Kaitlin Taylor playing as a chaser for the Australian Dropbears at the 2022 IQA European Games. (Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Photography; Graphic Design: Madeleine Irwin)

Having represented the Australian Dropbears at the 2022 European Games, Kaitlin Taylor knows exactly what the side is currently going through as the squad prepares for the 2023 IQA World Cup.

“We felt pretty focused and we knew what the game plan was going into it,” Taylor said reflecting on the European Games experience.

“By the time we got to European Games, we had three training camps, so we were pretty in the ringer.

“By the time we started competing [in Ireland], we knew what we were doing. We were focused as a team, so there wasn’t that feeling of being so new to the sport by then.

‘It was just intense, focused, determined, trying to get out those butterflies during the first Saturday pool games. By the time the German and Norway games came around, we were really pushing for it.”

Initially, Taylor was part of the side for the World Cup but had to withdraw for personal reasons.

“It was pretty devastating,” she said.

“Even now, knowing the team is over there, so being here [in Australia] instead of with them is really tough.

“I spoke to the coach Luke Derrick and explained things, and I felt crushed. I know what they’re trying to build and I’d been through a few training camps with them [before withdrawing].

“I think they’re going to kill it this year.”

Kaitlin Taylor in action against France at the 2022 IQA European Games. Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Photography

A mixed-gender sport, Quadball does have a gender rule which currently states ‘a team may not have more than four players who identify as the same gender in play at the same time’ in the rulebook.

During its campaign at the upcoming World Cup, the Dropbears will be playing under a three-max rule as opposed to four-max, which they also did in the third-place game against Norway in last year’s European Games.

“I think it’s so important,” Taylor said when asked about her thoughts on the Dropbears’ decision.

“We have a mixed-gender sport and I think having a three-three or a three-max mindset is incredibly important.

“We can’t say that we’re going to use women and non-binary players on the pitch and then have them in a position where they’re not being used adequately. Or we’re only putting them on because we have to put two people on.

“I think it’s really impressive and it’s an international standout level that the Dropbears are playing three-three, that they’re going to play it well, and they’re going to play really strong non-male players.”

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Only two countries have ever won the IQA World Cup. The USA, who have won every edition of the tournament except for 2016, which was won by Australia.

When asked whether Australia can win the World Cup this year for just the second time, Taylor’s answer was very distinct.

“Definitely, I’ve got to say yes to that,” she said.

“America has great players in their team, they’ve got great strategies, but the Dropbears are physical, they’ve got set plays, niche plays, good plays, and our players are great.

“I think they can take them.”

Taylor’s start in Quadball came about through university and wanting to try something new and unique.

“A friend of mine was playing Quidditch at the time, so I thought I would join,” she said.

“I went full steam ahead [once I started]. I pretty much lived and breathed it for the first two or three years I’ve been playing.”

Having risen through the ranks of the sport very quickly, her netball background helped make that easier.

“I played netball all my life since I was about four. I think bringing those sorts of skills in, the ball handling skills are really helpful,” Taylor said.

“Getting a bit of push and shove, that’s about it. No full-contact skills, so that’s been something interesting to try and learn.”

Developing the skills to compete at the top levels of Quadball was something that both did and did not come easy to Taylor.

“Yes and no. You have to work for it. You have to try hard,” she said.

“I’m a pretty sturdy sort of person. I want to give everything a go and I’m going to give everything my best.

“I had a brother growing up so he definitely put me through the wringer a couple of times.”

Kaitlin Taylor after she caught the snitch against Wales. Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Photography

Because of COVID-19, Taylor made the national team before she had played a competitive NQL (NSW Quadball League) event, having only played in friendlies until that point.

“It was a crazy feeling, and I don’t think I realised at the time just how much that would mean to me,” she said.

“To be given that opportunity so new and to be given that faith, I worked hard as hell for that. I worked so hard to live up to that.

“I was elated, I was stoked, I just wanted to scream it everywhere as soon as I could.”

Taylor also made history during the Dropbears’ European Games campaign, becoming the first female in team history to catch the snitch (which is now referred to as the flag after the sports name change to Quadball).

“I was so stoked. It was the coolest moment,” she said.

“It was great that my team had the faith to put me in. I know that women aren’t necessarily given that opportunity, so I was already pretty stoked to go on.

And then to work hard, catch that snitch, and have everyone backing me for that, it was an incredible feeling.”

Taylor did not know at the time that she made history, and only found out after coach Nicola Gertler said it after the game.

“I had no clue. I just thought ‘this is cool, I’ve trained for this, I’ve worked hard and I’m going to do it’.”

The Australian Dropbears will get their IQA World Cup campaign in Richmond, Virginia underway against Canada at 12:50am on July 16 (10:50am July 15 local time), with games available to watch on the IQA YouTube channel.

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