“It’ll be down to you, Harry, to show them that a Seeker has to have something more than a rich father. Get to that Snitch before Malfoy or die trying, Harry, because we’ve got to win today, we’ve go to.”
Until recently I naively assumed quidditch was solely a mythical game restricted to J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series – the stuff of Weasley legend and Hufflepuff heroics.
That was until I witnessed a real life game and regained hope that my letter to Hogwarts may still be lost in transit.
It’s a cold Saturday morning in Melbourne, yet tens of people are running around, broomsticks between their legs in plight of the quaffle – or snitch, depending on their position.
It’s fair to say Harry Potter has successfully escaped from his pages and reached Melbourne, where he is now a sporting legend.
Quidditch was initially brought to Melbourne after founder of the Victorian Quidditch Association Emily Davies saw a game played at the Deathly Hallows premiere in London, and decided to kick start it in Australia.
Though Davies has moved interstate, the game has remained a success, with five dedicated teams across Victoria.
Melbourne Manticores player Kat Young says the game is now really starting to take off in Melbourne.
“We’ve had up to 40 people come along. It’s really booming at the moment, we’ve had lots of new teams.”
Young says the sport recently gained a great deal of publicity after competing at the Melbourne Supernova Pop Culture Expo.
Being a Harry Potter fan, I again foolishly assumed that local quidditch players would be avid fans too.
That wasn’t the case.
It may come as a surprise that many of the best quidditch players have never read any of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies. Young is one of these people. She says she simply went to watch a housemate play, and has been addicted ever since.
“We figured we’d just go watch for fun and that’s not what you do when you go to quidditch, you basically get handed a broom and you play… and you get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t play for a while,” she says.
“A lot of the people that play don’t like Harry Potter, they just enjoy the sport.”
Melbourne isn’t the only city being infiltrated by quidditch. There are currently almost 1,200 quidditch teams throughout the world.
Indeed due to demand, the International Quidditch Association now host a yearly World Cup. Head Quidditch Referee, Emma Morris went to one of these events. She says the vibe was very similar to scenes from the Harry Potter novels.
“For the opening ceremony people dressed up and they had the wizard bands playing,” she says.
Last year quidditch even featured in the London Olympic Games. Well, alongside the Olympics anyway, with torch bearers from Melbourne taking the trip to participate in the first world wide quidditch tournament.
Kat Young was part of this team.
“Australia had a team and we played against America, Canada, the United Kingdom and France. America won, of course, because they’ve been playing for like, eight years and they have over 800 teams.”
Moreover, most major Ivy League Universities across the United States have their own quidditch team.
Local Melbourne player, Alan Lahiff first played quidditch while on exchange at the University of Southern California. He says quidditch is much bigger in the States.
“We trained three nights a week for two hours each and it was good fun,” says Lahiff.
“They’re very serious over there. They do lots of tackling and they take that pretty seriously as well.”
Lahiff also says that quidditch teams in America see it as more of a competitive sport than a fantasy wizarding game.
“Most of the top teams take it as a sport rather than a Harry Potter game. The captain of my team hadn’t read any of the books of seen any of the movies, but he loves it and is really good at quidditch.”
One problem that arises from treating a fictional game as a serious sport is the lack of magical powers in the real world. But Young and Morris don’t see this as a problem. They say there are only two minor differences.
“We don’t have magic balls,” says Morris.
“We don’t fly, that’s about it,” says Young.
Besides this, the game is very similar to its Harry Potter counterpart.
“Basically you have three chasers like in the book and they all score with the quaffle which is just a volley ball. We have three hoops, each hoops is ten points,” explains Young. “Then bludgers are like dodge balls. So you have three bludgers and four beaters.
The snitch is a person with some yellow pants and a sock and that’s the snitch – the actual ball. The person’s called the snitch runner.”
“Normally what happens is we start with the teams lined up outside their own hoops and the snitch gets released while everyone’s eyes are closed,” says Morris. “So no-one can see where it went, and then the seekers follow after it five minutes later.”
“The longest game we’ve had is 45 minutes, as it gets to that point where you confine the snitch to the pitch so they can’t really go anywhere and hide. So eventually something will happen,” says Young.
So whether you’re a sports fanatic or an avid Harry Potter fan, quidditch could be the game for you.
Why not head to one of the Victorian Quidditch Association’s ‘Come and Try’ days on the first Saturday and third Sunday of every month at ‘Quidditch Park’ – Alexandra Gardens? You could be the next Viktor Krum.
Photos: S.L Dixon Photography