Great Britain's flag football teams will take to the European stage later this month as its Men's and Women's Lions head to Denmark for the IFAF Flag Football European Championship.
Kicking off on August 31st, the tournament sees teams from Israel and Sweden join the Lions and their Danish hosts for a festival of flag that will see the winners heading to next year's World Championships.
Led by Alan Young and Andrew Gambrill respectively, the two squads will be looking to improve on their most recent tournament outings, which saw the Men's team finish in XXth in the 2016 World Flag Championships, and the Women's outfit finish with a 2-1-7 record in the 2015 edition of the Euros - their first ever major tournament.
Unfortunately for those competing, the current tussle for control of international football has severely affected this summer's tournaments. The Copenhagen championships will run parallel to a rival tournament in Madrid - organised by EFAF - which will feature a further 15 nations. While the split is frustrating and denies the best of Britain the opportunity to take on the whole of Europe's elite, the carrot of a World Championship slot for the winners should provide ample consolation.
Let's look in on each squad's preparations for the tournaments:
The men's squad was announced earlier this month following a year long process of assessment under the watchful gaze of HC Alan Young. Alongside the regular trials programme, Young attended a large number of gamedays across the 2017 regular season to gain a more rounded view of potential international prospects, with the final decisions seeing 30 players selected to the national programme. Of those 30, 15 were selected for the championship squad, with the remainder given Silver Lions honours.
The squad features some names that will be familiar with the kitted community, not least Kenny Bello of UK Dukes fame. Several players - including long-time West Coast Trojan Bud McFerran, Leeds Carnegie workhorse Chris Winrow and giant receiver Gary Elliott - retained their places in the setup from last year's World Championships, but there is a new name under centre in Vince Machi, one of three Baker Street Buttonhookers to make the cut.
Squad in full:
Brian McFerran, Clyde Comets
Callum Woods, Grangemouth Broncos
Calum Young, Aberdeen Oilcats
Chris Winrow, Sheffield Giants
David McInally, Manchester Titans
Dean Whittingslow, Sheffield Giants (Defensive Captain)
Gary Elliott, Aberdeen Oilcats (Offensive Captain)
Josh Nicholson, Baker Street Buttonhookers
Julian Holburn-White, Glasgow Hornets
Kehinde Bello, London Rebels
Kevin Woods, Grangemouth Broncos
Matt Wilkinson, Manchester Crows
Michael Bradley-Banszki, Farnham Knights
Steve Mongey, Baker Street Buttonhookers
Vince Machi, Baker Street Buttonhookers
Speaking to the BAFA website, Young said:
“Selecting the squad has been one of the toughest decisions I've had to make. I feel we are heading in the right direction, building chemistry within the team and I look forward to the European Championships so we can see the results of all our hard work.”
The Lions play each team in the tournament once between September 7-9, before taking part in the final placing games on September 10.
Unlike the Men's team, the Women's programme is still in its infancy, only fully forming in the last few years thanks to the success of the Opal Series and the hard work of Andrew Gambrill, who was eventually appointed as Head Coach of the first GB Lions Women's flag team ahead of the last European Championships.
Since that two-win showing in what was their first major tournament, the Women's game has gone from strength to strength, with 2017 seeing the launch of a Summer Series which sees teams able to play year-round football to accelerate their development. Reflecting this, the Women's squad is made up of representatives from seven different teams.
As with the Men's side, the core of the team remains from the most recent championship outing, with Louise Lee, Jen Cooper, Tanya Boyes, Steph Warren and the Barrett sisters returning to GB action. However, seven new faces - including Britball's busiest lady, Phoebe Schecter - will provide a fresh outlook in their first taste of international action.
Squad in full:
Amy Slater - Sheffield Hallam Warriors
Ellie Thorpe - Warwick Wolverines
Jennifer Cooper - Warwick Wolverines
Jodie Harris - Warwick Wolverines
Kate Bruinvels - Chichester Golden Arrows
Kellie Barrett - Coventry Cougars
Lottie Laidler - Sheffield Hallam Warriors
Lou Lee - Warwick Wolverines
Lucie Stewart - London Warriors
Millie Barrett - Coventry Cougars
Phoebe Schechter - Staffordshire Surge
Steph Warren - Nottingham University
Speaking to Double Coverage, Gambrill said:
"Preparation has been difficult at times over the summer due to having such a busy flag football calendar, which in itself is a good problem to have. However, over the last six weeks the players and coaches have really stepped up and we’re ready to go. Obviously, we go into every game with the aim to win, but I prefer to focus on the things we can control, like our performance. If we take care of that, the results will follow."
The Lions play Denmark, Finland and Israel in the round robin stage, with placement games to follow and the winner qualifying for the World Championships.
A former local news journalist, Tom has been involved with Double Coverage on and off since shortly after it launched in 2011. Having started his kitted football journey with Huddersfield Hawks in 2007, he played wide receiver for four National League teams before joining the Mansfield Honey Badgers flag team in 2013.