17/04/2024

Michelle Mannering in action for Australia at the IQA European Games. (Photo: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography; Design: Will Cuckson)

The Australian Quidditch team, also known as The Dropbears, made a long-awaited return to the international stage at the IQA European Games in July. The European Games was the final IQA tournament to take place under the name of Quidditch, and Australia finished third.

One of the players who was part of the Dropbears squad was Michelle Mannering, who spoke to The Inner Sanctum for an interview about her experiences in Ireland for Team Australia.

A massive part of getting selected for any representative team is finding out you have actually made the squad.

“It was pretty incredible,” Mannering said.

“I remember the call from Nicola (Gertler, the head coach) and I was a little bit in disbelief, but so overjoyed that I was in the team.

“I was excited to get to play with really awesome people and have the chance to travel international for sport.”

The ability to travel to Limerick, Ireland for sport is certainly a unique experience, and the entire team took advantage of that in the lead-up, developing some camaraderie along the way in preparation for the event.

“I really enjoyed everything leading up to our games,” Mannering said talking about the team bonding and preparation.

“Our training was super fun, informative, and a good way to lean into our games.

“I also enjoyed other things like finding a basketball court for some three-on-three with my teammates, riding around Limerick and exploring the city, and getting ready for the tournament.”

A personal highlight of the tournament for Mannering, who set up the play for team-mate Gary Hague. (Video: MishManners/Twitch)

For Australia, despite finishing in third, it was an incredibly dominant performance, with the only loss of the tournament coming in a tough match against Germany.

Consistency was the approach that Australia took in the execution of its game plan.

“We are physical, we stick to our plays, and we transition really well. We also start really well, scoring the first goal in I think every game,” Mannering said.

“Another thing we do really well is chasers and beaters working well together. This helps our team cohesion and allows us to take on teams.

“We have various plays that we are able to adjust to the style of play of the opponent if needed. But we stick to what we’re good at and work with that.”

The game against Germany in the semi-finals was only matched in intensity and closeness with the game against Italy during the group stages. For the Aussies, it meant shortening the squad and adapting away from the driving style of play Australia is known for.

“Less people got on the field which is understandable. I know in the Italy game three people, myself included, didn’t take the field,” Mannering continued.

“But I know it was a lot more intense, and I think we probably could have adapted and adjusted a little more quickly in order to combat our opponents.

“[In] saying that, the other teams played incredibly well too and they were able to cut off a lot of our driving [by] focusing on having bludger control so as to prevent fast drives up the pitch.”

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Despite being a mixed gender sport, it has been difficult at times for non-male players to dominate.

This is in part due to the gender rule, which allows a maximum of four players of any one gender on pitch at once in a sport that has a maximum of six players prior to the seekers entering play, which ups the number to seven.

Australia, however, does not have much of a problem with that at a representative level.

“I was chatting to other players in other teams [and] a common comment was ‘Australians have the best female chasers in the world’,” Mannering said.

“It’s really exciting knowing we’re part of such a strong female line up. It makes us better players and allows us to showcase our talent to the world.

“Having [a] 3/3 [gender split] in the Bronze Medal match was a huge highlight for us, but I didn’t even realise we had this because we all play so equally and without discrimination that it felt like we were just playing with people.

“It was also exciting to play with 4/2 (four female, two male gender split) for several of our matches.

“This was really exciting and good to be able to showcase how Aussies value the women in our team.”

History was also made for the Dropbears at the tournament, as it was the first time a female seeker had caught the snitch for the national team.

Mannering described the look on Kaitlin Taylor’s face as ‘priceless’.

“She grabbed the snitch and then immediately held it up in the air while turning to the sub bench with a giant smile on her face. She was squealing ‘I got it!’

“It was so exciting to watch and it felt like we were all part of the victory too.”

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

This is not the only time this year that Mannering will play at a representative level, as she will be part of the Victorian team for Quidditch Australia’s State Shield event, taking place from 1-2 October, 2022.

It’s an experience she’s looking forward to.

“Unfortunately I won’t be there for the whole weekend, but I’m really looking forward to playing with and against my Dropbears teammates,” she said.

“It will be like more Dropbears training camps!”

Anytime you can play at an international level, it is important to take things away to help improve your own game, but what did Mannering take away for herself?

“Being able to adapt to gaming style is the biggest take away from this tournament,” she explained.

“That and trusting my instincts, running the ball closer to hoops and dunking for goal!”

The next chance for the Dropbears to be in international competition will be the World Cup, currently slated for 15-16 July, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

It is a tournament Mannering wants to be part of the squad for.

“I’m keen. I would love to be part of the team again and travel to America. But we’ll see where the chips fall.”

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