Quidditch Australia’s State Shield is the annual iteration of State-level tournament. This year, Queensland joins as a full part of the competition, while New South Wales (NSW) looks to overcome last year’s 5-4 champion’s Victoria. Held on Oct. 14-15 in Brisbane, Queensland, it is the first Quidditch Australia event outside NSW(ACT) and VIC. A round robin on Saturday with two matches against each opposing team will be followed on Sunday by a 2v3 play-in match to a three-game series against first seed to decide a champion. The Quidditch Post talks to the coaches of each teams before the weekend.
Daniel Scharf: Queensland Thunderbirds Coach
Danny Fox: New South Wales Blue Tongues Coach
Liam McCoppin: Victorian Leadbeaters Coach
Quidditch Post (QP): Which player do you think will have the biggest impact on State Shield?
Liam McCoppin (LM): It’s very hard to go past Callum ‘Truck’ Mayling for Victoria. Word on the street is Mayling has finally lost some of his belly and is fitter than ever before! Luke Derrick has shown time and time again how important he is for NSW, and when he is on the pitch they look extremely dangerous. For Queensland, the uncontrollable pure ball of energy and talent that is Kristeen Wong is ready to be unleashed, and I can’t wait to see her giving grief to NSW and Victorian players alike. Wong has been described as the hardest female beater to play against in the country, largely due to her agility, speed, and completely instinctive mindset.
Daniel Scharf (DS): Obviously, you can’t avoid talking about QP’s World’s Best Player, Mayling. I saw him throw the quaffle over his shoulder from 20 feet in the Victorian Cup semifinals; it fell straight through hoop centre. Derrick will be running the beater game at another level though. Emily Merry working off Mayling is imposing too.
Danny Fox (DF): Honestly, I have faith that every single person on the NSW team has the capability to be a game changer. At the previous tournament we had players such as Samantha Chittenden, Brandon Frison, and Travis Ey give standout performances in NSW’s games, and my goal is to make sure that more and more people on the team are able to extend themselves and compete in this way.
QP: What do you think (other than a new team) will be different from last year?
DS: The structure moving to one weekend will change the approach from NSW and Victoria, I imagine. Having to manage the player roster over three different events last year would have created hurdles that I’m glad I never experienced.
DF: If Queensland perform well at State, then I can imagine their club teams taking some of that confidence into QUAFL – the Australian Quidditch Championships and feeling more prepared to give upsets to the higher–seeded NSW and Victorian teams.
LM: Scharfy and Foxy Fox have already pointed it out, but the structure of this tournament will have a huge impact on how the results unravel. The top two teams will have played eight games in two days by the end of the tournament, whereas the previous incarnations of the tournaments had the teams playing just three games over two days. So this tournament will test each team’s endurance and depth far more than ever seen before!
DF: Also, having team trainings.
DS: I mean, eventually… When you submitted your roster 10 days late. You are aware the tournament is this weekend? You have got that date written down on the calendar?
LM: Accommodation booked and paid for yet? Staying together as a team?
DF: I dunno, man; I just tell people to put the things through the hoops.
DS: That’s a weird one to think about… this will be the first time I’ll be sleeping in my own bed for a quidditch tournament. Any tips?
LM: I honestly find travelling and lodging as a team really brings the group together. All three separate series in 2016 were won by the ‘away’ team! Considering we are travelling the furthest, surely that means the shield is already ours?
QP: What does this mean for QUAFL, and believe it or not, World Cup?
DS: I feel pretty certain the implications for QUAFL are only injury–based. Every player will be looking to come out of the weekend unscathed and victorious. For World Cup 2018, it is obviously huge. Selectors will be watching every game and likely coming back to video as well before the first training camp in early November.
LM: For QUAFL? In my opinion, little. Each team will gain small nuggets of knowledge from training with each other to bring back to their own teams, and teams will be learning a little of the style of play from the other states. On the whole, however, not much has dramatically changed from the last QUAFL, so I don’t think anyone will be walking away amazed at any tactical or technical changes to the game. For World Cup? State Shield is the highest standard of quidditch in Australia, bar nada. For any player wanting to take a place on the World Cup team, this is truly their audition. A player capable of breaking any game open will be watched very carefully, while those who don’t quite meet the standard may find it far harder to eventually break into the national team. If there wasn’t enough pressure already playing for your state, your performance may decide whether you’ll make it onto Team Australia as well! Again, though, I don’t think too many players will be thinking about Team Australia at this point, or at least they shouldn’t be. If they aren’t trying to win State Shield for their team, and the pride of their state, they shouldn’t be there at all.
