QUAFL 2019 – Pool B Preview
Continuing our preview of the 2019 Australian Championship Pools, guest analyst Stephen Butler examines pool B, containing the University of Sydney Unspeakables, University of Sunshine Coast Dementors, Macarthur Weasleys, Monash Mudbloods, and Wollongong Warriors.
This group features two “must-watch” games in my opinion. The clash between the Unspeakables and the Dementors to likely decide the group winner is tantalising, especially with both clubs being the undoubted groundbreakers of building foundations for the future.
However, the game between the hosts, Macarthur Weasleys and the Monash Mudbloods will also be an exciting clash, with both clubs playing a high paced, exciting style of quidditch, led by key beaters Ricky Andrew and Connor Mai, and ball carriers Michael Moustakas and Aaron Siebel respectively.
First QUAFL: 2012
Best Performance: Runners Up (2018)
2019 was yet another year of rebuilding for the Unspeakables, losing a fair few important players in the off-season to the growing number of community teams in NSW. However, the Unspeakables proved that there is still room for university teams at the top of the division. Their incredible recruitment and training has helped USyd remain strong, even when people move on. The fact that 20 of the 42 NSW Bluetongues and Bluebottles players first played quidditch for USyd shows just how successful this club has been in the recruitment and development of top players.
This season, some of those top players were key ball carriers Max Brenner and Cooper Fitzgerald. The passing game these two offered was crucial for the Unspeakables attack, as they not only assisted each other, but were supported by the patience of India Rich and the quality receiving provided by Sanju Vairav and Ava McConnell.
Without beaters though, it’s difficult to score as many goals as USyd did and Alex Cunningham really stepped up into the void left by 2018 Dropbears reserve Harrison Jones and proved himself as one of the top beaters in NSW, opening numerous opportunities to score. Baldeep Uppal and Harry Huang have shown themselves to be a blazingly fast pair, while the promotion of Nitya Ramalingam from the Unbreakables has also significantly bolstered the team.
The Unspeakables vs USC game is very important for both teams, who both would love to top group B at QUAFL. The Unspeakables will consider themselves favourites, however cannot let themselves be caught off guard by the incredibly athletic and ever improving Dementors.
USyd, despite their losses, have filled the gaps nicely with new blood, including the talented and tenacious Martina Bai. They should win this group and get a bye through to the top 8, however will almost certainly find either the Serpents or Manticores blocking their path to the final. The Manticores knocked out the Unspeakables in the quarter finals of 2016, and the finals of 2018, with the Serpents doing to job in the 2017 quarter finals, all in tight SWIM games. Will 2019 be the year the Unspeakables can break through the purple barrier?
First QUAFL: 2015
Best Performance: 9th (2018)
The USC Dementors experienced yet another dominant season in Queensland, winning the Queensland State Finals, going undefeated all season on route to said finals and providing a majority of the Thunderbirds roster for State Shield. They also ventured to Melbourne for Mudbash and finished in fourth place, which shows that they can also perform highly against interstate opposition.
One of the strongest assets of the Dementors is their talented and very athletic list of female players. Relative newcomers Kaysanne Hockey and Jessica Head bring extra strength to an already potent group of chasers, while Alise Fox and Ruth Creffield, two inaugural Dementors, add plenty of experience and knowledge to the beating.
Supplementing these fantastic women are Dropbears chaser Simon Spann, coach Joshua Lindley and the returning 2019 QUAFL snitch catch hero Dylan Waller. These three are all experienced and quality quaffle players who have an affinity for goal scoring.
The Dementors will surely be preparing for the impending pool topping clash with the Unspeakables. They have the slightly more brilliant chaser line, and can bring a huge amount of physicality to the game, but matching the intensity of the USyd beaters will be incredibly vital if they hope to win that game.
USC show significant improvement every year, and the fact that they have retained the core of their squad is a huge part of their high level performances. After a ninth place finish last season, they really should have no problem breaking into the top 8, but that is likely to be the end of their run as they face higher level opposition.
First QUAFL: 2016
Best Performance: 17th/Pool Play (2018)
The Macarthur Weasleys had a wonderful 2019 season, finishing in first place in NSW division 2 with only a single (shock) loss to Wollongong and double victories over closest competitors Macquarie and UNSW. This, combined with the exciting news that they had the privilege of hosting QUAFL 2019, brought them to the NQL finals with a wave of momentum. However, it just wasn’t their day with shock losses to UTS and the Unbreakables leaving them with a fifth place finish.
