Harry Potter inspired bookworms and now sporty types are following suit.
Other athletes play their trade with racquets, balls or bats. However devotees of the obscure pursuit of quidditch are found with a broomstick in their hands.
To the uninitiated, it sounds like some sort of medieval torture… and you’re not far from the truth.
The game – as any Harry Potter fan can tell you – is the wizarding world’s answer to football.
The elusive “golden snitch”, the most agile player of each team, attempts to evade the seekers who try to capture the tennis ball hanging from a sock in the “snitch’s” shorts to end the game. The game has made the leap from the pages of fiction to real-life competition – particularly in universities.
From humble beginnings in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont, USA, the surprisingly physical game of quidditch is now played all over the world with almost 1200 registered teams and counting.
Quidditch’s popularity in Australia is yet to match that of the USA where 900 plus teams compete with fervour.
Sara Barker, member of the Philadelphia Honey Badgers, was spurred on to take up quidditch after the last-minute cancellation of her flight to the Harry Potter convention, Leakycon.
It was through Facebook that she found a team and has become a very keen competitor.
“People usually make jokes about it when I tell them I play quidditch, but the sport is really physical and a really good workout,” she said.
While the game appears light-hearted, those who play can be very serious.
In Australia, university teams travel interstate to compete with a place in the World Cup at stake.
Community groups in Australia have also started competing with young and old encouraged to take to their broomsticks.
Monash Clayton University’s home team, the Monash Muggles – second on the Victorian Quidditch Association leaderboard – have been competing in the sport since the beginning of the year.
The team, made up of spry athletic students and those with an unrelenting passion for all things Harry Potter, wear mud-splattered team jerseys and colourful headbands.
“The headbands represent which position you’re playing” Raychel Barallon said, the president of the Harry Potter appreciation society and dedicated quidditch player.
As depicted by J K Rowling, quidditch is a brutal sport.
The mixed teams are encouraged to tackle their opponents, all the while with broomsticks between their legs and hurling dodge-balls at each other.
One Muggles player, Bodie Nash, sustained an injury after smashing a goal post with his knee.
Spectators cheer from the sidelines as the snitch dodges seekers on their broomsticks, and beaters throw deflated volley balls at the chasers who try to score points through the hoops.
“As a spectator it is confusing and for a player it’s confusing,” said Barallon.
She created Monash University’s Harry Potter Appreciation Society in her first year and from there decided to put together a quidditch team.
By far the most difficult part of the game is running with a broom between the legs.
“Oh my gosh! It’s so hard!” said Barallon.
“But it’s worse for the guys.”
Quidditch, it seems, is not for the faint-hearted. – Photo and report by Kate Ball