The Cardiff Valkyries and Cheshire Bears are ready to renew hostilities Photo: Tim Furfie

Valkyries Aim to Take Flight at Their Own Women’s Gridiron Tournament

by Twm Owen

Cardiff will host three American Football games crammed into almost as many hours when Wales’ only women’s gridiron team stages its second ever tournament. 

The Cardiff Valkyries host the Cheshire Bears and Leicester Falcons in the final regional tournament of the season at the Cardiff International Sports Campus in Leckwith on Saturday, February 29. 

The Valkyries will face their guests in two full contact 30-minute, seven V seven games on a shortened pitch in the British American Football Association (BAFA) Division Two North Sapphire series. 

Valkyries head coach Simon Browning says the games are just as fast, exciting and tactical as the traditional 11 V 11 format: “The matches will be dominated by the run games, with all teams boasting runners that can take it the distance in a flash.  

“But we are all doing it in slightly different ways – so spectators can really see a clash of different offensive styles in operation which adds to the fun.” 

The Valkyries had to wear kit borrowed from the Cardiff Cobras, due to a clash, at the previous tournament. Pictured is Ruth Lewis Photo: Tim Furfie

Saturday will be all about enjoyment and pride for the Valkyries who cannot progress to the national finals day. The Cheshire Bears have already secured the division title and the home side are unable to catch the second placed Leicester Falcons. 

But they will face the Falcons in the first game, at 1pm, to complete an epic trilogy that started in this season’s opening tournament before Christmas. 

“Ourselves and Leicester are evenly matched. Leicester won in the first tournament but when we last faced them, at the start of February it, ended in a nail-biting finish with Leicester scoring with almost the last play of the game to force a draw,” says Browning of what has proved to be the Valkyries best result of the season. 

“The Bears are leading the way and are unbeaten so far and have been the stand out team.” 

Cheshire’s dominance is attributed to the Bears’ defensive line led by Laura Dye and Meg Delaney while the Falcons boast an impressive quarterback, in Collette Wong,  and Verity Ellison is the defensive standout for the East Midlands side. 

The home side are led by stand in QB Ruth Lewis while on defense linebacker Zoe John is one of the Valkyries’ most experienced players having played alongside men for the Cardiff Cobras university team. 

Saturday’s tournament will be only the second time full contact women’s American Football has been staged in Wales after the Valkyries hosted a tournament, while competing in the south division, in Penarth at the end of 2018. 

Despite disappointing results Browning says the Valkyries have advanced in terms of performance and tactics: “It has been great to see some of the new rookies get heavily involved and contributing for large periods. It has literally been a baptism of fire for a lot of them. 

“We have had a lot of injuries this year which affected us massively as we don’t have a big squad. So a lot of players have played out of their usual position to cover. We have also had a lot of rookies needing to jump straight in and contribute more so than we expected. 

“We also ask a lot of the players from a coaching point of view. The schemes that we run are not rigid plays. They are expected to be able to adapt any concept to any formation at any time. So there is a lot of mental requirements on them to adjust as we go along. 

“They have responded brilliantly and the football IQ that they now have will hopefully set us in good stead going forwards.” 

The tournament, sponsored by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, takes place at the Cardiff International Sports Campus, CF11 8AZ on Saturday February 29 with the first game starting at 1pm and is free to attend with spectators welcome. 

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