The Eighth Man

A Loonie Rivalry: Previewing US vs. Canada in the Global Games

With the Canadian national team finally announced, we can really start to look forward to the Global Games and the matchups ahead of us all. Today, we had the chance to sit down with IQA correspondent Jamie Lafrance of Ottawa Maple Rush to get his thoughts on how the Canadian team was made and how they can stack up with Team USA.

Ethan: Canada is considered by most to be the second strongest quidditch-playing nation. Last Global Games, with a sub-optimal roster, the team finished a disappointing fourth. What would be a successful Global Games to you this time around for Canada?

Jamie: Anything less than second is a failure. We have a really talented roster, and should be able to win games against every other non-American nation, hands down. I think Canada has improved rapidly, and European teams and Australian teams haven’t moved as quickly since the last global games.

Ethan: What do you see as really setting apart this Canadian team from the rest of the non-American pack? For me, it’s physicality. These elite Canadian quaffle players can hit with just about anyone, and while I’m not saying every last one can point defend like Kody Marshall, I think they are going to bring a level of physical defense other countries aren’t used to.

Jamie: The physicality is definitely something that will set us apart, but I really think it will come down to experience and leadership. Part of the reason the USA was so dominant at 2012 is that everyone knew how to play in big games, and had played at the highest level of quidditch at that point. This time, a lot more of the Canadians going are smarter players, many have played in multiple World Cups, and they have played much stronger competition than the other non-American teams have. The non-North American teams seemed to have grown a lot since the previous global games and will be sending strong teams, but there are so many years of experience on this roster, and I don’t think they can match its leadership.

Ethan: You mentioned leadership, so let’s go right to the top. Hugh Podmore, Team Canada coach, is to me synonymous with the peak of McGill quidditch. I think he has a fantastic mind for the game and is a very talented player. My one concern is that his view is a bit idealistic. To borrow a soccer term, he wants his teams playing the “beautiful game,” an attractive passing style. And that will work wonders when running circles around lesser teams. But it’s the last thing I’d do against Team USA. Do you think he’ll be able to adjust when needed?

Jamie: I think you’re right about Hugh as a player. He to me is easily one of the best – if not the best – players in Canada, and he does remind me a lot of the golden days of McGill. As a coach, I think he can do well. We both had the chance to play with him at last year’s Canada Fantasy tournament, and he not only shone as the best player, but he was responsible for the strategy we used pretty much throughout the tournament, and that led us to a lopsided win in the finals.

With Valhalla, he had nothing more than a middle of the pack Canadian team skillwise, and he did a fantastic job. His leadership got them a spot at World Cup, and he had to make a lot of adjustments. I remember watching their regionalquarterfinal game against Carleton, and he didn’t try to run his idealistic passing game, and the result was closer than it probably should have been.

I think he’ll do a great job as a coach, because he is one of the better players we have, and he has a great mind for the game. He can switch up his strategies if needed, and I think he has a good idea of what it will take to compete against the American squad.

Samy Mousa’s experience slowing the game down with Kansas could be vital for Team Canada against Team USA. Credit: Hannah Huddle

Ethan: So here’s the big question: Canada will clearly come in against the Americans as underdogs. A very straightforward underdog strategy has been laid out in recent months, most prominently by Kansas at World Cup, of simply taking the entire pace out of the game, limiting possessions, and keeping the game in range. Canada has the defined underdog role, they have the strategic minds, they even have a Kansas beater. If you’re Canada, do you try to slow that game to a halt, and do you think they’ll consider it?

Jamie: I think it can be considered. It worked very well for Kansas against Texas A&M, and Samy Mousa, who is on the Canadian Roster, was also a part of that Kansas roster as you mentioned, so you know it will be discussed. If they decide to go with that idea, I think it could work. I wouldn’t bet against Adam Robillard or Alex Graham making a grab, because both are really skilled and would thrive in that situation. Personally, I wouldn’t want to see that happen, as I think Canada has a roster that can at least challenge the USA. I would hate to see us win in a “gimmicky” fashion, and I would much rather win playing in our own style. I definitely don’t see us trying to push the tempo though, because trying to run up and down the field with this USA team is way too dangerous.

Ethan: So we mentioned Mousa, who, along with Tufts’ Arlene Rosenberg are the two members of the team coming from American universities. I’ve long held that the Canadian beater game is lagging behind the American beater game. And I feel like including solid, but not greatly heralded, American school beaters over big Canadian beater names like Alexandra Bassa and Colin Wallace kind of confirms my belief that the Canadians see it too. How do you feel?

Jamie: I think that your viewpoint has an argument, but I definitely don’t agree. Americans do have good beating, however at world cup we saw the Gee-Gee’s beating keep up with LSU who, correct me if I am wrong, are considered to have top-level beaters. We also saw Carleton keep up with everyone they faced.

I think the top Canadian talent is a little underrated. As for Mousa and Rosenberg, their presence on the team made sense to me, as they are able to play and practice against American players regularly, and will understand what it will take to beat them. I think choosing them has a lot to do with their familiarity with Americans, as well as the fact they have the talent to be on the roster. I don’t think it’s because Canadian Universities are lagging behind; The gap is quickly closing in my mind.

