By James Burnett
Returning for its second annual iteration, Southampton Quidditch Club’s Battle Royale tournament provides a tantalizing mix of some of the best players in Europe, with heavy-hitting clubs from the UK, Germany, Norway, and Belgium all in attendance. The scope of Battle Royale II was initially even broader, with longstanding Belgian club Liège Leviathans Quidditch Club and perennial French powerhouse Titans Paris Quidditch both having to withdraw at a late stage due to low numbers. While some players from these clubs may bolster existing rosters as mercenary players, the specifics of this are currently unclear, so it is impossible to comment on how this might affect performance.
The first Battle Royale was won by Antwerp Quidditch Club A in 2016, who caught the snitch to win a tightly-contested SWIM affair against a debutant Velociraptors Quidditch Club; revenge for a Velociraptors’ win earlier in the tournament. This year promises no less tension and excitement. For many of Europe’s elite, this will be the last time they can truly get the measure of one another until April 2018, when they head to Pfaffenhofen for the European Quidditch Cup (EQC).
Velociraptors QC (Prediction: Second)
Jay Holmes | James Thanangadan | Tom Heynes | Warren McFadyen | Michael Lewis | Sean Lee | Dan Trick | Ben Morton | Mikey Orridge | Sebastian Waters | Lucy Q | Lucy Edlund | Jessica O’Neill | Kat Jack | Jackie Woodburn
The reigning Northern and British champions promise two things at Battle Royale II this year: a small squad and a winning attitude. The team have defied small numbers and the absence of star players before, and although they will need to manage their resources in order to enjoy a successful Battle Royale, it is safe to assume they will do so with enough momentum to spare for a strong drive at the top spot.
New captain Jay Holmes is no stranger to leadership on and off the field, having led from the front for London Monarchs at QPL this summer. Lacking Team UK’s Andrew Hull, as they did last year for this event, Holmes will need to be the team’s primary keeper and one of their main playmakers. In 2016, he quickly faded into the background as James Thanangadan took centre stage, and this will be a fitting test of the extent to which Holmes has grown in stature as a leader and a player over the course of the year; I fully expect him to excel.
Supporting him, Holmes has a well-drilled corps of Team UK players who are used to training and playing alongside one another at both club and international level. Although the move of UK captain Bill Orridge from Loughborough Longshots to Raptors is all but confirmed at this stage, he will not be debuting at Battle Royale II, which means that the limelight in the black headband falls once again on the inimitable Lucy Q, who will direct the team’s play as she always does. Dan Trick can also be expected to shine, playing very well as he does off Lucy and bringing his pace and aggression to ensure that between them they threaten the breadth of the pitch. Indeed, the main strength of this beater line as a unit is the way it moves at high speed to threaten and intimidate the opposition wherever on the pitch they play, causing panicked responses and sloppy turnovers that the chasers inevitably exploit. Seb Waters, playing beater for the team in a cameo role for this tournament alone, will fit in perfectly in that respect. Nowhere does this show more than with snitch on pitch, where we can expect them to display the same ruthless command of space as did the UK in the European Games final to give veteran seeker Ben Morton a formidable advantage in a SWIM situation.
Not that the team is solely defined by their beating, of course. Holmes, Thanangadan, and Jackie Woodburn are the key playmakers in a disciplined, well-organized quaffle line that excels in explosive drives into space and short, incisive passing around the hoops. Without Hull they perhaps lack the danger they otherwise pose in long-range passes and from outside of the keeper zone, but this is in any case not their preferred approach, and its absence unlikely to be punished. The Velociraptors beaters will be able to create consistent openings, and the multiplicity of threats amongst their quaffle players means they will rack up points. It will be interesting to see how Michael Lewis performs in this environment after showcasing athleticism, instinct, and potential for Yorkshire Roses at QPL.
