Development Cup 2017 Preview

By Tom Newton

On April 22-23, Horspath Athletics Ground will host the inaugural Development Cup, also known as Dev Cup. Of the nine attending teams, four are regional attendees who were denied a nationals berth in lower-bracket knockouts, whilst five are newcomer teams who were either unable to attend regionals, had to drop out, or have since sprung into existence. Each team has been given the option of receiving a development coach from a nationals-qualified club to guide them through the event and aid in their development.

The tournament structure is laid out in two days of round-robin play in which each team will play every other team once. After each of these games have been played, the teams will be ranked using the QuidditchUK tiebreakers. This analysis is presented by team in ascending order based on predicted final position.

Glasgow Grim Reapers

Perhaps fittingly for the year in which Scottish quidditch shocked the UK, Dev Cup will see the attendance of the Glasgow Grim Reapers and hopefully the dawn of more stability and growth among the major urban hubs in Scotland.

Though their team is small, they have a couple of key differentiating factors that could tip the balance in their favour once they find their feet. First is Priska Reynolds, who, though not having played competitively for Warwick QC at a tournament, may bring some strategic quaffle knowledge from the southerners that Glasgow can use at Dev Cup to give them a little extra firepower against their opponents. Secondly, Glasgow will have Ash Cooper as coach. With his experience at the top of the European quidditch food chain, as well as his time spent with TeamUK as coach, this could be a decisive element.

Glasgow Grim Reapers | Photo Credit: Fredrik Davidsson, courtesy of Glasgow Quidditch

Even if Cooper does not organise his small squad well enough to take a victory from the weekend, the players on the Glasgow team will surely go away with plenty of material to raise their game for next season that other newer teams will have to develop more organically.

Prediction: Ninth, going 0-8

Bournemouth Banshees

Bournemouth Banshees are a university team that were founded toward the end of the 2015-16 season but have had limited competitive experience. Their only games came when the Exeter Eagles hosted a mini-tournament tied into Exeter’s South West League match with the Brizzlebears. Bournemouth, with the addition of a couple of mercenaries from the other attendees, did reasonably well, managing an outofrange win against Winchester.

With one of the smaller rosters at Dev Cup at only nine players, we can expect Bournemouth to likely be closer to the bottom of the competitors if they can sneak a win against some of the similarly inexperienced teams. A string of recent injuries whittling away at their numbers has hurt the Banshees significantly on the run up to the cup, costing them their star keeper Callum Newman, amongst others. However, talented players such as seeker Kuntay Onal and chaser Beth Vigor remain on the roster. The addition of a development coach might be able to rally the team into a competitive footing, though causing many upsets seems unlikely.

Prediction: Eighth, going 1-7.

UCLan Quidditch Team

UCLan, aka the Preston Poltergeists, went into Northern Cup and fell afoul of stiff opposition, routed in every game well out of range in pool play. This has not deterred Preston, however, and the team has made appearances at Cottonopolis Cup and held their yearly Chips and Gravy Quidditch Cup event, where they won a game with the aid of mercs. UCLan’s offensive chasing was praised at Cottonopolis, with excellent coordination and good use of a passing weave; Zac Lamont-Rodriguez particularly impressed at Valentines Cup, displaying solid and fast-footed ball carrying ability. Northern Watch recruit Megan Thomas has also developed strongly and will be another feather in the Poltergeist cap.

Whilst their chaser offence is talented, it is not adequately set up by their beaters, and defensively they are currently averaging 20 conceded goals per game. This implies a lack of physicality and defensive coordination. Not improving this at Dev Cup will see the Poltergeists defeated by the better Dev Cup teams.

Overall, Preston’s experience will likely allow them to defeat some of the other teams. Wins against Glasgow and Bournemouth seem likely with potential to upset the London Unbreakables or St Andrews Snidgets should their coordination improve.

Prediction: Seventh, going 2-6

Sheffield Steelfins

Sheffield QC has been a major talking point in QuidditchUK this year. This is their debut season and their first team can boast the most successful inaugural campaign in QuidditchUK history out of any collegiate team since the Radcliffe Chimeras. Capping off their achievements is having recruited enough to send a 19-player seconds team to Development Cup.

