By Linh Nguyen
Now that the dust has settled on the second Asian Quidditch Cup (AQC), it is time to take a look back at what happened in Hanoi as well as consider what comes next for the quickly growing region.
First, some statistics to summarize the two AQCs that have happened so far.
AQC saw huge improvements from last year, with the presence of two brand new countries — Vietnam and South Korea — along with mercenaries from nearby neighbourhoods, including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Brunei, and Singapore. The huge effort participating teams invested to overcome the travelling obstacles shows that quidditch is getting more serious in these countries. It is safe to say that quidditch has planted its roots in Asia and is steadily expanding in the east of Asia.
The tournament witnessed the return of last year’s champion, the Australian National University (ANU) Owls from Australia, and runners up Damansara Dementors, along with three new faces: Hanoi Draco Dormiens, Seoul Puffskeins, and Flame Owls (Hanoi). The predicted team strategies and results were accurate, but there were enough twists that added intensity to the tournament and made the matches more promising and unpredictable. The tournament used a round-robin format with each team facing each other team once.
The first game saw Damansara Dementors play against Flame Owls, a three-month old team with probably the youngest squad in the tournament playing their first-ever competitive match. An out-of-range defeat for the Flame Owls, however, did not sow doubt, but instead gave them a confidence boost. The Malaysian veterans could only find their way to the net on quaffle points with snitch on pitch, scoring quickly as the Flame Owls focussed on the seekers. It took the Dementors third seeker to catch the snitch, eventually ending the game at 110*-30.
The second match saw Draco Dormiens play against the ANU Owls. A small roster, with the unfortunate absence of James Mortensen due to sickness, forced the Owls to play slowly and opportunistically. On the opposite side, Draco tried to play a quick passing game with surprising effectiveness; they were close to upsetting the title contenders in their first game. The score was 70-60 to the Hanoi team before a naive decision cost them the match. Hanoi decided to defend the snitch to enlarge the quaffle point margin, but less than a minute later Nicholas Allan, a quick seeker from the Owls, earned a triumphant victory for the ANU Owls at 90*-70.
The third match was between the Seoul Puffskeins and Flame Owls, and it attracted all of the attention as it was the first time the Koreans played competitively (aside from two players at the 2016 IQA Quidditch World Cup). Thanks to physical keepers Donggyun Moon and Joonsun Hong, the Puffskeins were not afraid to drive forward. With the support of experienced beater Sangbeom Kim, they managed to score 11 goals while only letting in four, mostly long shots, from the Flame Owls. While the second line of Hanoi had set up some defensive formations, a lack of marking and cooperation between beaters and chasers cost them in a heavy defeat of 140*-40.
The heat of the day made the pitch feel as though it was on fire during the match between the Dementors and Draco Dormiens, and this game was the longest and one of the most exciting to watch. Lost in the bludger game for the first 10 minutes, the Dormiens could not stand the strong drives of physical chasers Marcus Toh Shen-Li and especially Danial Sham from the Dementors, and suffered an 80-point deficit. After a timeout, the Hanoi team strengthened their beating capacity by substituting on their strongest beaters, Linh Nguyen and Quy Le. Nguyen and Le pulled the score close to SWIM range and kept the game balanced even when the team lost two key players due to red cards — highlighting the team’s lack of tackling experience. The summer heat made the seeking game a real mountain to climb, and with the Draco defending the snitch, the game was prolonged to the fourth handicap (four minutes each). Forced to assign their strongest players on snitch, both teams were then unable to make a difference, and the Draco Dormiens decided to cold catch, ending the game at 160-130*, the longest and highest-scoring game of the tournament. The Dementors might have come into the lunch break with two wins in their pocket; however, they lost their star chaser Sham whilst Shen-Li’s playing probability was in doubt, both due to muscular injuries after the hard-fought battle.
The last match before lunch was between the ANU Owls and Seoul Puffskeins. This match closely mirrored the second match’s developments, the difference being that the Puffskeins scored their hoops by unstoppable drives instead of hypnotizing passes. However, the result was the same. Before the snitch was caught, the Koreans were leading 40-30, and Allan, again, took less than a minute to end the game with a spectacular catch, sealing the 60*-40 victory for the Australians.