Where the Raptors may perhaps struggle is in the adaptability of their defence; historically they have been vulnerable on the counterattack where they fail to score, relying on their rapid beaters tracking back to bail them out. Although they present a formidable set defence with good shape and movement, they hint at lacking the agility and intuition required across the board to deal with the rapid around-the-hoops passing that they will face, unless their mid-range reflex beating is exceptional. This cost them more points than anyone expected against the Bristol Brizzlebears in the British Quidditch Cup (BQC) final last season, and although they should still outscore both the Bears and Werewolves of London, Antwerp A may be too much of an ask unless new acquisition Kat Jack, renowned for her scrappiness and defensive tenacity, can make a difference in her own defensive zone.
Werewolves of London (Prediction: Third)
Simon Bidwell | Tash Ferenczy | Tom Norton | Patrick Gray | Ed Brett | Charlie Schofield | Rosie Inman | Sophie Osborn | Jordan Aymer-Jeffrey | Alex Harrison | Rica Biasi | Lydia Calder | Emmanuel Halter | Callum Humphreys | Karina Auer | Ben Honey | Fiona Howat | Sasha Burgoyne | Asia Piatek | Jan Mikolajczak | Alexis Doreste
Always an aspirational and high-achieving team, captain Simon Bidwell will be hoping that the Werewolves of London can use a competitive first tournament to propel them to another decorated season. The team can be proud of their 2016-17 season, finishing on the podium at every tournament they played — the only UK team who can make that claim — yet also failing to win any of them. This, undoubtedly, will be the aim for 2017-18, and they will look to start with gold at Battle Royale II.
On the face of it, the Werewolves are bringing a strong squad outfitted to do exactly that. They have retained a lot of their core talent from last year, the only conspicuous losses being Aaron Veale and Chris Thomas’ respective returns to Southampton Quidditch Club (SQC) and Reading Knights , and most of them are represented in this roster. We can expect the hallmarks of the team to be much the same: slick passing around the hoops, lots of dangerous cuts and offensive movement, and a beater game that is very much supportive of what the commanding quaffle players look to achieve. Chasers Asia Piatek and Ben Honey in particular have the chance to shine, both having looked strong for the London Monarchs in QPL over the summer and are able to step out of the shadow of, respectively, Jemma Thripp and Veale. Piatek and Honey are both talented in exploiting space and stand poised for high–scoring returns if the Werewolves are able to bring the kind of passing game that they showed last season.
For all that, the passing offence is not a new strength for Bidwell’s side, and when it fell down last year, they sometimes struggled to bring different dimensions to the team in order to remain threatening. Keeper Ed Brett, a new acquisition from Swansea Swans, is a versatile threat but most notably joins Callum Humphreys and Alex Harrison as players who can execute fast counterattacks, beat players one-on-one, and convert chances with forward momentum on the break. It will be interesting to see whether Brett, with his superior distribution and towering stature, is preferred by Bidwell to Humphreys, a stalwart of the side and far more established within the team. Brett also brings with him from Swansea Rosie Inman, a standout player for Ireland at this summer’s European Games, impressive at fantasy tournaments since she began playing, and an exciting prospect for development now that she is to be regularly training and playing with an elite team. Although it is perhaps too early for her to shine this time, she is one who will be a huge asset to the Werewolves as the season develops.
If the Werewolves of London have a weakness, other than questions about versatility in their quaffle offence, it is undoubtedly in depth at beater. The ever-present Jan Mikolajczak may have had by his own high standards a quiet European Games, but he nonetheless made a stalwart contribution to the UK’s gold medal finish and will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming season. At Battle Royale II, however, the Werewolves will be without his running mate Luke Twist. For all of Mikolajczak’s talent, the intensity and energy of his game precludes him performing for long spells, and with Natalie A’Bear also absent a lot will fall on the shoulders of Rica Biasi and Karina Auer, who recently returned from the cruciate ligament injury that kept her out most of last season. It seems hard to imagine them keeping pace consistently with some of the beaters they will be facing, but these two must step up and ensure they go the distance with the likes of Velociraptors QC and Antwerp A if the Werewolves are to enjoy success against either.
