Pulling The Flag

Britbowl – Adult Flag National Finals – Preview

So the 2017 finals are but a day away…

The four gladiators that remain in contention for the illustrious title of National Champion, rather neatly contain four teams from all four of the conferences. The HNC, MEC, SWC and SEC will each have a shot at glory this weekend.

Those teams that will be represented are the Glasgow Hornets (HNC), the Sheffield Giants (MEC), Birmingham Lions (SWC) and the Baker Street Buttonhookers (SEC).

So our preview will start with the later. Why? Because this is their first rodeo at National Finals and as such makes the rookie team possibly the most interesting narrative of the finals.

Baker Street Buttonhookers

This bunch of professionals from the big smoke have been blazing a trail for the last two calendar years, performing to a high standard at the 2016 Big and Pink Bowls and winning the 2017 edition of the Flagging New Year tournament in Glasgow in January.

They’ve rode that crest of a wave into their debut season, besting the two time and defending champions, the London Rebels three times on route to the finals. Twice in the regular season and then again in the last round of the playoffs.

Their key player and leader is the newly crowned Great Britain signal caller, Vince Machi.

Vince has proved himself to be one of the leagues best quarterbacks and it’s his savvy style and experience that is most noticeable when guiding his team down the field on offence.

Machi is supplemented by an extremely talented receiving corps, in likes of Josh Nicholson and Steve Mongey who will be joining Machi at the Europian Championships after the season has finished.

Possibly one of the most dominating receivers in the league, Carl Szabo is our pick to be the Buttonhookers standout players at finals.

The combination of his height, reach, hands and power make him almost impossible to cover. It also makes him very hard to navigate around when he’s playing on the defensive side of the ball.

Thow into the mix Casey Fitzsimmons, who has also made hay this season and the threat the offence carries is as good as any in Europe, let alone the UK.

The intimidating combination of James Deck and Lindsay Johnson at the Blitzer position will also be a position we think will be worth keeping an eye on.

Their effective style causes havoc in the back field and give the likes of Nicholson and Bobby  Centlivre the chance to make game breaking plays on the ball from the secondary.

All in all, the Baker Street boys have a legitimate chance of walking out of Sheffield on Saturday and the leagues best and we probably make them slim favourites to do so based on what we’ve seen so far this season!

Birmingham Lions

The Lions, like the Buttonhookers came into the league in 2015 as a rookie outfit and transcended how the game could and would be played.

In a slightly differing background to the London team, the Lions already had a reputation in the UK, but that was as a highly successful contact team.

Though like the Buttonhookers, they also took the time to learn the flag scene, before going full bore at the National League, claiming one NuOla tournament title before the season began and then claiming another just before the finals themselves.

Generally they are seen as a team who don’t take flag seriously and often purposely push the boundaries where celebrations are concerned, but that’s part of their appeal.

With the classy style in which quarterback Tristan Varney picks the locks of some of the leagues defences with ease, it’s hard not to get lost in the euphoria that their sideline creates when they score.

It’s also generally amusing to see them immediately substitute players who fail to secure one of Varney’s passes.

Also amusing is the fact that one of contacts premier quarterbacks, Sammy-Lee Baker cannot get a sniff at throwing the ball in the flag code, due to Varney and his accurate arm.

Regardless of who is throwing the ball, the Lions will more than likely be throwing in the direction of Great Britain receiver Andrew “Drew” Newiss. Although not representing his country at the Euros this time around, Newiss is on a hot streak for the ages, scoring ten touchdowns in a regular season game against the Hereford Stampede and seven in the playoffs decider against the more than capable Cardiff Hurricanes.

They do occasionally throw in the direction of others, Will Hussey has been making waves in the absence of Alex Salter.

But the darkhorse of their receiving set is Callum Davidson. He has dovetailed nicely with Newiss over the season and will have to be marked tightly for sure.

Defensively, Lewis Clarke stands out as key defensive component for the Lions, factored in with Daniel Hampton and Rohan Sandu, who have combined for seventeen regular season picks.

Almost unbelievable to the eye, is the fact the Lions have only scored two pick sixes all season.

That really is an indicator to how the Lions play. Often analysed as being a offensive attacking machine, their defence is equally criticised for it’s inability to match their offensive counterparts.

They play fast and loose and that may play into the hands of the other three teams, but one things for sure, they will be great value for money and despite only being in their third season, they are surprisingly the only team out of the four who’ve actually ever won the championship.

Not bad for a team who openly admit they don’t really train together!

Glasgow Hornets 

Last years finalist, the Glasgow Hornets have been waiting eleven months to avenge their heartbreaking loss to the London Rebels.

You have to give them credit though, they have not wilted, no, far from it.

A mixed showing at their own tournament in January, at Flagging New Year, was swiftly followed by a extremely strong showing at the NuOla Spring Shield, avenging their loss the year prior to the Bobby Black lead USA Mayhem.

Presumably advenging that loss has set the theme for the season and if they can get into the final, you wouldn’t back against them avenging their final loss from last year.

One person who will be keen to be on the winning side will be Great Britain Head Coach, Alan Young.

Alan took a lot of last years loss on his shoulders, throwing a pick late to the on rushing Blitzer of the London Rebels.

Youngy has missed a large chunk of the season due to injury, but that has only opened the door for versatile Hornet Nicky Farrell to step into the breach and guide the Hornets to being the highest scoring team in the league.

Look out for number seven wreaking havoc from a miriad of positions to the opponents defence. However they decide to use Farrell, he will be instrumental in the campaign to obtain their first title.

Had he been on the winning side last year, there would have been a strong case for Julian Holburn-White being named the finals MVP.

Like Szabo of the Buttonhookers, Holburn-White’s height, power and hands make him one of the leagues most dominating offensive weapons around.

With a completely differing style, whippet, Grant McLennan is as effective a player in the any other. At fourty six, McLennan shows no signs of stopping and his weaving runs and salsa hips are still one of the leagues best sights when running at the defence.

Backed up by underrated Calum Bell at centre, the Hornets will rack up points with that class, but what of their defence?

Well, it’s pretty rock solid!

With the duel threat of Farrell and Cameron Shaw dazzling receivers with their ability to take it out the hands of the attackers and turn it up field, the other three teams will have to be on guard.

Marshalled almost with military precision by Andrew Gibson, the Hornets have had the end zone in lockdown for the most part of the season. If Gareth Strathearn can ruffle some feathers from the blitz position, their defence should be a major factor if they are to avenge 2016.

Sheffield Giants

Returning to the big show for the first time since 2015, when they narrowly lost out to the Cardiff Hurricanes in the finals, are the Sheffield Giants.

They’ve fought the hard fight and agonisingly missed out at a shot at finals in 2016, when they lost out to the Aberdeen Oilcats in their back yard.

But the embattled Yorkshire men, have been through a rebuilding process, losing some key longstanding members of their squad. Though that hasn’t stopped their talisman, Great Britain defensive captain, Dean Whittingslow galvanising them to a finals birth this time around.

They lost out to an impressive full strength Newcastle Blackhawks team in the regular season, though turned that loss around in the final round of the playoffs in a re-match.

Playing in what will be their home city and a familiar setting in the Sheffield Hallam University Sports Park, they must fancy their chances at bagging their first title?

With Whittingslow calling the shots at quarterback, he will no doubt be firing the ball in the direction of one of the leagues most dynamic players in Josh Allen.

Allen has been prolific in tandem with sure pair of hands Tim Darracott and Spanish sensation Luka Fadrique.

All three have been putting up numbers on offence to the tune of sixty nine regular season touchdowns. That’s some trio and will be no doubt drawing the attention of the opposition.

As if balancing the coaching role and quarterbacking wasn’t enough, Whittingslow, thrives in his defensive position probably as just as much.

Supported by fellow Great Britain Player and newly called up to the Silver Lions, both Chris Winrow and Max Verlint offer up possibly the strongest tandem in the league.

Added to the star studded mix is the sack king Michael Webster, who out the fear of God into quarterbacks this year, with twenty three league sacks.

If the Giants are to win, that D will have to hold fast against some high powered offensive play from the other three finalists.

To catch all the action, don’t forget to log onto our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEhH7nqg7CqCF9XGuQkw9Ww , for comprehensive coverage, brought to you in conjunction with the Warrington Revolution, BAFA, NuOla Jerseys and the UK Dukes!



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