The all-Hanoi derby kicked off the afternoon, and the Flame Owls stunned the Draco Dormiens with a flurry of goals, leading 40-10 after just five minutes. Felix Linsmeier and Duc Dinh took the leading roles in the Owls’ quaffle game, while Khanh Phung dominated the bludger game. Changing formations as well as substituting on some key players, Draco then turned the game around when they took bludger control for most of the remaining time and ended the match with a neat catch from Le, taking their first victory of the day at 110*-40.
The match between the ANU Owls and Damansara Dementors might be the one in which the Malaysians missed quaffle driver Sham the most. Their beating lineup could not compete with Shu Ying Lee and Linsmeier on the Owls’ side, and the Dementors’ quaffle side collapsed easily against the very physical drivers on the Owls — namely Allan, Matthew Wood, and Keith Jones. The Dementors’ long-range attempts earned them some spectacular goals, but they were not enough to keep them from a 140*-50 defeat after Allan’s catch.
The match between Hanoi Draco Dormiens and the Seoul Puffskeins was crucial for both teams, as each entered with just one win in hand and had to perform well to save something from the tournament. The more motivated Draco Dormiens might have learnt from their mistake in their second match, as they always guarded their hoops with an armed beater, making it hard for the Puffskeins to break through. Timeouts were well utilised by both teams in order to make strategic changes, as well as earning some rest from the exhausting weather. The passing game from the Vietnamese side seemed to work more effectively, as they maintained their lead closely out-of-swim range when the snitch was released. The Korean side, however, did not surrender easily as they exploited no-bludger opportunities really well, giving them some glimpse of hope. When it came to the third handicap for the snitch runner, Le equalised his personal snitch catch record with ANU’s Allan and managed to catch the snitch after his two sub-offs due to injury, ending the match at 140*-80 to the home team.
The ninth match was between the ANU Owls and Flame Owls, the top and the bottom teams of the tournament. The Flame Owls fought hard and scored twice, but their lack of coordination between positions opened the route for the Australian side to score a total of 12 hoops. However, the Flame Owls ended their AQC campaign with their heads high, after snatching the snitch against the three-time catcher Allan. The Flame Owls called it a day with a final score of 120-50* to the ANU Owls.
The last match, Damansara Dementors vs. Seoul Puffskeins, decided second place. All actions in the game exceeded the audience’s expectation. Both teams were precise in their tactical movements, giving few chances for the opponent to get past. The Puffskeins did not have the service of their beater captain, Sangbeom, due to injury, but the Dementors also had Sham and Shen-Li unavailable. The Koreans had an early lead and seemed to be able to relax after a comfortable goal, but the Malaysians did not give in, equalising the score when the snitch was at the second handicap thanks to keeper Linus Ng and chaser Zack Low. The match remained even until after two runs when veteran seeker Wajdi Hairul won against the snitch runner Matthew Wood to secure a victory for the Koreans with a score of 60*-30, and to grab the eventual second place for Seoul Puffskeins at the last minute.
The Asian Quidditch Cup this year has seen a huge improvement in terms of both quantity and quality of players and gameplay. Participating teams have really invested in technical and tactical training, and they worked surprisingly well. Slowballing and sudden attack from the ANU Owls proved the team’s efficiency when playing with a small roster. Drives from the Koreans, bludger control from the Malaysians, and passing game from the Vietnamese were the noticeable trademarks of their teams. The Australians won the tournament for the second consecutive time, but not with ease as they had two matches in which they were behind in quaffle points. The Seoul Puffskeins, Damansara Dementors, and Draco Dormiens have shown that they are of similar calibre on pitch, and quaffle point difference just revealed their lack of experience in competitive situations. The Flame Owls played with confidence and possess a number of promising individuals, however they will need more time to come together as a team before they can keep in range of the more experienced teams.
More importantly, the tournament is a precious chance for all the players in Asia-Oceania to meet and greet, unite the community as a whole, and motivate participating countries to move forward and plan bigger. Also a point to be mentioned is the mercenaries. Hong Kong seemed very keen on expanding their quidditch community, and the presence of three Hongkongese in Hanoi this year hopefully brings motivation and experience as the base for them to build upon. The Philippines, Brunei, and Singapore also had representatives at the tournament, and they have eagerly discussed promoting quidditch in their hometowns in a mood of post-tournament determination. The cross-country meeting at AQC also set up a strong foundation for the creation of an official Asia-Oceania quidditch committee. Once these things set sail, Australians will not be alone on the far side of the world, and eastern quidkids will be able to fairly compete with western colleagues.