In all likelihood, the outcome for Werewolves of London at Battle Royale II will be business as usual: a podium finish, but falling short of first place. Despite losing a couple of strong players and having a few more absent, they are fielding a team that should be able to build upon its past strengths. However, unless they can find a hitherto unforeseen level, it is hard to see them not simply being outplayed at their own game by Antwerp, and it will require a very good performance from Mikolajczak for them to reliably crack the Velociraptors’ intelligent and physical defence.
Three River Dragons Passau (Prediction: Sixth)
Marco Ziegaus | Peter Bogner | Florian Marquardt | Ida Meyenberg | Felix Linsmeier | Tara Arabzadeh Jamali | Sarah Fuchs | Michael Schoppe | Heiner Elser | Laura Mattausch | Andreas Opitz | Mayke Dombrowski | Christian Häuser | Tamara Schwager | Annika Zangenfeind | Sarah Helmbrecht | Svea Buttgereit | Miguel Vázquez Fernández
Three River Dragons Passau represent in every way the rising tide of German quidditch, which now features the second most teams in Europe (40). Their breakout onto the international scene started at World Cup 2016 and continued through an impressive showing at last season’s EQC to a veritable giant-killing with the national team’s play-off victory over Turkey in this summer’s European Games. One of the foundations of this international success has been Passau, a mainstay of the German game. Passau came agonisingly close to defeating Werewolves of London in the EQC 2017 during the Round of 16, in what would have rivalled the dethroning of Titans Paris as upset of the tournament.
Naturally, therefore, the possible Werewolves-Passau rematch at Battle Royale II is one of the most anticipated games. Last time the two met, despite the depth of quality in the British team’s quaffle line, the Passau beaters were fearless. The Werewolves were entrenched in their own half for long spells, struggling to generate momentum or space. Although they will be missing Andy Toz from their beaters who gave such a strong EQC performance, many of Passau’s mainstay beaters, including Christian Häuser, Laura Mattausch, and Peter Bogner, are coming to Southampton. They will be hoping both that they can have the same impact on the Werewolves and the other teams they face, and that these teams will not have learned from the Werewolves’ near-miss in Mechelen.
Passau may remain the most internationally unknown quantity coming into Battle Royale II, and this will undoubtedly work in their favour as they have the athleticism and skill to punish missteps in opposition perceptions before they can adapt. In many ways, however, EQC 2017 was the breakout of hyper-aggressive beating as a strategy in the mainstream European quidditch consciousness, so the team will not be able to rely on the same shock factor that did so well for them earlier in the year. At European Games, while the hallmarks of this same approach were there for the German national team, they showed more nuance, ensuring there was a contingency if their beaters overcommitted and executing patience in choosing when to make a move. That Bogner, player-coach for the Three River Dragons, will also be the national team head coach for World Cup 2018, should reassure onlookers that there is yet another level to the Passau team than what they showed in their last international outing at club level.
If Passau have proven themselves able to punish defensive hesitation and frailties, however, this has not quite been sufficient to paper over their own. They frequently concede as many goals as they score in end-to-end breaks against top-level opponents, and this is likely to hit them hard unless they can demonstrate defensive organisation and prowess in tackling, which has not been evident so far. They have talented quaffle players, especially in Ida Meyenberg and Marco Ziegaus at keeper, but their skills are all heavily weighted towards offensive ability, and they would benefit greatly from one or two players with the composure to organize a defence, strength in the tackle to stop a driving player, and the instinct to break up attacks. Additionally, with the return of exchange student Sami Fekkak to his native France, and German national team chaser and seeker Max Martens absent from their roster for the weekend, the Three River Dragons also have a gap to plug in the seeker game. Even if they can replicate their impressive underdog performance in Southampton, fighting their way into range with their rivals at Battle Royale may not be enough for a consistent winning streak unless other seekers from their ranks can step up to the plate..
Passau, ultimately, are a good team who are admirable standard-bearers for German quidditch and will have a strong season, but I still expect them to struggle at Battle Royale. The best in Germany they may be, but Germany is still finding its feet in the big leagues of the European game, and this is likely to show as Passau come up against the Belgian and European champions, Norwegian runners-up, and the top three teams in the UK. They will benefit greatly from the exhibition and experience of such consistently high-level play across their weekend in Southampton, and come Battle Royale 2018 the picture may be entirely different.
