By Ashara Peiris
July 2016. Dameon Osborn lies flat on his back holding a snitch sock aloft for almost a minute before slowly getting to his feet as the referees confer. Three long whistle blasts by Head Referee Erin Mallory and it’s official, the Dropbears have pulled off one of the biggest upsets in quidditch history, defeating the formerly undefeated and seemingly invincible USA side 150*-130. The crowd floods the pitch and history is made. One and a half years later, Team Australia have released their roster for their upcoming defence of the World Cup. But who is the team, and how has it changed?
Nikita Van Kaathoven
There has been significant change amongst the ranks of this year’s Dropbears, with a staggering eight players set to make their international debut – by comparison Team UK only debuted four new players at last year’s European Games. So who are these players?
Arlyta Andrew – Chaser – MacArthur Weasleys
A keen athlete, Andrew competes in a number of sports, including netball and Oztag, and she recently completed her second half marathon. As coach for the Weasleys she has an in–depth knowledge of the game that will assist her on the Dropbears side.
Brandon Frison – Chaser – University of Sydney Quidditch Club (USyd)
A relative newcomer to the sport, Frison has easily transferred his extensive sporting background, which has included rugby and soccer, into a successful position as chaser on the Dropbears.
Emily Merry – Chaser – Melbourne Manticores
As one of the rising stars of Australian quidditch, Merry has already made an impact. After moving from the Unicorns to the Manticores this year, Merry has showcased a chasing style reminiscent of former Dropbear Caitlin Thomas of the “pick heard around the world” fame. If she can manage to slot in with the consistently elite female quaffle players, she will be able to make a significant impact.
Jonathon O’Brien – Chaser – Newcastle Fireballs
O’Brien, normally a keeper for the Fireballs – where they are also an assistant coach – has transitioned into a role as chaser for the Dropbears which will likely allow them to be used where their strengths most greatly lie, in their power and size.
Nikita Van Kaathoven – Chaser – Whomping Willows
Van Kaathoven is one of the newest members to quidditch, having only joined the sport in 2017. In that short time, however, she has won both the State Shield and QUAFL as part of the Victorian Leadbeaters and the Willows.
Simon Spann – Chaser – USC Dementors
As a national–level sprinter, Spann is no stranger to competing at a high level. Now playing for the USC Dementors, this speed will be of unquestionable use, particularly if he is used to start games.Their significant height and wingspan also allows him to more effectively defend the hoops.
Clementine Round – Beater – Wrackspurts Quidditch Club
Round is a player that has been around the block since quidditch has started in Victoria. Despite narrowly missing out on a QUAFL championship this season, Round helped bring her team to the final. Strong, cerebral beating from her will be necessary to fill any gaps in the female beating core of the Dropbears, particularly during the later stages of the game.
Dean Rodhouse – Beater – Melbourne Manticores
Rodhouse surprised our writers by not having yet made a Team Australia roster in the past despite strong performances with the Manticores. After narrowly missing out on selection in 2016, he has clearly redoubled his efforts and will be joining other elite beaters on the pitches at this year’s World Cup.
Whilst these eight players can now say that they are a Dropbear, for eight others, this is no longer the case. Most notable amongst these departures is Hannah Monty, a two-time member of Team Australia and arguably the most decorated athlete in the entirety of Australian quidditch – a multi-year member of the Australian National Team for Ultimate. The loss of her from the beater rotation will undoubtedly be felt, particularly during snitch–on–pitch. Furthermore, the loss of Caitlin Thomas from the chasing rotation means that the remaining chasers will have to step up their physicality on both offence and defence.
The roster for this year’s World Cup is clearly very strong, with a number of familiar names amongst the squad.
The Dropbears’ quaffle game is anchored by two-time QUAFL champion Callum Mayling of the Melbourne Manticores. Known especially for his power in the drive, Mayling will look for his second gold medal to join his two national championships and two state championships. Although Mayling justifiably earns much of the plaudits internationally, much of the team’s success will again depend on how it uses players in a more contributory role. Taya Rawson earned international acclaim for her performance in 2016, but coming off a significant injury, questions may be raised as to whether she can duplicate her performance of two years ago. Rawson is also supported by a number of able chasers including James Osmond and Andrew Culf, both of whom – like Rawson – are making their third consecutive appearance as members of the Australian side.
At beater, all eyes are on Luke Derrick, who starred in 2016 and whose snitch–on–pitch play was crucial in earning his team a gold. Derrick is again joined by long-time partner Nat Astalosh with the two teaming up for university, club, state, and country over the course of their lengthy careers, most recently with the Sydney City Serpents. An active beater, Deni Tasman is also more than capable of causing chaos on pitch and could be key to the Dropbears’ efforts to repeat.
Dameon Osborn, Nathan Morton, and Neil Kemister return to the Dropbears this year, with all three having great success in the intervening years. Osborn has regularly showcased an intensity and ferocity rarely matched by players and Morton has made an effective switch from chasing to beating, whilst Kemister has showcased consistently focused and dangerous seeking. Kemister and Morton have each exhibited championship–winning catches – Kemister for the Victorian Leadbeaters in the 2017 State Shield and Morton with the Willows at QUAFL 2017 – on top of Osborn’s gold-medal winning catch. Each have highlight reels that would make any practitioner jealous, and if Australia can stay in range and their chaser and beater lineups suggest they can, they’re a threat against any team they might face.
Unsurprisingly, the Australian roster is still one to be feared, with elite level players in every position. Furthermore, with the Dropbears practicing and training together regularly, no team should take them lightly come July. Whilst they are no longer coming into this year’s World Cup as the heavy underdog, the Dropbears will still have a lot to prove, both to themselves and the world, before they can show that they can be dominant champions and lift that trophy once more.