The Yorkshire outfit field a roster considerably larger than most others, allowing Sheffield to, in theory, play at maximum capacity for the entire match, offsetting many advantages held by other teams. They also have several players who have competed for the firsts side throughout the season, though not at British Quidditch Cup (BQC), meaning sparks of experienced talent will shine through, despite the team’s inexperience. Rebecca Livesey has stepped into the Steelfins’ captains’ armband with vigour and has attained a solid command of her team, whilst Johanne Westerlund is developing a name for herself as a solid defensive keeper with a knack for contact.

That said, driving plays and no-bludgers situations have cost the firsts side heavily this season when going up against experienced teams, and the seconds are unlikely to be different. Teams with more experienced beaters will create holes in Sheffield’s defence that they will struggle to fill, Westerlund notwithstanding. As such, a medal is unlikely to be on the cards, but gaining match experience, wins, and renown at Dev Cup in any standing is a victory in itself for the Steelfins.

Prediction: Sixth, going 3-5

London Unbreakables

The Unbreakables are the B-side for the oldest community team in the United Kingdom, the London Unspeakables, a club that has historically flitted between the top and middle tiers of QuidditchUK. The Unbreakables are fielding a very small roster of 10 players, putting them amongst the smallest of the competing sides. However, most of their players are not as brand new as their team is; many of their number are regular season Unspeakables who, for whatever reason, did not compete for their first team at BQC.

Thaison Dang playing for Unspeakables at Whiteknights 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Thaison Dang, formerly of Warwick QC, is stepping to the black headband in partnership with utility player Willow Rosenberg and the pair can be expected to produce impressive results. Furthermore, Outi Valkonen is taking to chasing very well and is developing into a potent threat. The whole team will benefit from high-level coaching from their firsts’ team; as such, we can expect a side that is wellversed in synchronicity. All this said, London have never been a club known to have top-class stamina, and with only 10 players, gameplay is going to drain them fast. If they cannot recover between games quickly, then crucial results may well slip beyond their grasp. Should the team be playing on a full tank, however, we can expect a decent finish for the Unbreakables.

Prediction: Fifth, going 4-4.

St Andrews Snidgets

Since winning the BQC 2013 lower bracket, the Snidgets have been on a steady decline, best described as a slow trickle from grace, culminating in not qualifying for BQC 2017. They bottomed out in their group at Northern Cup, rallied to eliminate Edinburgh Seconds 90*-30 in a BQC playoff, but were knocked out of BQC contention themselves shortly after.

The team as a complete unit has only been seen once since; at Scottish Cup, they only defeated mercenary opponents known as the Wildcats. That said, individual players have been displaying talented performances at mercenary events since, and St Andrews march south to Oxford with more games played as a club in their history than every other team at Development Cup combined will give them a cohesion to be envied. Considering the inexperience of most other Dev Cup teams, facing a squad so long in the teeth will be daunting.

Utility player Tev Wallace has been steadily improving in tournament outings, doing themselves great credit with their fleet-footed ball carrying at Valentines Cup. St Andrews as a whole, though, are perilously close to their exam season and as such they are short several players. Known to be passing on Dev Cup is Matt O’Connor, and with him goes much of St Andrews’ physicality.

The team as a whole shies away from contact, which will leave them unprepared for chaser-defence should their beaters be overpowered by more drilled ones on other teams. This point is likely to be the decider when the team faces London, Edinburgh, Bath, and Liverpool, though the Scots should still take home a winning record overall. The Snidgets are most likely looking at a fourth place finish, contesting a bronze medal against the Hippogriffs in what should be a very close encounter. A medal of any colour would be a fine tribute to a team whose journey to Dev Cup has been chronologically, emotionally, and physically much longer than anyone else’s.

Prediction: Fourth, going 5-3

Holyrood Hippogriffs Seconds

The Holyrood Hippogriffs as a whole have been quiet since regionals, lacking tournament appearances. The sheer distance between the Scottish capital and the heartlands of southern England has prevented either Edinburgh team from entering tournaments. However, they have competed in friendlies against Durhamstrang and the Durham Direwolves, eventually losing 60*-30. This Edinburgh silence was broken dramatically by their first team storming Rugeley in a Cinderella run to fourth place at BQC 2017, including a defeat of medallist-favourite Warwick QC in pool play that might have been the greatest Scottish upset since the Jacobite Rebellion.

