State Shield – An Overview
What Is State Shield?
Quidditch, beginning in Australia in 2011, grew rapidly in NSW and Victoria, with most teams in the country starting up in Melbourne and Sydney, with only a few up north in Queensland and out west in Western Australia. As quidditch became more and more competitive and rivalries developed between Victorian and NSW teams, there were calls for a new level of competition, something that would allow a further level of top tier quidditch in Australia, facilitate competitive training for Australia’s best athletes heading into World Cups, and answer once and for all which was the dominant state in quidditch.
Thus, in 2016, a series of three tournaments featuring three games in each was devised, in which the top players from the states of Victoria and NSW would face off in three best-of-three series, known then as Quidditch State of Origin. The competition would serve as Australia’s version of the USA’s Major League Quidditch or Europe’s Quidditch Premier League, though in a much more concentrated format. The small number of teams meant only the very best players were selected to represent the states, and facilitated series of three or more games between the elite teams, able to better account for chance victories, and giving teams the chance to adapt their game over the course of a tournament to match and counter their opponent’s playing style. This makes State Shield not only some of the most tactically interesting quidditch in the world, but also some of the most exciting, with the high level of skill and competition providing excellent entertainment and publicity for the sport.
A Brief History Of the Competitions and Its Teams
2016 (“State Of Origin” – Berry, Melbourne, & Sydney)
The first series held in Berry alongside Quidditch Australia’s Quidcamp was a competitive success for the Victorians, whose exceptional Manticores led passing game racked up significant score margins in the first very one sided game, against a NSW team lacking in synergy. Though NSW were able to pull things back in the second game, Victoria still won the series a comfortable 2-1.
Undeterred, NSW restructured and came back for the second series at the Victorian Fantasy Tournament two months later to win that series 2-1, levelling the score, though unable to push Victoria out of range. Many of the players featured in these teams went on to win the Quidditch World Cup later in Frankfurt 2016, before the final State of Origin series held in Sydney in October. Here, two close games saw a win for either side, and a dramatic finals game where Victoria ultimately won out as the first State Champion in 2016, winning overall 5 games to NSW’s 4.
This third round of State of Origin in 2016 was also notable for the debut appearance of the Queensland Thunderbirds. A much younger state in terms of it’s quidditch development, the Queensland side were not expected to be able to compete at the same level as the NSW and Victorian teams, but the home side had also selected a B team, whom the Thunderbirds faced off against in a parallel series of three games. While unable to match the depth of the NSW B Team, who at the time featured many names now stalwarts of the Blue Tongues, the fledgling Thunderbirds who in some cases were playing some of their first interstate quidditch, improved rapidly over the course of the three games, narrowing the score margin against NSW B in every successive game to nearly clench their first win by the last game. While they went away winless from 2016, the Thunderbirds would be back for more.
2017 – State Shield (Brisbane)
2017 saw the State based competition rebranded as Quidditch Australia’s State Shield, featuring a single weekend tournament where the top state teams, NSW Blue Tongues, Victorian Leadbeaters, and Queensland Thunderbirds, all came together in Brisbane. This year, Queensland had improved enough to be able to cause an upset victory over the unwily Victorians, but nevertheless the Leadbeaters and Blue Tongues remained dominant overall. NSW however, could not find the same success against the Victorians that the Thunderbirds had, unable to win a single game against their southern rivals, either in pool play or the finals series, shortened due to torrential rain. Victoria now held the first two championships, and with Victorian club teams dominating the later stages of the National Championships as well, it seemed clear who the dominant state was.
2018 – State Shield (Newcastle)
Newcastle was to host the 2018 iteration of State Shield, and back in NSW, the tournament saw the return of the NSW B team into the competition. Now an established fixture of the Australian quidditch season, all states had established long try-out and selection processes and proper trainings leading up to the tournament, where competition was tough. Opening day 1 with the conventional pool play round robin, Queensland came out all guns firing against a strong NSW B team, earning their second ever win, though neither of these teams could make significant inroads against the Victorians or Blue Tongues. The finals series saw an adaptable NSW B significantly change their playing style to counter the strong Queensland chasing offence, and Queensland could provide no answer in turn to this or the much stronger NSW beater corps, losing the final series 2-0.
In their much anticipated match up, a close game saw NSW largely able to control the pace of the game but unable to get too far from the Victorians. Nevertheless, under the aegis of new Head Coach Paul Harrison, the NSW Blue Tongues managed to win not only their pool play matches, but the entire final series in a clean sweep against the Victorians, a huge turn around from the previous years of Victorian dominance. The synergy that had been the card of the Victorians in earlier years was now the asset of the Blue Tongues, with a large majority of the team stemming from the Sydney City Serpents and University of Sydney Unspeakables, both dominant teams in the NSW league. While by no means blow out victories, NSW excelled in the Snitch-On-Pitch element of the game, effectively controlling the snitch and beater games, while able to quickly push the quaffle game out of range in several games to ensure their victory, and first ever title in state level competition.
Thus, the all time scores stood at 0-2 for the Thunderbirds against NSW B, and 2-1 for the Victorians against the NSW Blue Tongues, with NSW B never having been able to gain a win over either A team, and the Queenslanders only ever besting the Leadbeaters once.
What To Expect From 2019
Coming into 2019, there are many exciting developments as the State Shield competition evolves. For the first time since Victoria Fantasy 2016, the new rendition of the tournament is coming to Melbourne, and the Victorian Leadbeaters will be competing alongside their debut B Team, the Victorian Honeyeaters, on home soil. The states have started their campaigns earlier than ever before, Queensland selecting a Thunderbirds squad right at the very start, and able to hold trainings throughout the year, the Victorians also training with regularity. With new and old faces across the board, the tournament should see a mix of legends and rising stars of Australian quidditch, and indeed will be an important selection event in the lead up to try-outs for the Australian National Team heading into World Cup 2020.
With the growth of Queensland Quidditch and the selection, for the first time, of a Queenslander onto the 2018 National Team, whether this will be the year that the Thunderbirds finally come into their own to match the NSW B sides and pose a significant threat to the A teams of Victoria and NSW. The Victorians will be looking to reclaim their dominance over state level quidditch and show off both of their re-branded teams on home soil, though do so with a substantial number of new faces to the team. The Blue Tongues, meanwhile, will be hoping to solidify their victory from 2018, proving it was not a once off, as the tide shifts from Victorian dominance in Australian quidditch to more parity between the two states. The Blue Tongues are likely to receive major dividends from their investment in having a B team in past years, with a wealth of state-level experience in their players, and they will be tough opponents to beat.
With so many exciting story lines, new teams, old rivalries, rising stars, and legends of the game, all that can be certain is that it is sure to be an incredible tournament featuring the best quidditch you’ll see all year. Don’t miss it!
Come to Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval on the 5th and 6th of October to watch the action in person, or catch it live online!