The Eighth Man

How David Felled Goliath: Australia vs. America

Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

By Owen Sherwood
Guest Writer

In the aftermath of the historic Australian World Cup victory, there has been a lot of finger pointing as to who is to blame, and plenty of theories have floated around about how Quidditch Australia pulled off the upset. American selectors, coaches, referees and even individual players have all taken a lashing, and the complaints delivered at their feet are often the same: you were too arrogant, too complacent or way over-confident.

But is that true?

To find out, we’re going to compare the two teams in the months leading up to the IQA World Cup and see if there is any credence to the rumors.

The two teams both started early in the year, with Australia stealing march on the Americans. During January, two weekends worth of tryouts were held where around 40 players turned out to make their case for the team. These tryouts also doubled as training camps, with the coach and selectors running the team through drills, beep tests and tactical training to discern not only who had the individual talent but the ability to march to Coach Gen Gibson’s drum. In February, the team was selected and practices began.

The American squad wasn’t finalized and published until April, where the team had a brief meeting at the US Quidditch Cup 9. There was no team practice at this time, and that was the last in-person meeting the team had until they arrived in Europe in July. As the Americans whiled away the days until World Cup, the Australians utilized that time to train.

For those not versed in Australian geography, let me provide you with a brief rundown. Australia is a country around the size of America with a only a few million more than the population of New York. The majority of this population is concentrated on the east coast. Quidditch has two major hubs in Sydney and Melbourne, each boasting six to eight teams. Then there are a few satellite teams in Newcastle, Canberra and Wollongong. The final Team Australia for 2016 was composed of 11 Melbournians, nine Sydneysiders and a single, lonely Perth player, commuting over from the most isolated city in the world (literally, Google it). So each half of the team already knew and regularly played with or against most of the rest of the team. So why the lesson in geography? Well, this distribution meant that training camps could be held in either Sydney or Melbourne, making the logistics of bringing the national team together far easier than in America.

Team USA was composed of players from across the country—from Boston to Los Angeles—making bringing the team together expensive and difficult. As a result, the team practiced together for the first time Friday afternoon in Frankfurt.

The Australians could practice together—and practice they did. There were weekend training camps, six hours each, from March to June, where the entire team attended. Those added up to around 50 hours training together—including the tryout training sessions, which added in another 20 or so—that’s 70 hours of on-field training as a team. But it doesn’t end there.

Because most of the team lived in the same city, frequent unofficial trainings happened—after work, on the weekends, whenever someone bought their half of the team together. On top of that, several State of Origin competitions were held over the months, where one half of the team played the other half, with plenty of ring-ins to fill out the teams.

As the final touch to their training, the Australians were instructed to arrive in Frankfurt a week early at a minimum. Over the remaining few days, they spent almost another 20 hours practicing, talking tactics, researching their opponents and bonding.

On Friday afternoon, as the Americans gathered to begin their preparations, the Australians were just finishing, having worked for more than a hundred hours together as a team and certainly just as much divided into their two halves. Yet still, the Americans were such a powerhouse it almost made no difference; when the Boston line took the field, they accelerated away with seven goals to Australia’s mere two, almost pushing the team out of range. Almost. Even with all that preparation and work, America still nearly took home the laurels. Despite the brilliance of the two teams’ snitch-on-pitch performance, it still took the luck of the catch to push Australia over the line.

And so David felled Goliath. Not because of a lucky shot, but because of hours after hours spent out on a field, slinging rock after rock until his aim was deadly true. The Goliath of our sport isn’t dead, of course. I’d reckon it’s more likely the Australians woke a sleeping giant rather than killed it. To the Americans who may feel slighted at the jubilations of the world at their defeat, I will say this: Can you name another team whose loss would make everyone so ecstatic? No one is lining up to take pictures with the scoreboard after they defeat Canada or the United Kingdom or even, until now perhaps, Australia. It’s the curse of being Goliath. Whenever you win, you’ll only get polite applause at best, because everyone loves an underdog. The crowd will respect you in victory, but what they want is to see Goliath topple, feel the shudder run through the earth, watch the dust rise and mob onto the arena to hoist David onto their shoulders. That isn’t Goliath’s fault; it’s just human nature, and, unlike Goliath, you’ve got a rematch waiting for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *