by Hannah Dignum
The Northern Watch are a strong contender for the top spot in the Northern Division of the Quidditch Premier League (QPL) as the team boasts a range of talent and experience, including five players from the national teams of the UK, Ireland, and Spain. They have the potential to challenge other high–tier players in this division and possibly across the board when they meet the Southern teams at the QPL Championship in August.
Central to the success of the team will surely be Ollie Riley and Ashley Cooper, both selections for Team UK in this year’s European Games in Oslo. Both are amongst the best point defenders in the game and Cooper, as previous head coach of Team UK, can bring a wealth of knowledge to the table for all the players in addition to his own tenacity and finishing on pitch. Similarly, Riley’s on–pitch presence and masterful command of the offence will likely lead the Northern team to success.
Riley will have teammates Kelsey Silberman, Nye Baker, and Tara McDonald by his side; after Edinburgh’s rise to the top this year, these players will hope to continue onwards and upwards and take the Northern Watch to the top of the podium, and Eddie Bruce will hope that this experienced and talented core will help his side hit the ground running in the first fixture.
The Watch possesses a vast number of beaters, but the team may nevertheless find themselves struggling against some of the more formidable beater games in the division. Amy Chan and Francesca Vigilante will shoulder a lot of the burden, relying on their experience against higher–tier opponents, but they will need to demonstrate confidence to step up their game and take the lead if the Watch are to be resilient against more aggressive beaters.
The Yorkshire Roses look to be the weakest team in the North, but if this season has taught the quidditch community anything, it is that no team should be underestimated.
The team possesses players with plenty of potential but they lack big names, whereas every other team in the league has at least one player on Team UK or the Training Squad, or national teams of similar calibre. This may suggest a lack of experience and knowledge of tactics for the team, but this is not necessarily to their detriment.
Under the leadership of Josh Armitage, the team is expected to push boundaries and challenge teams with a strong and direct performance in their quaffle game which will catch some of the less physical teams in the division off guard if the Roses play to their potential. The Roses have a dependable selection of keepers, including Armitage and Joe Croucher, and will look to ball handlers such as Claire Brand and Valentin Trabis to take other teams by surprise.
The team’s greatest asset is that all players, with a few exceptions, have been chosen from three northern teams. This selection may have been done deliberately by team manager Peggy Cook to ensure synergy within the team so that whichever roster is chosen, the players can enter matches without worrying about slotting into rotations and lineups that they are not familiar with. Beaters such as Lily Dommart and Phil Brown will have already worked together, for example, and will therefore further the team’s chances at success.
East Midlands Archers
The East Midlands Archers will also be gunning for the top spot in this division.
The team are lucky enough to possess Team UK’s captain Bill Orridge and his younger brother Michael; together, regardless of the position they play, the Orridge brothers will surely run rings around the opposition and will be the driving force behind the Archers’ victory. They will be supported by further talent in the quaffle line from Franky Kempster and El Zukow both of whom can play any position with confidence thanks to their training at the highest level of competitive quidditch.
As with the Roses and the Watch, the team already possesses many players that will be familiar with playing with one another, such as Rachel Lily and Brandon Fitz-Gerald: the two beaters form a solid pair dependent on intensity and pace which has proved hard for the opposition to break down across four seasons for the Nottingham Nightmares. Tommy Ruler and Phillipa Stazicker will further this success, respectively a formidable driver and skilled receiving chaser who will support their club-season teammates and capitalise on the team’s aggressive beater play.
Although other names such as Charlie Schofield and Stephen Withers will stand out on this squad, that is not to say that there isn’t the potential for other names to make their mark in the tournaments. There is much to be seen from lesser-known players and it will be exciting to see how they fit into what is already a force to be reckoned with.
West Midlands Revolution
With over half of the West Midlands Revolution roster being members of the Team UK set up, initial impressions are that it is hard to believe there is a roster in the UK capable of defeating them.
The Revolution brings the most well-rounded quaffle play in the UK to the tournament under the watchful eye of James Thanangadan who will surely take on, in spirit if not in name, the role of quaffle coach he holds for Team UK. The Warwick Quidditch Club ‘Holy Trinity’ of Seb Waters, Ben Malpass, and Luke Trevett will be no less slick in Revolution red, and will enjoy having reliable substitutes from Thomas Stevens, Viral Patel, and Warren McFayden meaning that the chaser depth should never waver.
Further to this, Lucy Q and Jacopo Sartori, two of Oslo’s 21, will lead the beaters with skill and aggression which is hard to see being matched until they meet the Southern Division at the Championship weekend; with talent such as Emily Hymers, Mel Piper, and Dan Trick in support of them, it is hard to see how other teams in this division can provide beaters to successfully challenge the West Midlands.
The only potential downfall to this team lies in questions about the endurance and utilization of their small contingent of female players. The entire roster only contains 10 non-male players, this could pose stamina issues for these players while the team complies with the gender rule. Additionally, some of the Revolution’s key playmakers have historically struggled to utilise female chasers on pitch. This is not to say that the non-male players of West Midlands cannot make their voices heard; Jeniva Chambers possesses one of the safest pairs of hands on the team and Katy Lawrence and Kat Jack are both experienced in winning games at a high level. The team must make use of all three, and of Molly Maurice-Smith who has never disappointed in her role as a keeper for Reading Rocs, or risk missing out on a great deal of talent.