Pulling The Flag

Youth – Preview

In what has been a turbulent off season for the youth set up, the season gets underway this weekend. The previous campaign has been changed back to two conferences, North and South, as opposed to the North, Central and South, the previous year.

The under 12s are in parity with each other, with six teams in each conference, however the under 17s is, well lets say are heavily balanced to the North. Eight teams feature in the northern conference as opposed to five in the South, as we see the Northants Titans join the party, leaving the South behind.

The lop sided conferences seems to have been down to an original schedule being replaced with an updated one after three South coast teams elected to not enter after all.

So who is actually suiting up this season?

Under 12s – North

Burnley Tornados

The Tornados, entered the under 12s last year and will be looking to improve on a fine rookie season.

In what looked like a very talented bunch last year, we are hoping they do push on and give the the rest of the league a hard time this time around.

Chorley Buccaneers Red Beards

The national champions, will no doubt be looking to defend their title. A title that came off the back of an unbeaten season last year.

Finals saw them bounce back from the previous years defeat to the London Blitz and reclaim the title of two years prior.

The Red Beards will no doubt welcome some more competition back to the conference this time around, as they ultimately ended up playing in a three team conference last year, after Leeds pulled out mid way through.

Chorley Buccaneers Black Beards 

The Chorley “second” team as such, are typically their development team. Featuring their younger players and rookies. However, that doesn’t mean they will not be competitive, so keep an eye out for them getting wins throughout the season.

The Chorley squads are not announced until after Easter, so it’s a little hard to comment on how the Black Beards will do, But the recent Huntsmen Bowl III, saw around thirty under 12s, across three teams on the day. So the coaches will have their hands full that’s for sure.

New PTF team member, Dan McDermott did a nice preview of the Buccs season and you can read it here: http://www.chorleybucs.co.uk/news/national_flag_league_starts_this_weekend

Coventry Cougars

The Cougars have been recruiting and could bounce back from missing out on finals the past two years. They’ve definitely added some speed to their ranks and if they can field a consistent team throughout the season, they may just feature come finals day.

There were quite a few players missing at the Huntsmen Bowl, so its hard to say, but a pre season friendly against the Huntsmen had them looking in fine fettle on the day.

Leicester Huntsmen

Much of the Huntsmen squad returns for the 2017 season. The squad that saw them reach finals has been supplemented with some fresh faces, so they could well feature again at Britbowl, if they can keep the rest of the league at bay.

Moving back into the North, will be a challenge for them, after securing the Central title last year, without losing to their conference rivals.

A mixed showing at their own tournament, splitting the team into two, doesn’t really help us any in terms of how the team will look to be honest.

Studley Bearcats

The potential of the Bearcats is there for all to see. Should they find a formula, to add to their impressive speed, they should improve throughout the season. Huntsmen Bowl performances would indicate they still have some work to do. But never underestimate them, they can put scores up for sure.

Under 12s – South

 

London Warriors

It’s always difficult to say how the Warriors team will perform. They always seem to trade blows and grab some wins, but never really challenge for a finals place.

If they can see out a full schedule, you never know, they could be in the mix, but they will have some stern opposition.

London Blitz

The London Blitz lost out on going back-to-back in the lower age group last year, by virtue of their loss to Chorley. They did look strong though, beating the Waveney Wolves and Leicester Huntsmen to reach the final itself.

Speed is definitely their biggest asset. That and the ability to man up against teams defensively, which is rare at such a young age group.

The Blitz will no doubt be right up there again this year and if they keep both the Waveney teams at arms length, they should be a finals contender once more.

South London Renegades

Erm, this one is tricky.

The South London Renegades were a last minute entry in to the league, after the South coast teams omitted themselves from the fixture list.

In all honesty, we know very little about them other than they are a development program from their kitted team. Sorry folks.

Solent Seahawks

Again, we don’t know much about the Seahawks, other than their coach Nick Coe, has been enthusiastically pushing the program on social media.

We’d expect them as complete rookies to find it difficult in such company as the Blitz and Wolves. But it’s difficult to comment. They could turn out to be the leagues dark horses.

Waveney Wolves

Last year saw the rookie Wolves, learn and learn fast. They found their feet very quickly and ended up taking the South title away from the London Blitz.

Their ability to take a negative and turn it around in a short space of time is truly one of their best qualities.

They didn’t quite turn out the performance we thought they might at finals, but expectation levels will be high again this year after destroying the field at the Huntsmen Bowl and winning the title again back in March.

Finals should be a certainty.

Waveney Timberwolves 

The Wolves second team isn’t half bad either.

The numbers that the East coast team are getting at training almost matches the Chorley Buccaneers. Their second team also showed well at the pre season tournament, finishing second, behind their first team.

It wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to see them follow the first team to finals. But we think the London Blitz may have other thought about that.

Look out for our interview with the Waveney Wolves Head Coach, John Sherwood in the coming days.

Under 17s – North

 

Burnley Tornados

The Burnley Tornados (we know it’s missing an E) were one of last years rookie teams to the league. They were a little hit and miss at times, however, when they did play well, they played very well indeed.

If the season had gone on a touch longer, they had the wind behind them and would have been a dangerous contender had they reached finals

Impressive play from their running game and standout player receiver, Robert Welti see’s them looking strong this year, in what is a ridiculously tough North group.