Bristol Brizzlebears (Prediction: Fourth)
David Goswell | Ollie Bridgen | Dominic Ayre | Viral Patel | Florian Messemer | Vincent Poon | Tom Ower | Josh Blannin | Abby Whiteley | Sophie Craig | Gabby Fitzgerald | Samantha Frohlich | Aaron Brett-Miller | Alistair Goodwin | Matthew Nugent | Sam Senior | Jodie Mee | George Whiting | Aimee Donhou
Bristol Quidditch Club’s Brizzlebears are an analyst’s nightmare. Whenever they seem to settle into a certain level of ability or performance, they slip to a dismal series of defeats or a soaring triumph that completely belies expectations and brings everyone back to the same fundamental question: why can’t this largely consistent roster produce a consistent level of performance?
The foundations of this Bears team at Battle Royale II are as they have always been: founders Tom Ower and Matthew Nugent, and the first generation of Bristol quidditch players such as Jodie Mee and Josh Blannin, but increasingly the squads they field are replete with sparkling talent newer to their ranks. Many of the names are the same that won an unexpected silver medal at the British Quidditch Cup back in March, and highs such as this tend to come on the back of the sheer energy, enthusiasm, and momentum the team can generate. Ower in particular is the crucible of their attacking style, playing off Viral Patel and the returning Sophie Craig ㅡ both lethal converting around the hoops ㅡ to shift the quaffle rapidly and creatively around the pitch in a way which, at its best, even the sharpest defences struggle to close out. The downfall, as identified, is that they rely on individual flair and moments of stylish brilliance that are undoubtedly remarkable, and crowd-pleasing, when pulled off, but not something around which they have been able to build a dependable strategy.
The team does have some more reliable players: Captain Ollie Bridgen is a formidable offensive threat, driving dangerously and threatening longer-range passes than most of the players around him. His second-in-command, Abby Whiteley, is a tireless workhorse in the white headband, offering a grit, commitment, and tenacity that this Bristol team often seems to lack, especially when organizing themselves on defence. Whiteley, one expects, will be called upon to steady the ship when Bridgen or star beater Aaron Brett-Miller suffer from frustration, or the team’s energetic enthusiasm sees their focus slip.
If a rapid short passing game is the strength of the Bears’ old guard ㅡ Bridgen notwithstanding ㅡ then two new additions promise to diversify that threat and add a more direct offensive option akin to that offered by their captain. The itinerant David Goswell, playing for his fourth club in as many seasons, has also struggled for consistency in recent years but is an intelligent, commanding, and agile keeper who shines in one-on-one situations and on the counterattack. He and Vincent Poon, another skilled driver who often flies under the radar, will offer Blannin a more direct option on offence if they can find the space to exploit, although Poon in particular must learn to keep his head up and remain aware of the players around him if he is to make a big impact in this talented squad. One of last season’s impressive debutants, chaser Samantha Frohlich, will also be looking to cement her space on the Bears’ roster for this season as understudy to Craig with a continuation of her assured quaffle handling and intelligent offensive runs.
Historically, the Brizzlebears have been let down somewhat by their beaters, but this now seems to be in the past. Mee will write no headlines but remains as solid as ever, and between an increasingly impressive Brett-Miller and another breakout star of the previous year in George Whiting, they now have a beater line that is a long way from being the Achilles’ heel of the impressive Bears’ chasers. Brett-Miller’s temperament is still an issue, prone as he is to losing his composure if decisions or engagements go against him early on, but with a dependable high-level substitute in Whiting the option is now much more appealing to simply withdraw him, allow him to gather himself, and send him out again for another try.
Overall, hard as it is to make predictions for the Brizzlebears in any circumstance, they seem to be destined for a middle-of-the-pack finish in Southampton. They lack the quality or discipline to keep pace with the three lined up for the podium, but as long as they can perform to a reasonable degree they should have the depth and quality to see off OSI, Passau, and Southampton.