The general dominance of the Weasleys can be heavily attributed to the aggressive beating of Ricky Andrew and Arfy Papadam, two men with big hair and an even bigger influence on pitch.
Their beating opened up plenty of lanes for the blindingly quick and incredibly strong chasing unit comprised of Michael Moustakas, Mahdi Saleh and 2018 Dropbear Arlyta Andrew, who piled on the goals all season.
While the Weasleys are definitely capable of challenging the Dementors, it’s their game against the Mudbloods that can make or break this group for the hosts. A slip up against the Mudbloods would leave them teetering on the edge of early elimination, so they really need to bring everything to that game.
It is hard to predict the Weasleys in this group, as at their absolute best they could shock the Dementors but at the same time, lost games they really should’ve won against Wollongong and the Unbreakables. A full squad and home crowd should help them squeeze past the Mudbloods, but I think the pressure of hosting will lead to losses against USC and USyd. I can’t see them progressing much further than the first elimination game however.
First QUAFL: 2017
Best Performance: Pool Play
The Monash Mudbloods had a great 2019 season, with a victory over the South Melbourne Centaurs confirming them as the division two champions of Victoria Cup. They finished the regular season in second place behind the Centaurs, but a series of strong performances in the finals led to their championship. This QUAFL squad will also feature some of the aforementioned South Melbourne Centaurs players, who’s integration to the team adds an extra level of depth for the two day tournament.
The Mudbloods, being the Monash Muggles second team, feature a lot of talented up and coming stars, supplemented with some experienced Centaurs who will surely help them out. Two of the key Mudbloods players are beater Connor Mai and keeper/chaser Aaron Sibel, both of whom represented the Honeyeaters at the 2019 State Shield. They are both very quick and difficult to defend and should cause plenty of trouble for their opposition.
Then, from the Centaurs, the experience provided by Mark Kelly, Manon te Riele and Justine Herring should give the younger Mudbloods a huge boost over the weekend.
It is the game against the Weasleys that will decide who progresses from this group, so the Mudbloods must be ready to give their all against a team that is very difficult to break down. That will be one great game to watch.
I expect a fairly strong debut QUAFL performance from the Mudbloods. They’ve got a solid and eager young squad who will trouble most teams in this group. However, general inexperience may hurt them against the experience and squad consistency of USC and the Weasleys. An easy fourth place finish is expected, and third place is not out of the realms of possibility, but as stated, I think they’ll just fall short of the Weasleys.
First QUAFL: 2011
Best Performance: Pool Play (2018)
The Wollongong Warriors perhaps had their best season yet, finishing 6th out of 8 in division two of the NSW state league and pushing many of the top teams in the division right to the snitch catch. This is a tremendous improvement for Wollongong, who have historically struggled, but never gave up. They’ll be hoping to take that strong performance with them into QUAFL.
The Warriors are helped by the experience and leadership of Krystina Semmler, Portia-Lyn O’Connor and Huw Tomlinson, all of whom have played for multiple seasons and have a huge hand in the training of the Warriors. They will have a big influence on the rest of the team and their advanced knowledge of the game will be vital if the Warriors are to achieve their highest ever QUAFL position.
Players such as chaser and goal scoring threat Cailem Kostiuk and beater Connor Marsland also have a decent amount of experience and while perhaps not as well known, will be just as important.
Wollongong’s first game of the weekend is also potentially their most difficult, as they take on the Unspeakables. It will be important for Wollongong to come out of this game with high spirits and high energy leading into the much more winnable games against the Weasleys and Mudbloods.
Wollongong have had a solid year, looking a lot more like a cohesive unit and challenging many teams in NSW, however, they are perhaps a little bit unlucky with this draw, with the Weasleys and Mudbloods both looking very strong. They’ll put up a good fight and show great spirit but I don’t see them advancing from the pool.
Many of these games will be very tight affairs, due to the tenacious defence on display. Quite a few of the games in this pool could go right down to the snitch catch, where anything can happen. If QUAFL upsets are going to happen, this is the pool for them to happen. The three games between USyd, USC and the Weasleys should all be fun games for spectators, as could any of those teams against the Mudbloods if they bring their absolute best. And you can never forget perennial battlers Wollongong, who are a great example of ‘never giving up’.
I still predict this pool going in pod order from 1 to 5, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong here. USyd, USC and the Weasleys should make it through to the finals bracket, with the Mudbloods and Wollongong putting up a tough fight but narrowly missing out.