More on that later.

Chorley Buccaneers Broadswords

The younger of the two Chorley teams is mostly made of from the last three years finalists at cadet level. With QB, Harry Coyne, now moving up to join his peers, they have a standout quarterback this year. A quarterback who has impressed us at PTF HQ, greatly since we first set eyes on him.

A mixed bag at the Huntsmen Bowl, but none the less competitive see’s them as one of the younger teams in the conference, but we think they will hold their own.

Chorley Buccaneers Cutlasses 

The Cutlasses reached the finals last year relatively comfortably. This year may be trickier with the likes of the Cougars, Panthers and Titans joining the North. However, They surprisingly beat all three of those teams, plus the Buckinghamshire Wolves at the Huntsmen Bowl, so maybe they will be stronger than we had first thought?

Winning that piece of silverware will do them no harm whatsoever, so lets hope they can carry that momentum through the regular season and beyond.

A familiar story of losing players to contact inhibits them from being as strong as they could be, but this year just looks a little different for the Cutlasses.

Coventry Cougars

The National Champions are the team to beat having edged out the Northants Titans in last years finals.

That being said, they have lost some key players to age. They still have talent in abundance though, so will no doubt feature heavily in the shake-up as to who qualifies for finals.

Losing all their games at the Huntsmen Bowl is a bit of deceiving, as they were short handed, due to the girls playing in a separate team, missing players and injuries on the day.

They will not let their title go easily.

Coventry Woodlands Panthers

This team is quite scary. They blow a little hot and cold, but if they decide to be hot, they can literally tare teams apart.

With most if not all of their squad returning for the season, they will have to be considered as one of the contenders this year.

They finished fifth overall last year, so will be looking to break into that top four teams and top two in the conference to make finals.

Their biggest advantage is their height, they have it in abundance.

Leicester Huntsmen

The Huntsmen, like the Broadswords, are one of the youngest teams in the league.

A good showing at their own tournament winning, what was in reality a lower age group of mostly under fifteens, shows that they could grab a few wins this year, but will unlikely be challengers this time out.

Former Loughborough University & Great Britain contact Head Coach, Andrew Sweeney, has joined the club as offensive co-ordinator. So we will if the transition from contact to flag is a success.

Northants Titans

The Titans were very close to claiming a Britbowl win last time out, and will find themselves without the man who masterminded it. Duncan Anderson has left the club to relocate to LA.

His assistant coach, Lee Tibbles has stepped up to Head Coach and will guide what is an extremely talented team this year.

The Titans retain most of their class of 2016, with the exception of Lee’s elder son, Oliver, who stood out last season. His other son, Sam returns at QB, so the offense isn’t disrupted greatly.

Mixed fortunes at the Huntsmen Bowl, did surprise us, but we fancy them to make adjustments in time for the season ahead.

Studley Bearcats

Head Coach Roger Smithies, is quietly building a competitive side in Studley. They struggled in 2015 to get wins, but last year had a good run of wins and finished in the top seven teams in the country.

They narrowly lost out on silverware at the Huntsmen Bowl, by virtue of a head-to-head loss to Leicester, but looked really impressive at times.

However, they must be wondering what they have to do to get some luck?

The North features eight of the top nine ranked teams across the whole of the UK from last year, in this years realignment. Only the Buckinghamshire Wolves out of those nine are not in the North, so it’s not only going to be tough for them, but for all the teams.

We’d expect there to be quite a few gamedays where teams take wins a off of each other and don’t expect to see an undefeated season.

Under 17s – South

Buckinghamshire Wolves

The beneficiaries of the Titans move to the North are the Wolves. The two teams were nip and tuck last year in the regular season, with both qualifying for finals.

It’s actually a bit of a shame that the two have been split apart, as there was a strong rivalry built over the previous two years.

Because of the move, we expect the Wolves to run away with the South, despite losing some key players to age, they should have enough here to go undefeated.

Hertfordshire Cheetahs

The Cheetahs are a very young side, and will be happy the Titans have moved out of the conference.

They did play some exciting stuff last year, so will be hoping to capitalise on the Titans move and get some more wins on the board this year.

It may be a year or so too early, but we like them as a future team to challenge down the line.

London Blitz 

The Blitz couldn’t quite match their under 13s win of 2015, but with another year behind them and a year of growth, they will be in the running for a finals appearance this time out with the Titans move.

Their only downside is that they always lose players to contact once they’re eligible, so it’s definitely an issue of continuity at this age group.

If they do stick around or play dual codes, they could be up there in the South reckoning.

London Warriors

Like the Blitz, the Warriors always have the issue of losing players to contact football, so it can be to their detriment in terms of being competitive.

They host one week one, so we will see where they are in terms of strength this year soon enough.

Talent certainly isn’t an issue, but sometimes travelling away is.

Waveney Wolves

New to the under 17s are the Waveney Wolves. Success at under 12s has bred an upper age group team for 2017.

They didn’t fare well at the Huntsmen Bowl, but that was their first ever turnout at a tournament, so the experience will have done them the world of good.

With a young Cheetahs, and two London teams that aren’t consistent at this age group, they might fancy their chances, however getting a few wins will be more likely later in the season we feel for the fresh Wolves of the East Coast.

 

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