Antwerp Quidditch Club A (Prediction: First)
Louis Lermytte | Soraya Abbagnato | Jonas Van Reeth | Emile Aerts | Florence Anslot | Willem Ardui | Veerle De Caestecker | Seppe de Wit | Jan Dubois | Elisabeth Reyniers | Noa Sangulin | Tim van Huygevoort | Laurent Venckeleer | Hanne Porres | Nathan Wilputte | Katrien De Doncker | Paul Bonnet | Jeroen Spruyt
Antwerp Quidditch Club A come into Battle Royale II both as defending champions and as favourites to retain their title. Their victory in Southampton last autumn opened the gates to a gilded season where they won more or less everything they touched at both domestic and international level, and they will be willing to settle for no less than keeping that momentum going into the 2017-18 season and setting a marker to their EQC rivals.
The Dodos boast a wealth of Belgian national team talent, including dauntless chaser Seppe de Wit and Quidditch Post Awards’ Best European Player Louis Lermytte. Having played together since their mid–teens, de Wit and Lermytte have matured into a duo with incredible chemistry, forming the bedrock of a team of players who know, understand, and build up one another implicitly. Lermytte is athletic, agile, and incredibly intelligent, able to excel in all four headbands but performing most brilliantly at chaser, where he is almost untouchable with the quaffle. He has pinpoint distribution, an unmatched midrange shot, and a tackling technique that belies his modest stature. Complementing his teammate, de Wit brings in abundance the one factor Lermytte lacks: physicality. The Antwerp captain is one of the most imposing presences on the quidditch pitch, virtually unstoppable with momentum behind him and a veritable brick wall to attempt to run through, but is intelligent and technically gifted enough not to be over reliant on his strength.
Even with just these two, the Belgian and European champions promise a plethora of offensive options, and the strength in depth they have is breathtaking. Tim van Huygevoort and Nathan Wilputte in particular would be headline acts in almost any other club team in Europe, and among Antwerp’s full chaser line they have a multiplicity of threats; they can execute passes, drives, counterattacks, wide cuts, and ranged shots to the very highest level, reacting to the shape of the opposing defence whilst proving hard to score on themselves. Their defensive structure and prowess is perhaps not quite as formidable as their offence, but such is the domination of quaffle possession that the Dodos typically secure that this rarely costs them; they do not shut teams out, but they outscore them by orders of magnitude.
At beater, they are equally well-endowed, even in the absence of their former star Faust Eeckhout. Elisabeth Reyniers is an experienced hand at club and international level, and has an acute positional sense and agility that allows her to outmaneuver her opposite numbers and command space in a way that belies the lack of flashy accoutrements or real flair in her game. Partnering her is Jan Dubois, whose formidable development shows no sign of abating; a consummate sniper, Dubois executes duels and harasses the opposing quaffle players from distance with an impressively high success rate, contributing to the overall feeling when playing the Antwerp team that they will stake a claim to the quaffle irrespective of where you are on the pitch.
In truth, on paper Antwerp are bringing a roster that promises a dominant performance. They have an edge in style and quality that will take them past the Werewolves of London, and although a full-strength Velociraptors squad may go toe-to-toe with them, the Dodos stand poised to punish the absences of Andrew Hull, Bill Orridge, and Ashley Cooper in the British team’s lineup. The only thing that may hamper the Belgian outfit is that de Wit, Wilputte, Dubois, Reyniers, and Emile Aerts are all in the process of returning from various injuries that may limit or even prevent their participation. If enough key components of their first line are forced to withdraw, then the second string will face a gruelling battle to prove themselves, but otherwise expect a confident undefeated victory for Antwerp A.
OSI Vikings (Prediction: Fifth)
Ragnhild Dahl | Mette Sundal | Mathilde Seligmann | Martin Beyer | Petter Elstad | Vincent Mainardi | Johanne Steinlien | William Åredal | Manon Robert | Ronie Makhoul | Kohei Oyama | Chloe Ewens | Jakob Lenz | Anders Kulsrud Storruste | Rein Oterholm | Heidi Åmot | Kenneth Sanglay | Trym Korsvik | Kai Haugen Shaw
Another team who have potential in abundance but struggle for consistency, OSI Vikings are in many ways reflective of Norwegian quidditch in that respect, which has seen its fortunes rise and fall several times over the past few years. Their namesakes may have come to coastal English towns inspiring fear and subjugation, but the Oslo team will be hoping simply to score a few wins and bed themselves into the new season with a respectable performance as they descend on British shores.
