Abbey and Nina on their Potter photo shoot - Miss Scarlett Imagery

Abbey and Nina on their Potter photo shoot – Miss Scarlett Imagery

Unless you have been living under a rock since 1997, you have probably heard of Harry Potter, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the hugely popular sport – Quidditch. But did you know a version of Quidditch is alive and well and being played by hinterland locals at the USC? Victoria McGuin decided it was time to dust off the broom and pay these locals a visit.

Quidditch was originally a fictional sport devised by author J.K. Rowling for her fantasy fictional series Harry Potter. The sport is a complex game with young witches and wizards flying round on broomsticks, and involves five balls (a Quaffle, three Bludgers, and a Golden Snitch) and four playing positions, with three ring-shaped goals.

Matches are played between two opposing teams of seven players and the team with the most points when the snitch is caught (worth 30 points), wins.

The appeal of this game to readers resulted in a modified, real-life version being created in Vermont in 2005, where players still used the brooms, but running replaced flying!

From there, the sport has steadily grown, with the first Quidditch World Cup taking place in 2007, and Australia jumped on the broom-wagon at the University of New South Wales in 2011.

Today, you will find quidditch players much closer to home, with three local members from Palmwoods and Buderim heavily involved. Over a milkshake at Rick’s Diner, I was to learn how this game has become an integral part of life for Ruth Creffield, Abbey Ashfield-Crook and Nina Ashfield-Crook.

“When quidditch came to the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2014, there was a message on the uni student group page calling for players,” says Abbey. “I went to the second session and I never moved away from it. Once you play, you never stop.”

“What’s great about it for me,” says Nina, “it is that there are people from all different sports, all different backgrounds and walks of life.”

Ruth agrees, “It’s a unique blend of people, and they all bring different skills to the practise sessions. We have a sprinter who does heaps of training with us; then we have basketball and AFL and soccer skills from others.”

“The sport is full contact and mixed gender, and each team of seven can only have a maximum of four of one gender,” explains Abbey. “It’s also welcoming to everyone, male, female and non-binary, people can identify how they want.”

Abbey Ashfield-Crook goes for the ball! - Jackson Weaver Photography

Abbey Ashfield-Crook goes for the ball! – Jackson Weaver Photography

People running across a pitch on broomsticks is an image that befuddles and delights me.

“Some people find it gimmicky,” Abbey smiles, “but it adds another dimension to the game. You have to hold the broom between your legs, which means you only have one hand to do everything else while navigating the pitch.”

As for the ‘snitch’, this is a tennis ball in a sock attached by Velcro to the back of a person, who must run strategically to avoid being caught.

“You need to be good at wrestling when you go for the snitch!” says Ruth. “There’s also a lot more cardio involved in the game than many people think.”

Nina, Abbey and Ruth all met at USC through playing quidditch: Nina was studying microbiology; Abbey, paramedic science, although she moved to graphic design (and has created the quidditch USC logo), and Ruth was studying town planning and now works for Council.

“Most of my friends are from quidditch,” admits Abbey. “We train every week, with tournaments and state level match days and development days.”

Australia, already a nation known for its sporting prowess, has been rising in the Quidditch World Cup ranks. “The last World Cup was in Germany in 2016,” says Abbey. “Australia sent the ‘Drop Bears’ over.

“The previous time we came second, and the time before, third. In 2016, however, we were in the final against the unbeaten USA – and we won!”

This year the Australian team are heading to Florence, Italy, in the hopes of defending their title. Abbey narrowly missed out making the team but is training with them as part of their ‘shadow team’.

I ask what their families think of all this, and they laugh. “They all thought it was hilarious at first,” says Ruth. “But they are really impressed with what it’s become, they’re pretty stoked.”

“My dad loves it,” Nina says, “My older brother joined in and loved it too, but he has to focus on AFL and basketball more.”

Apart from being a social and enjoyable sport, quidditch has brought Abbey and Nina together – they are now married and live in Palmwoods. “We met through quidditch!” Abbey laughs.

The two are big fans of Harry Potter, despite the sport trying to move away from that image, and they recently won a Harry Potter-themed photo shoot. “It was great fun,” Nina smiles. “We dressed up in robes, played quidditch, posed at the railway station, did lots of Potter images.”

Nina even has an impressive left arm covered in Potter imagery, all beautifully inked. “There’s Hogwarts, the Whomping Willow, the Marauder’s Map footprints, a lightning bolt, a Dementor, Sirius Black’s Animaji, a Hippogriff…”

Ruth also has a tattoo, although hers a discreet quidditch symbol on her ankle. “My flatmate has one too. Everyone in our share house plays quidditch, so it’s not surprising,” she laughs.

As for the future of the game? “We’re not a registered sport yet, as you need a LOT of active members to make it official,” says Abbey. However, the rate at which quidditch’s popularity is growing, this will surely eventuate.

“We’ve started ‘kidditch’ at the USC,” says Ruth. “We have teams of 7-10-year-olds, and 11-14-year-olds. We’ve run the game at birthday parties and holiday programs, and we’re doing one in Kenilworth shortly. It’s something we’re keen to expand upon.”

If you are interested in seeing a game of quidditch in action, the Sunshine Coast Fantasy Tournament will be taking place on April 7 and 8 at the USC at Sippy Downs. “All states take part,” Abbey explains, “There are 74 players and six teams playing for a trophy.”

“Some players have nicknamed the trophy ‘the Sippy Cup’,” Abbey adds, “but the jury’s out on that!” They all laugh – and this is what appeals to me about quidditch – it sounds active, interesting, but above all FUN.

For more information email: QLDAQuidditch@gmail.com or visit USC Quidditch League on Facebook.