This weekend sees the 2019 iteration of the BAFA Women’s Diamond Series, as standout ballers from all across the British women’s game get their annual taste of 11-a-side full contact football in the form of regional teams coached by some of the top Women’s coaches in the Britball Nation!
With the IFAF Women’s European Championships incoming later this summer, hosted by the #1 Seeded GB Lions in Leeds, the Series has seen itself reduced back down to two teams and just a single fixture, down from last year’s three rosters and multiple fixtures, and so we’ll see the Northern Blizzard and Southern Storm go head to head on Saturday afternoon!
With thanks to the efforts of the awesome Robyn ‘Bo’ Steward, we caught up with some of the key peeps involved in this year’s Diamond Series, to learn more about Saturday’s showdown!
This year’s format differs significantly from last year, with only two rosters and each having three training sessions to prep for just a single climactic 11-a-side showdown. As such, it’s tough to make any predictions about how Saturday might turn out based on last year’s Diamond Series – with around 100 sign-ups across the two rosters, the 2019 Diamond Series reflects the continued development of the women’s game, and the hunger across the country for a taste of 11-a-side football – something that for many ballers is only really available at a regional or national level of the game.
Northern Blizzard Head Coach, Christian Thompson, told us that the Blizzard roster is well balanced between veteran Diamond ballers and rookies come into this weekend’s game, and though they know they’ll likely be short on depth compared to their opponents, the North are ready for the challenge:
“The take up this year for the North has been exceptional. The team is well mixed with rookies and vets!
Practices have been very productive and I feel the bond and teamwork achieved this year has been like never before. We really do have a team that act like they’ve been together for three years, not three practices!
With regards to tomorrow’s game, I expect to see two different game plans, respectively from the Northern and the Southern team. This year is the first year each team has been able to install their own playbooks. With this, the competition will really test not only the players, but also how the coaches install said plays and also adapt; we have only one game to determine this year’s winner, one shot to take the title.
It will be a battle of David and Goliath; the south having 70+ players Vs our 30 players. However, only 11 players from each team take the field at any one time, so it will be an exciting and challenging event for anyone and everyone!”
Northern Captain Beth Pilkington echoed her coach’s sentiment, that the Blizzard are embracing their smaller roster size:
I expect that we will keep working together as a unit as we have all gelled so well. I think we’re going to be in for a very interesting game!”
Meanwhile, the Southern Blaze are coming into the 2019 Series with a title defend, having surprised many with their successful Diamond title in 2018.
With the series reduced to two teams, the Blaze, in particular, have reaped the rewards, with their roster numbers having swelled coming into the one-off 2019 showdown, boasting a roster of 66 signed up ballers from all across the south. As such, Coach Warren Smart, coming into Diamond off a hugely successful Saphire campaign with his Wembley Stallions, will be leading the Blaze into Saturday as the hot ticket to make it back-to-back victories!
Though they’ll be hungry to take the win, as with her opposite number, southern Captain Jayne Meadows emphasised that the most important goal of the Diamond Series is to give British women’s ballers a taste of 11-a-side action that there’s otherwise fairly limited access to in the British game at this time:
“This year is a complete 180, last year we were coming into the Diamond series as underdogs and this year we have our title to defend. The North will be a tough opponent, however, the Blaze ladies have put in the hard work at our training days and come together very well.
Diamond is a great platform to develop our game, we have a number of ladies that have never played 11’s, 9’s or even contact before, everyone has picked up so much in a short space of time and I am excited to see what they will bring to the game. LETS GO BLAZE!!”
The Diamond Series showdown gets underway this weekend at JMO Sports Park, Liverpool, kicking off at 1400.
It’s also worth remembering that this is just the first taste of 11-a-side women’s football this summer, as the IFAF Women’s European Championships comes to our shores for the first time ever, with our own GB Lions entering the fray as the favourites to host their first European title after impressing at the most recent World Championships!