The Vikings’ roster boasts a scattering of important players from the Norway squad who performed well at European Games, twice pushing eventual champions Team UK all the way before succumbing. Most notably, Mette Sundal at beater is amongst the best in the world: she has the edge in pace on almost every beater who’ll be in Southampton, as well as a hunter’s instinct paired with an impressive arm, and her tenacity in scrapping for the bludger outmatches everyone with whom she’ll be competing. If OSI Vikings are to be successful, her performances will be key, and although she has demonstrated excellent stamina in previous outings, she will need to sustain a high level across the whole tournament, serving long stints to steer the team to success. Her versatility is such that she can perform most roles in the black headband, but with the team’s other recognized elite beater, Stein Elgethun, absent she may struggle with a lack of real support in whichever role she plays and will have to prove her ability to star, independent of support.
Alongside Sundal, the other player who will be key to a successful Vikings performance is Kai Haugen Shaw. An enigmatic player with an abundance of experience, Shaw made his return in Barcelona at the start of September from a long-term shoulder injury that kept him out of the European Games. He was only able to risk playing beater in Catalonia, a position in which he is, at best, average. The team will need their talisman back in his native green headband if they are to really exert themselves, so his match fitness will be a big factor in how well they perform. If he is able to keep, Shaw has cat-like reflexes that see him deny shots, make interceptions from seemingly impossible angles, and render ranged shooting against his hoops all but irrelevant. He is similarly slippery on offence, eschewing passing or offloads in favour of weaving and pirouetting his way amongst tackles and blockers to find the hoops amidst a melee with unerring accuracy.
If they are faced with the continued absence of Shaw in the quaffle game, the Vikings have access to the gigantic Jakob Lenz, whose sheer physicality can prove difficult for unprepared defenders to handle. He remains a poor substitute for Shaw, however, with unreliable balance meaning talented tacklers can topple him fairly easily despite his size; he also lacks any real awareness when driving, which leads to him getting entangled in tackles or poached by beaters returning to the defence. Still, if used carefully, he could prove a notable asset, especially against the teams with fewer recognized high-class tacklers. Anders Kulsrud Storruste is an option with a less formidable stature but a better all-round game, clearer vision, and prowess in the yellow headband, and he is at least as valuable an asset as Lenz.
Unfortunately, that is where the real stars of the Vikings lineup end. They have talent, but not in the abundance needed to carry them far in this star-studded tournament, and though I expect their cadre of top players to carry them past Passau and Southampton ㅡ provided Shaw keeps ㅡ they will fall short against teams who have the depth to sustain high-level play further into their roster. Once the top players on the Norwegian team take substitutes, they drop off sharply, and faced with the quality of the teams they will face in Southampton, that will be punished.
Southampton Quidditch Club (Prediction: Seventh)
Aaron Veale | Ajay Gohil | Alex Carpenter | Amy Fearn | Andrew Convery | Ania Spencer | Anjit Aulakh | Ben Guthrie | Bex Lowe | Chloe Smith | Fraser Posford | Imy Gregg | Joel Davis | Josh Light | Kerry Aziz | Kevin Luu | Kyle Taylor-Miles | Lena Mandahus | Mark Eborde | Matteo Barraclough | Sam Atkinson | Sophie Wahts | Tommy Morgan
As hosts of Battle Royale II Southampton Quidditch Club have the pick of their usual players, including the new and returning talent headed to the club for the 2017-18 season. That said, Southampton have invited a depth of prodigious talent to their doorstep for their pre-season warm up, and although it will doubtless outfit them well going forward, it promises to be a rough ride for them.
