Muggles take Quidditch to higher level

Fasten your goggles and steady your "flying" broomstick - the Illawarra Quidditch community is getting serious.

It has been three years since University of Wollongong students began running around with broomsticks between their legs in line with a complex and slightly bizarre set of rules.

Now membership in the campus Quidditch team has swelled - from eight to more than 20 - training sessions have been ramped up and a national event is headed for Wollongong.

Next month, the UOW team, called Wollongong Warriors, will host the Australian National Development Conference for Quidditch, a fictitious wizard sport that was confined to the pages of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series until it was adapted for the real world.

The conference is a two-day affair at Mount Keira Scout Camp on February 15-16, and is expected to bring up to 80 Quidditch enthusiasts together from across Australia for workshops, games and social events.

Morgan Legg, president of the Wollongong Warriors Quidditch Club, said the event was a chance to have fun as well as learn techniques and strategy from Australian experts.

Ms Legg - an arts/creative arts student - is one of several Warriors who travelled to the United States on exchange and experienced first-hand the country's thriving Quidditch scene.

She returned to UOW wanting to emulate some of the fervour she had experienced in the US.

The Warriors placed a disappointing ninth at last year's nationals, the "Quaffle Cup", but this year they are aiming to crack the top four and qualify for the sport's World Cup.

"In [the past] we were the kind of team that just played for fun," Miss Legg said.

"But our numbers have grown quite a bit over the last year and we've moved up in the [national] rankings to fifth.

"We've upped training to two times a week. It's just more important now - being competitive, although it's still obviously, very fun."

There are currently 10 Quidditch teams ranked in Australia, including the University of Sydney Unspeakables, Newcastle Fireballs and Macquarie Marauders. The University of NSW has the highest-ranked team.

Australian Quidditch has taken a softer stance on contact within the game in the past, but rules would be Americanised this year, making rugby-style take-downs - on broomsticks - part of the local game for the first time.

"It's something you have to figure out and have to practise a lot," Miss Legg said.

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