Whilst the Seconds have been vastly less successful than the Firsts, Edinburgh’s competitive experience as a club is unquestioned, and their recent rise to power will have given the Seconds a boost in training. Team Brazil and Northern Watch beater Yanna Colmerauer is the squad’s star player. She displayed a stamina at World Cup that awed all attendees due to Brazil only having seven players the entire tournament and seemingly being unaffected by it. Colmerauer will come into the event as one of the most experienced players in attendance and vying for the best beater with Liverpool’s Alex Raynor, showcasing strong communication skills and good ability to set up defensive and offensive plays. Ex-American footballer Matt Hamilton brings a solid dose of tackling physicality to the side as keeper, which they will be needing in order to eke out results this weekend.

Yanna Colmerauer playing for Team Brazil at the IQA World Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Unfortunately, the squad lacked coordination at Northern Cup, constantly slowballing and lacking pitch-awareness at times, as well as being starved of physicality. The Hippogriffs will be another team in need of coaching from their First teammates and practising with them can only have improved them tactically and physically already. If they have tuned up their tactical awareness, they should have no issue getting past the weaker teams and will be competing with the stronger squads for a medal finish. Their matches against the Bathilisks and Liverpuddly Cannons will be very interesting, as these will likely determine the medal positions. Whilst the Merseyside and Somerset clubs seem likely to edge them, they will be able to give them a run for their money.

Prediction: Third, going 6-2

Bath Quidditch Club

Despite not attending BQC or Southern Cup, this debutant Somerset club has been flourishing in Southwest League. The team has contributed five players, including three freshers, to Quidditch Premier League sides four for the Broadside and one for the Archers and comes into Dev Cup off the back of monthly competitive appearances. For all their developmental success, though, Bath has been suffering on the scoreboard; they are currently sitting at four outofrange league losses and one win and one loss in friendlies.

All that said, the calibre of opponents they have faced each month have been well above the standard of Dev Cup sides. Despite each loss, Bath has tactically grown steadily and have managed a 160*-60 win over the Brizzlebees in that time. The addition of threetime BQC gold medallist and Team UK coach Ash Cooper as a Development Coach (jointly with Glasgow Grim Reapers) should be able to refine the team’s tactical development into a force capable of victory. The team’s zone defence proved effective in the last round of South West League and Bath have shown their physical quality, with nearly every player able to land a solid body block and several able to bring down most targets.

On offence the team has been much less cohesive but sports a good deal of individual talent such as rugby convert Lewis Dixon’s ball-carrying and fast reactions in the keeper zone.

Laura Oatley has shown excellent finishing and able ballcarrying ability whilst former Radcliffe Chimera Hattie Elvins has greatly improved and has been adept at catching bludgers and setting up drives. Captain Tom Newton has surpassed his performances for former club Reading, sporting good bludger aim, driving power, and seeking skill.

Hattie Elvins playing at Valentines Cup 2017 | Photo Credit: Rica Biasi

If the team can replicate their defensive strategies from their recent matches with Exeter and Falmouth and tighten their attacking game, the only teams likely to challenge them are Edinburgh Seconds who they will likely narrowly beat and Liverpuddly Cannons. A medal performance seems likely for Bath, but which medal it will be remains to be seen.

Prediction: Second, going 7-1

Liverpuddly Cannons

Tragically denied a spot at BQC 2017, though leaving the Northern Cup crowd in no doubt whatsoever that they deserved one, Liverpool have nevertheless had an impressive season. Though forced out of BQC contention by York and Durham Direwolves, they ran Chester Centurions close in Northern pool play and defeated Dev Cup attendees Preston Poltergeists 240*-0. Subsequent appearances at Compass Cup and Cottonopolis allowed the team further chances to shine, and with the aid of mercenary players from Swansea, the Cannons were able to overcome Falmouth at Compass Cup. Ahmad Iyas Husni leads the team from the front, providing a rare physicality in the squad. Liverpool’s beater lineup is particularly powerful; Alisha Raithatha and Sam Mottram are having good seasons and will be more than a match for most beaters other sides send out, but it is beater/seeker Raynor who will be in contention for the event’s top overall player. Raynor is adept at aggressive bludger plays to clear lanes for his players, an asset they will need if Bath run their compact zone defence and Edinburgh tighten their physicality.

However, when Raynor subs off there is a notable drop in the team’s overall play, and he is currently Liverpool’s starting seeker. Losing Raynor in beater play will likely provide opposing chasers the chance to turn the tables and either clear snitch range or fight back into it. Nevertheless, Liverpool’s talent pegs them as the firm favourites to lift the inaugural Development Cup trophy.

Prediction: First, going 8-0