SQC disappointed in 2016-17, falling short in major tournaments for the second season running, and they will be desperate to remedy this in the season to come. Last year, their top-class beater line was sold short by a desperately average quaffle game, and the big incoming chasers – returning players Fraser Posford and Aaron Veale alongside new acquisition Bex Lowe – will be looked to to make an immediate impact at Battle Royale II to provide some quality and attacking flair against some excellent defences. The recruitment of former Durhamstrang stalwart Ben Guthrie also poses an interesting question: undoubtedly his strongest position is at beater, but he has also proven himself a very adept chaser across multiple performances, and given the abundance of talent at beater and dearth of it at chaser in the club, he may be wisely utilised by coach Tommy Morgan in a white headband even if it’s not using him at his individual best.
Guthrie, if he does beat, comes alongside Lena Mandahus into a beater line that would be the envy of almost any club in Europe. Anjit Aulakh has looked exceptional over the summer, and his energy, intelligence, and aggression promise to ensure that SQC’s beaters are on the front foot against the majority of teams they play. The players around him are no less impressive: Alex Carpenter’s work rate and pace are matchless, cutting short many counterattacks and making winning or consolidating bludger control against her an incredibly difficulty task, while both Imy Gregg and Kerry Aziz are assertive and confident players. Aziz in particular has outstanding positional sense and seems recently to have been growing into a confidence that makes her a real handful for opposing beaters to contend with. Have no doubt, there is talent and energy in this beater line to create opportunities aplenty for their chasers.
The difficulty for SQC has for a year now been converting these chances into points, and unfortunately this doesn’t look like changing this season. Compared to the brilliance of their beaters, last season’s leaders in the quaffle game – Ajay Gohil, Joel Davis, and Matteo Barraclough – simply don’t square up. Barraclough’s pace and lateral movement make him a real danger one-on-one and on the break, and Davis is muscular enough to power through a poor tackle, but against top defences – the like of which will be in abundance at Battle Royale II – such opportunities are rare, and there simply isn’t the attacking intelligence or versatility to make up for it in the SQC roster. Posford is a talented player and Veale is top class, but neither of them fill the playmaking void that exists in the Southampton team, with Posford again most dangerous on the break against a scattered defence. Veale is a truly elite wide receiver, but it doesn’t matter how good someone is at finding space around the hoops, losing a marker, and executing a clinical finish if there’s nobody on the team who can reliably find them with a pass. As Lowe makes her debut for the Anchors at the weekend she may be the most talented playmaker at their disposal; she has the combination of patience, vision, and a passing arm that is otherwise lacking from the team and has given a good account of herself in a similar role for Durhamstrang in the past. Still, even Lowe is not in her comfort zone playing the creative role, and although she will likely be able to link up some fine plays with Veale, it merely papers over the cracks of a fine set of players who look, frustratingly, to be less than the sum of their parts.
If SQC can demonstrate more endemic leadership in the quaffle game, then they definitely have it in them to outperform this prediction and utilise their excellent beaters to propel themselves to a finish that is approaching the middle or even higher in the rankings at Battle Royale II. There is certainly cause for optimism that over the course of the season Gohil may realise the potential he once showed as a playmaking force, that an unforeseen star may emerge, or that either Posford and Lowe may make that part of the game truly their own, but it will be a formidable achievement for them to realise this so early on. If they fail to, it is hard to see them notching up more than one or two wins, if that, and they will likely be towards the bottom of the standings when the dust settles.
Conclusion and Predicted Final Rankings
Bearing in mind what’s been said above, this is a new season with fresh perspectives, players, and approaches, so any prediction must be taken with caution, and this tournament has rich potential for upsets. That said, here is how I expect the Battle Royale II standings will play out once all is said and done:
1st: Antwerp Quidditch Club A
2nd: Velociraptors QC
3rd: Werewolves of London
5th: OSI Vikings
6th: Three River Dragons Passau
7th: Southampton Quidditch Club
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article omitted Mikey Orridge from the Raptors roster and listed Tommy Morgan as Southampton’s captain instead of coach. A sentence regarding Antwerp’s seeker was also removed