now, Enrico said, that there has been enough interest to form the club.
“The idea started back in 2015, but it did not have that much interest then and it largely was not the right time for a new team to be set up back then, so it never really took off,” Enrico said. “However in 2016, more and more people got on board, and there was enough interest for us to believe that this team was ready to get cracking, so we decided it was going to happen.”
Enrico found interest in many players – especially from the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales (UNSW) Snapes on a Plane – who graduated and felt the need to move on in order to grow the sport and give their old teams space to grow.
Though the Serpents have been widely dubbed as “The Luke Derrick Experience,”Enrico reassured us that while everyone involved thought this was hilarious and was enjoying the publicity, it would absolutely not be so.
“Mainly it is myself and Luke Derrick as a lot of people will know, and a fair few people from Usyd and UNSW Snapes on a Plane to help organise it to start with,” Enrico said. “But as far as whether it truly will be the ‘Luke Derrick Experience?’ Absolutely not. Luke is the person who came up with the idea first, but the club doesn’t revolve around him…. A club revolving around one person is just destined for failure, and that is not what this club is going to be like.
Indeed, Enrico also noted that players can expect to have fun.
“We’re not taking things too seriously either,” Enrico said. “I mean, our second name option was Sydney City Stir Fries.”
Nevertheless, with some of the top players in the state and country among those graduating from the University of Sydney, UNSW, and other teams in the region, the Serpents are already being called a “Super Team,” with many Dropbears and State representatives among the mix of names rumoured to be transferring to the new club. Enrico stated that these rumours were too much to claim with no games played yet and no names even confirmed on the team.
“The prediction of super team will absolutely depend on performance, and maybe we can become that in the future,” Enrico said.
Enrico also believes that there is no need to worry about having to potentially manage so many ‘big-ego’ players, many of whom would have been captains or coaches of their previous teams, been playing for many years, and would feel like they knew what was best for a team.
“Once you bring everyone in and assure them that we are all fighting for the same goal, with a strong belief that we can only do this as a team, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to have an ego,” Enrico said. “If there is any one ego that comes through in that situation, that person cares more about themselves than the team, and that can be toxic. But with the people who are interested so far, we all want to chase a common goal, and we believe that [goal] to be achievable through hard work from everyone.”
Enrico said that his vision for the club was to be as family-oriented as possible, creating a cohesive and tight-knit unit of players who felt like a team, rather than a group of players plucked from other teams.
“While I want the team to play great-quality quidditch on the field, I want people off the field to look out for each other and trust each other,” Enrico said. “When people trust each other off field, it comes across on field too.”
While the club has received criticism for claiming to be open to everyone, but still holding trials and therefore seeming elitist, Enrico noted that the trials were not necessarily selective.
“I won’t say the trials are for selection,” Enrico said. “For me, it is more of a gauge of the things that people need to work on, and of course if we have more than 21, I may have some thinking to do about what to do with the addition of more people…. If we have less than 21, which may or may not happen, then everyone is welcome to join in, I don’t see why not, the more the merrier. We created this club to grow the sport, and if we turn people away then I don’t think that will be in the full and right spirit of the club, and what our vision of establishing this new club is to be.”
The club is also expected recruit from the wider community as well as the existing quidditch community, and given the existing talent Enrico hopes to see on the team, he expects that any new players will learn and improve much more rapidly than if they were to join another team.
They are not the only teams affected, though, with mid-tier teams such as the University of Newcastle and University of Technology Sydney Opaleyes also potentially losing key players to the Serpents. This leaves minor champions Western Sydney Quidditch Club and semifinalists Australian National University Owls near the top of the ladder, but unconfirmed losses to Western Sydney Quidditch Club’s roster through retirement, injury, or other transfers could weaken their position as well. The Macquarie Marauders are unlikely to be affected by Serpents transfers, and any recruiting to bolster their already strong roster should see a rise for them as well; the same may be said for the Macarthur Weasleys.The Serpents will be the 11th team in the NSW/Australian Capital Territory area, and the seventh team in Sydney itself, adding to an already incredibly densely populated quidditch region and will likely have a huge impact in the state league. Potentially wiping out large numbers of the top players from the 2016 State finalists University of Sydney Unspeakables and UNSW Snapes on a Plane will likely mean that these two teams will fall back in the competition with most of their star power gone, and so will have to recruit heavily to stay near the top of the ladder.
All of this could likely mean a general levelling of the competition in NSW, with the exception of the Serpents reigning uncontested at the top of the ladder. It will also be interesting to see how these changes will affect the NSW teams in general against other clubs in different states and whether any of the top Victorian teams will be able to challenge the Serpents. Whether or not the founding of this new graduate community team kicks off a trend in the country – as has been seen in the US and UK – is yet to be seen, though it is entirely possible that 2018 could see the rise of rival teams for the Serpents through an increasing shift toward community-based teams as universities continue to lose their top players in return for new recruits. The likely emergence of a similar team in Victoria could have a similar levelling effect in that state, while posing a potential challenge to the Serpents.
As for now, 2017 looks like it is shaping up to be an interesting year for Australian quidditch, and with the Serpents’ trials this past weekend, team announcements and official transfer news leading into the new season should be coming soon.
“It is uncharted territory, and it is incredibly exciting,” Enrico said. “I cannot even begin to think about how things are going to turn out, and I am just really keen to get things cracking… I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been involved in the organisation of the club in the background. I’m thankful for the support it’s been getting, and I am looking forward to 2017 – it’s going to be a cracking year. I’m very excited to see how this turns out. 2017 is the year of the Serpents!”