Pulling The Flag

Opal Series 2014: It’s Game-Time

With Britbowl 2014 now in the books, it’s time for the the female flag football community to have their stab at glory.

The second annual Opal Series Flag Football Tournament starts on October 25. And Pulling the Flag will be exploring the Opal Series with you.

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Taking place over four separate dates, with one tournament date split into two locations, teams from all over England will be hoping to claim the title of British National Champions (Please note: No other teams from UK countries have entered a team).

The Opal Series is the brainchild of BAFA’s women’s flag football advocates, Jim Messenger and Andrew Gambrill. The first instalment in 2014 was seen as a ground-breaking success. Never before had a group of female flag footballers got together in such numbers to compete on such a level and showcase their talent here in the UK.

This time around, almost double the amount of teams will be entering the fray, which is a great testament to the growth the sport has had over the last twelve months.

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THE TEAMS

The development of women’s flag football has seen teams set up from Teesside in the north to Plymouth in the south.

University teams such as Nottingham have seen their squads swell from their first outing (where they fielded a four-player unit) to over 20 rookies at their recent induction day.

Highly-competitive organisations such as the Warwickshire Wolverines and Southampton Stags will return to action, featuring some of the most talented female players in the land.

The Warwick Wolverines boast some excellent playmakers in Louise Lee, Rachel Strudwick and Jennifer Cooper, and the Warwickshire outfit will one of the teams to watch. Well-coached, well-drilled and with true team values, they may be an early standout team for Tournament One.

Unfortunately the Birmingham Lions – who recently won the Sapphire Series contact tournament – won’t be entering a team. The experience of Jo Kilby and Pheobe Schecter would have made them one of the best teams in the competition. Why they haven’t chosen to attempt to add the flag title to their trophy cabinet is unknown. Perhaps contact is their key focus for the 2014/15 season? Schecter is possibly the finest defensive female player in the UK, and Kilby excels at QB for both the Lions and Team GB, so their absence is a big loss for the Opal Series.

The brand new teams for 2014 – such as Cheltenham Condors, Teesside Steelers and Northants Titans – may be a little green, but they’re talented squads who have the potential to fill that void. Exceptionally-gifted flag players such as April Heath (Condors), Natalie Parker and Tendai Chieza (Titans) will star alongside talented play-makers like Jade Archibald, Hannah Pye (Titans), Beverley Marwood (if fit) and Sam Parker (Steelers).

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The Condors and Titans have launched within the last few months, but with talent on both sides of the ball, they may overcome the odds and surprise a few of the more established teams.

Titans receiver Hannah Pye recently took up the sport and has risen to prominence quickly, securing a spot on the GB kitted team. She looks to be one of the stand-out playmakers for the Titans, so keep an eye out for her name. She recently sat down for a PTF interview with Nathan Coles, which you can find here.

Another one to watch are the Teesside Steelers. The Women of Steel were runners-up in the NuOla Spring Break tournament earlier this year, and have had strong outings at local flag tournaments. If GB contact captain Beverley Marwood can return to fitness, they have one of the finest athletes to play the game. A full and speedy recovery from her recent calf surgery would be a great boost not only to the Steelers, but also to the tournament as a whole.

Also in the mix will be Hertfordshire Tornadoes, Derby BravesPortsmouth Destroyers, Manchester Titans and Sheffield Hallam University teams. Who will emerge from the pack to turn heads in 2014?

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HOPING TO REPEAT

Last year saw the home-grown, family-based Coventry Cougars see off the best of the rest to take the title.

Repeating is the key focus for the team in 2014, with fresh and promising rookies bolstering a veteran outfit. Well, we say veteran: Not one of them is over the age of 20. The challenging pack will be hard-pressed to take it away from them, and they won’t be in a giving mood, having recently dismissed all that came before them at both NuOla tournaments with little fuss.

Led by the formidable sister combination of Millie and Kellie Barrett, they also feature dangerous competitors on both sides of the ball. Sure-handed Becca Haw will be the Cougars’ chief playmaker, supplemented by her sister Kirsty Haw, speedster Sarah Wakelin and Sophie Jones.

The Cougars’ danger to the other teams lies in their strong team ethic, and with so many practices under their belt, they have the advantage in terms of continuity.

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FORMAT

So now that you have met the competitors, how does this competition work?

Well, as said earlier, there are several tournament dates. These will take place in Northampton, Manchester, Hertfordshire, Stockton on Tees and Nottingham. For the Manchester and Hertfordshire dates, the competition will be spilt into two based on geography.

You can find the dates of each tournament on our PTF Events page.

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INFORMATION 

If you are interested in watching or are wishing to support any of the teams, the first of the tournaments takes place at Wooldale Centre for Learning, Wooldale Road, Northampton, NN4 6TP, at 10.30am this Saturday.

For more information you can contact us at Pulling the Flag or via the BAFA website.

Let the games begin!

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