By Ashara Peiris and Fraser Posford
With the first of the Quidditch Premier League (QPL) South fixtures fast approaching later this month, we are here to bring you analysis of how these Southern teams are likely to perform.
Coming into this season as medal favourites, the Monarchs have a lot riding on their shoulders. Boasting a deep roster at every position, they will be disappointed if they do not make it to the podium this year. The team is coached by Expansion Squad coach and Team UK assistant coach Jay Louis Holmes, which will undoubtedly help develop the team’s tactical nous and technical abilities.
The Monarchs are underpinned by Team UK beaters Luke Twist and Jan Mikołajczak, who bring physicality and strong defence. Combining this with the incredibly strong female chasing from Asia Piatek and Jackie Woodburn, who make for effective secondary ball handlers, and confident finishers in Hannah Ridley, Sarah Ridley, and Eva Verpe, the Monarchs have a lot of flexibility with the types of lineups they can play; expect to see two female chasing lineups throughout the season.
Furthermore, with strong ball handlers in Jay Holmes and Alex Macartney, and dangerous receiving options in Alberto Garcia and Troy Kelly-Weekes, the Monarchs’ squad is definitely one to fear. One thing that will likely allow the London Monarchs to perform particularly well is the depth of the squad; this allows players to play in a role that they excel at, but may not normally be able to play during the regular season. For example, Kelly-Weekes has already shown incredible talent as a support runner despite normally playing as Swansea Seven Swan’s main ball handler. Despite a strong squad overall, the Monarchs lack a Team UK ball handler who can take charge in tight situations, as well as established seeking options. This lack of an X-Factor in these areas may work against them in some matches, but this weakness can be offset by regular training throughout this season, which is a real luxury for this QPL team compared to others.
The depth, physicality, and overall talent of this team will undoubtedly carry them far, and if they can perform well, a medal should be a likely outcome, with perhaps even the gold within reach.
The team most likely to battle it out with the Monarchs to claim dominance over the South region this season are the Southeast Knights. Led by former Nottingham Nightmares coach Mikey Ansell, the Knights have a lot of pre-existing chemistry due to the large presence of current and former Southampton Quidditch Club (SQC) players in their squad. This is something the team will likely rely on, at least for the opening fixture, as they have not been able to get much training time together.
There is incredible strength in depth across all positions in the squad, leaving perhaps the least amount of skill drop off throughout all the QPL squads; however, the loss of Tom Norton and Aaron Veale before the start of the season slightly weakens their chasing lineup. This allows the Knights to consistently field a strong roster at every fixture, no matter the availability of players. Keeper is an especially strong position for the team with Team UK training squad members Andrew Hull, Alex Greenhalgh, Caleb Pakeman, and Ed Brett all available in the green headband. Almost the entirety of this season’s SQC beater lineup feature in the squad and will form the basis for which the likes of Leeds Griffins’ George Matthews and Radcliffe Chimeras’ Rix Dishington can fit into an already established system.
Duels between the Knights and the Monarchs will be one of the most exciting aspects of the QPL in the regular season, and both of them should be main contenders to win the inaugural title. Considering their lack of preparation, the Knights may take a loss in their first encounter with their London counterparts, but their talents should shine through in later fixtures and potentially allow them to come out on top in the South region at least, if not in the QPL as a whole.
With a team largely comprised of those competing in this year’s South West League, there will undoubtedly be pockets of familiarity and existing chemistry on Broadside. From the Bristol Brizzlebears we have creative offense from Tom Ower, hard–hitting defence from Josh Blannin, and solid beater defence in Jodie Mee. This is backed up by Exeter Eagles’ beaters Graeme Zaple, Rob Pearce, and last year’s coach and main seeker Edd Owsley, who also nicely rounds out their chaser game.
Supplementing these players are Team UK beater Lucy Edlund and training squad member Reuben Thompson. Thompson is infamous for putting in hard hits as a chaser, and his extremely high fitness level allows him to keep pursuing the snitch long after other seekers would have to sub out, and make the catch for his team. Little more needs to be said for Edlund, but her team play and strong beating on both sides of the ball could help elevate the team.
Where Broadside may struggle is in their lack of depth. Whilst they have strong chasing and reasonable seeking options, they may find themselves out of strong players in the bludger game, particularly due to the lack of an elite male beater.
Overall, the Southwest Broadside have a good opportunity to perform well with them likely being an outside contender for a medal.
Last up are the Eastern Mermaids, a team that should be the weakest of the teams in the South due to the relatively low density of players. However, the Mermaids have been able to bolster their squad with a number of players whose regular teams play out of the region.
The largest group of players come from the Norwich Nifflers and Cambridge University QC. The biggest impacts from these teams will likely come from beaters Georgie Rumney and Laura Jamieson, as well as chaser/seeker Tom Hardman.
These players have been supplemented with Sally Higginson and Aaron Brett-Miller, who have both had strong seasons beating, which included the latter leading the Brizzlebears to second place at British Quidditch Cup. Combining these with chasers Vincent Poon and Tom Hutton will give the team much needed pace and physicality. Rounding off with Tash Ferenczy gives the team extra steady hands and finishing ability around the hoops.
Whilst the team may struggle against the upper tier, the other teams will be remiss to underestimate the Mermaids, particularly as they will have been training for almost three months by the time of the first fixture. They may seem unlikely to get a medal, but they are still the dark horses to get some victories.
Editor’s Note: The Quidditch Post would like to apologize for our analysis where we used gender as a stand-in for traditional on-pitch roles. We apologize and as always will do our best to recognize the value different genders bring. The article has been updated.
Giordano Di Pino-Forino