Ethan: For me, as an American, the chasing core is where the most names aren’t as recognizable or only recognizable when I have a face to put to the name. Can you highlight a couple of the lesser known chasers selected that could make waves?

Jamie: Canada’s chasers selected are very talented. I look at who was cut and I think, “How did they not make the team, but then I look at who is a chaser on the team and it makes sense.

University de Montreal’s Rithy Min has a lot of potential to do well against some of the team at this tournament. He is extremely fast and very strong, and as a point defender he will cause a lot of problems for people who underestimate him.

I look forward to watching McGill female chaser Robyn Fortune, she is also someone who often is overlooked when you go to play McGill but I think on a team like this she was a pretty good pick-up.

Carleton’s Matt Bourassa is someone I think is probably the most under the radar of them all. He might be the most well-rounded chaser on the team, and he is also someone I look forward to seeing have a breakout performance, hopefully against the Americans.

A reserve I hope gets a chance to make it onto the roster is Guelph’s Wesley Burbridge. playing alongside him at tryouts was very enjoyable. His intangibles are awesome, but his point defense blew my mind. I never saw someone with such good form. A lot of the chasers on this roster are a little under the radar, but they definitely have qualities that will be useful to this team.

Ethan: Now seems as good a time as any to give you a chance to talk about Michelle Ferguson, who I know you think can be a difference maker at chaser for this team.

Jamie: I think it’s no secret Ferguson is one of the best chasers we have in Canada. She fits into most offenses, she’s got speed, and she can catch around the hoop. There really isn’t too much she can’t do on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously her size holds her back a little bit, but it won’t be too big of a factor for her. I’m excited to see her matchup with some of the USA female chasers.

Michelle Ferguson is one of Canada’s rising stars at chaser. Credit: M. Atkinson Photos

Ethan: And then we get to seeking. For me, seeking is the one place that Canada could go toe-to-toe with the USA, though I’d personally be surprised if it mattered. But even if you think USA has the edge in the snitch game, I can’t believe it’d be more than by a 60/40 margin or so.

Jamie: I think Canada and the USA match up the best at seeker. Although we only have two on the roster, they are both impressive. Robillard caught three of four snitches at World Cup this year on day one, and the fourth was caught off-pitch by his teammate. He has a pretty good track record this year of catching them in the clutch as a well, with wins over LSU and Appalachian State in SWIM situations.

Alexander Graham is the other seeker we have. He remained pretty under the radar, as most McGill players do, until this season when he was sort of boosted into the talk of the best seeker in Canada. He unfortunately didn’t have too much time to shine this season, as his team often found themselves out of range.

With the two of them, I could see Canada having the best record when it comes to the snitch grabs, and if the game was in range against the USA, I believe there’s a solid chance at Canada taking the win by a grab.

Ethan: So let’s say you had full control over this Canadian team. Who would you have taken that didn’t make the final 21?

Jamie: In an ideal world some other players would have also been on this roster, however it would mean taking it away from some of the people who earned a spot so it’s difficult. I do look at some of the cuts though and think how certain people aren’t at least alternates or starters.

Jenn Magel from Carleton and Mike Makula of the Gee-Gee’s are two who immediately jump to mind. Although they wouldn’t be able to attend because of other obligations, she is one of the best female chasers we have to offer. Another Carleton player, Colin Wallace was one of the biggest names left off the list, he is easily among Canada’s best beaters and would have been on my roster without a question. From the alternates, I would have chosen the Gee-Gee’s Alexandra Bassa who has some good experience that would be helpful against the american squads. I also would have taken Guelph’s Wesley Burbridge for reasons we already spoke of. As well as Adam Palmer from York, if the team is operating under the four keeper line as it seems it will be doing.

Many consider Colin Wallace to be Canada’s best beater, but he was left off of the squad. Credit: Vivian Cheung

Some players didn’t apply, at least to my knowledge and it really made me a little upset. I would have loved to see McGill’s Patrick Qi-Wang give some size to the team as it is a little lacking, as well as Andrew “Wiz” Ajisebutu on the roster to add some more depth. Maple Rush chaser Freddy Nguyen would have also been a really good addition to the team, had he tried out. There is a lot of talent that didn’t make it onto the team either by their own choice or being snubbed, but this roster going should be able to lock up second place and challenge for first.

Ethan: Alright, wrapping things up, what are your predictions for Canada’s performance overall and a specific prediction for the USA vs. Canada game?

Jamie: Canada is going to be second place. I hope that the UK and other countries give us a game and they have gotten better, but I doubt they will take second from us. In the Canada vs. USA game, there’s a chance we take it, but I think the game is going to end up in the 150*-50 range. Let’s just hope that we get to see some good games that day from all the team who attend.

Ethan: I agree that Canada will finish second, but I see the head-to-head matchup going slightly differently than you. I think Canada will be able to stop offensive possessions and slow the game down, but I don’t think they’ll breakdown this Team USA defense, so 50 points is ambitious to me. I’ll go with 110*-10.

Jamie: I guess we’ll see, I’d be down to make a bet. Game?

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