Pulling The Flag

Ten Takeaways from the Winter Bowl

What is this horrible time of year?

No games. Barely any training. Only a dump-truck full of tinsel, presents and gin to keep you warm on those cold, flag-less nights. Luckily we’ve been slow-cooking this recap of the first Leeds Academy Winter Bowl for a week or so, and it’s now ready to serve. 

Don’t swallow it all at once. CHEW, DAMN YOU.

Event pics courtesy of Leeds Academy of American Football.
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A Team Change Can’t Stop The Predators

It’s been a pretty dominant year for the Sheffield Predators, reaching the Britbowl final and generally beating (nearly) all comers. While they didn’t compete under their usual team name on Saturday, four Preds supplemented the victorious Sheffield Hallam Womens team and balled out as expected, capping a memorable 2014 for them.

While Hallam’s non-participation in the first Opal Series tournament meant they were playing catch up for the rest of the competition, it’s good to see another promising team on the up in the Steel City.

Rastrick Are A Credit To The Academy

Having been created as part of the Leeds Academy’s continued efforts to grow the sport in the local area, the Fire Dragons – based at Rastrick High School – gave a good account of themselves, finishing sixth overall. Their result of the day was a nail-biting victory over Leeds Samurai in the initial group stage, showing they can hang with a national league side.

No Flag? No Problem!

To paraphrase Taylor Swift, players are going to play (play, play, play). Despite little to no flag experience, Leeds Bobcats surprised everyone – not least themselves – by qualifying for the finals stage and finishing second after beating National League play-off side Mansfield Honey Badgers. Their style was robust – more out of lack of knowledge than malice – but the results were clear to see. Could we see another Yorkshire team in the league in 2015?

BAFRA Are Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don’t

One of the interesting concepts for the Winter Bowl was that all games would be officiated by BAFRA – a rare luxury for anything other than the national finals – which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. While it was great to stay warm between games in the pavilion (more on this later) instead of officiating, the appointed officials’ lack of practice in the flag game often caused issues. Blown calls, incorrect rulings and blatant fouls being missed marred more games than they should have, but fair play to the zebras for turning up and at least helping the players stay warm.

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Timeouts Not Stopping The Clock Is Absurd

One rule made very clear before and during the tournament was that outside of the last two minutes of the game, timeouts would only stop the action, not the clock – ostensibly to help with central timing. What this meant in practice was that a timeout became a defensive weapon rather than an offensive one, as evidenced by Mansfield in their game with Sheffield Hallam Ladies. With the end of the first half approaching and Hallam driving (and having just taken a timeout themselves), the Badgers called a timeout and walked off for half time with 28 seconds still on the clock. A sly move perhaps, but one that exposed a bizarre rule.

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Flag Hurts

Anyone that says you don’t get injured playing flag should give Michael Nares a shout. The Predators blitzer – playing for Sheffield Hallam’s mens side – ran flush into the back of an opponents head whilst going after the quarterback. Completely accidental of course, but it left him with a busted nose and a trip to Leeds General Infirmary. Just what you need before Christmas! Fortunately Michael was well enough to return to the venue (if not the field of play) by the end of the day.

Ejections Can Be Fun

Kitted or flag, it’s an experience watching Dave Saul play. As well as being a box office player and a field fashion icon, his manner with referees is always *cough* entertaining. After being spotted short of a touchdown, Saul – turning out for the Warriors – threw a flag on the referee for his poor spot. The official, surprisingly, didn’t see the funny side of it. At least that gave him chance to sit the next game and take the aforementioned player to hospital.

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All Hail The Pavilion

In general, the facilities at the venue were superb, befitting Leeds Beckett’s reputation as a fine sporting institution. Standing head and shoulders above the rest however was the pavilion, an oasis in a frozen desert, serving hot drinks, mince pies and hot dogs throughout the day and providing a good place for teams to get together, submit their results and knock the icicles from their boots. Not all tournament venues can provide a similar facility, but it’s great when they can.

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Tom Snee’s Shorts Need New String

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, but when you score three touchdowns with your shorts around your ankles, something needs to be done. Pulling the Flag’s very own Honey Badger struggled with the elastic in his shorts all day, not least on a long run against Leeds Bobcats, when he dropped trou with about 20 yards still to run. He’s lucky he didn’t get a taunting flag. #PrayForTomsElastic

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Leeds Academy Should Do More Of These…

…but please make them Autumn Bowls at the very latest. It was great to get part of the flag community together so close to Christmas, but boy was it cold when the sun went down.

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