IT may have started with Harry Potter, but the ANU’s quidditch team, the ANU Owls, say they’re playing the sport for the complex, multi-ball, broomstick-wielding game it is.
And now, Canberra has won the bid to host the Australian national quidditch tournament, also known as QUAFL 2016, at the Australian Institute of Sport on December 9-10.
“It stands for Quidditch United Australian Federation League, but it’s basically so it can be called QUAFL, which is a ball used in the game,” says tournament organiser Merryn Christian.
Merryn says it’s a huge honour for Canberra to be hosting the sixth annual event, which has previously only been held in Sydney and once in Melbourne.
“Most states and territories will compete, with 20-25 teams – around 400 people – coming for the two-day event,” she says.
“We’re very excited. It’s the culmination of the state league matches, and it’s great to have the backing of the AIS, as QUAFL has never been held at a proper sporting venue before.”
Merryn says the weekend aims to bring the quidditch experience to Canberra, and will include wheelchair quidditch and kidditch for kids.
“The thing I love about quidditch is that you have to be a quick thinker – you need a good brain more than athletic skill,” she says.
“Anyone can play, and I really like that.
“I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and when I joined the Harry Potter society at ANU I thought quidditch looked exciting and complicated, in a good way.”
Merryn says the game is still evolving all the time.
“Initially, in 2011 when quidditch started being played, it wasn’t a contact sport – but it’s a rough game in the books so they introduced the tackle,” she says.
“There are new rules and tweaks happening all the time, such as pulling the broomstick up so you don’t impale your opponent.
“I like that the rules are still changing to incorporate new elements. That hasn’t happened in sport in a while and it’s exciting to be playing the game as it takes shape.”
Adapted from JK Rowling’s books, Merryn says quidditch has three games running concurrently, whereby chasers try to get balls (quaffles) through the three hoops, while being derailed by beaters who throw larger balls (bludgers) at them, Dodgeball-style. Then there’s the seeker, a person in gold shorts-slash-referee with a ball in a yellow sock (the golden snitch), who comes on after a designated time and whose capture means the end of the game.
“There have been some logical amendments from the book, for example the snitch is only worth 30 points instead of 150, so the game isn’t necessarily won by whoever catches it,” Merryn says.
Logan Davis, captain of the ANU Owls, says the broomstick has been incorporated into the game, but as a straight stick of regulated material and size.
“The stick is our handicap, like in soccer where you can’t touch the ball with your hands, or in netball where you can’t run with the ball,” he says.
“Quidditch is basically a one-armed game.”
Three of the ANU Owls – coach James Mortensen, beater Shu Ying Lee and president Oscar Cozens – play for Australia’s national squad, the Dropbears. Merryn says the team will be competing in the Quidditch World Cup in Frankfurt in July, where it will compete against 25 other countries.
“Previously, there have only been as many as seven countries involved, so this is a big year and shows how much quidditch is growing,” says Merryn.
“Some people think the game is strange, but we think it’s the best thing ever.
“And a small part of it for me is the origins of the sport and that it’s part of Harry Potter.”