DF: I think doing well as a state will help people bring confidence into QUAFL, understanding what it means to play well and actually win those higher-pressure games. That answer is probably horoscope-y enough that it’ll prove true no matter how QUAFL ends up going… Needless to say, Dropbear selectors will be looking for standout players at state and at QUAFL, and your team performing well is one of the best chances you have to make good impressions on those selectors.
QP: What can we expect from Queensland?
DF: I think that Queensland have every chance to give NSW and Victoria a run for their money, though I think that if they make it into the finals series, they will struggle due to having less depth.
LM: It’s somewhat hard to judge. There is talent in the Queensland squad, no doubt about it, and reports are reaching my ears that playbooks have been drawn up, trainings run on the regular, and Queensland are not taking this tournament lightly at all. Early performances on Saturday may decide how they approach the rest of the tournament, for if they seem to be far below the other two teams, they may try and see the tournament as a learning tool, a stepping stone to producing better performances in the future. But if Queensland come out firing on Saturday, maybe they can nab a win or two along the way! Will we see them come finals on Sunday? I agree with Danny that the format probably won’t be doing them any favours, and their depth of squad will be severely tested.
DS: Reports reaching your ears? My major learning takeaway is to make secret Facebook groups… Power to the corporate sabotage background of McNoggin there. Fortunately, Team Australia Coach Gen Gibson came up to help us with a session where we have refined and toned down the playbook.
LM: Ooh, a little help from the coach of a World Cup winning team never goes astray.
To clarify, Dan is referring to the sneaky move I made a month or so ago. Upon realizing that Dan’s new Facebook group, the QAQ Thunderbirds 2017, was a closed Facebook group, but not a secret facebook group, I attempted to add myself to the group. Much to my delight, a member of the team actually did add me to the group, where I could see everything Daniel had already posted! This included their team schedule and timeline, as well as their team playbook.
QP: How do you feel Quidditch Australia (QA) has done preparing for the event?
DS: Being involved pretty closely with it, I think people will be pleasantly surprised once they get up here and experience the ground. The stadium runs along the entire side of the pitch with everything fenced in, along with large change rooms under the stadium.
LM: They’ve been working hard from an early date to try and ensure as much media coverage surrounds the event as possible. It’s going to be fantastic to have a (hopefully) good quality live stream of the event as well, to be found on Facebook. Big props should go to QA for continuing to push the growth of quidditch around Australia.
DF: Social media game has been pretty swell.
QP: What’s your bold prediction?
DS: Bold Prediction – McCoppin to go the weekend without seeing one of his players sit in the penalty box for two minutes because of him.
Other Prediction – Miles Sneddon to corner the trading card market on Dameon Osborn snitch cards.
DF: Bold prediction – Rankings for first and second place after Day One of pool play will come down to coin toss.
LM: Non-Bold prediction – Victoria to take first seed, NSW to beat QLD 100< points at some stage, and then for Victoria to take home the shield either 2-1 or 3-0.
Bolder prediction – Victoria lose one game for the entire tournament.
Boldest prediction – Callum Mayling loses more kilos than Victoria loses games (and judging by his impeccable physique, that would be one kilo and zero games)
QP: What would you consider each team’s biggest threat to winning?
LM: Queensland’s home support will hopefully push them to play harder than ever before. Having that support behind a team just makes its players want to put their bodies on the line for their teammates, and I think that ferocity could surprise its guests! Both Queensland and NSW have loaded up on big, strong chasers. To slightly change a well–known saying, quick players get tired, but big players don’t get any smaller! How each team attempts to match each other’s physicality, especially NSW’s seemingly endless list of big, aggressive chasers, could decide who takes home the chocolates.
DS: I mean, the forecast is starting to turn a bit bleak with showers showing on the radar. We trained twice in the rain up here, and I’m sure Melbourne had a quarter of one training in the rain before it cleared up and then they had a tornado or something. Be interesting on those NSW chasers to drive through the mud. Also, chocolates won’t do. My diabetes disagrees, quite a few of our players are vegan, one is allergic to basically all foods… I’ll switch out those gold medals QA have at my house for chocolates if you like, though.
DF: With the number of games we have with each other over the weekend, the ability to adapt both between games and in-game will play a big role. Defenses that can’t adapt will be continuously exploited, and set offenses can be expected to be countered in advance of the games that decide the championship. Of course, the biggest threat to NSW winning will be if our choccy milk turns bad under the hot Queensland sun.
DS: Mate, just said it’s probably going to be wet… Your milk will be fine.