The Opal series is back! With a realignment and a number of new years entering the fray, we take a look at how the action unfolded in Sheffield!
Despite only being around 3 seasons, the East Kilbride Pirates are one of the more experienced teams in the Northern bracket this year. They took full advantage of this early, defeating the Sheffield Giants in a 13-12 epic. This was the Giants’ first competitive game, but with international experience in their ranks, their loss was perhaps a little surprising. Amy Wells was kept relatively quiet by her usual standards by the Pirates defence’s newest addition, Kerry McLaughlin. It was Clare Dynes who proved to be a thorn in the side of the Giants as she seemed to catch everything in her radius. Paige Cawley continued her fine form this season for the Glasgow Hornets by scoring and adding a decisive XP. Aynesley Barclay did well under centre, and contributed three interceptions to the cause when she took the field on defence. The Pirates finished day one with a 4-0 record.
The Giants are likely ruing this missed opportunity to seize the initiative early in the season, but given their lack of on-field chemistry, it’s a testament to their ability that they only lost by a solitary point. They matched the Pirates by winning their final three contests. We’re already looking forward to the rematch between these two sides!
The Sheffield Hallam squad have the difficult task of managing two full teams this season while trying to remain competitive. They have high aspirations after coming second overall last season. The Warriors had a fine day, winning comfortably over the Rangers and Nottingham Gold squad, while also recording a potentially crucial win over the Chorley Buccaneers, 13-6. They did all this while employing a Summer Morris at QB, who had to get prepared for the role with very little notice. The Warriors test themselves against the Pirates in a battle of the undefeated teams on the 4th of November, and will also get a chance to face the Sheffield Giants on that day. This could be a massive set of fixtures for the Warriors, whose playoff credentials will surely be proven if they walk away with 2 wins.
Elsewhere, the Sheffield Hallam Rangers and Nottingham Green squad failed to pick up wins, as the latter lost their inter-club derby to the Nottingham Gold team. We’ve heard reports that the Nottingham Gold have an exotic 3 QB system. This could be an interesting challenge for opposition going forward.
The Chorley Buccaneers will be feeling good about their results as they travelled with a somewhat smaller squad. They got two sticky fixtures against the Warriors and Pirates out the way, and kept things close for portions of each contest
Five Players to Watch
There was plenty of talent on show, but we’ve picked out 5 individuals who could be big players in the race for the playoffs:
Amy Wells, Sheffield Giants
We mentioned Amy was kept in check earlier, but she still managed a score against the stingy Pirates defence, and nearly broke free for another if not for a last ditch tackle. She dominated in the Giants’ other contests, and we expect the GB Lion to be a common name on the scoresheet throughout the season.
Steph Tharme, Sheffield Hallam Warriors
Steph caught our eye while suiting up for the Hallam Warriors. With little experience under her belt, she does have an athletic background in triathlons which she utilised to score multiple TDs on her Opal debut. She surely only get better with more time on the field, so watch this space!
Anu D’Costa, Nottingham Gold
Anu is another new face to the flag football scene. With a smaller frame and speed to burn, Anu found the endzone on 4 occasions on her debut gameday. As a sprinter, Anu has the home-run hitting ability from anywhere on the field, as she’s one of the more elusive rookies we’ve seen so far.
Jen Collier, Chorley Buccaneers
The Buccaneers veteran QB ended the day with 9 TD passes and showed tremendous command of her offence. The well-drilled Buccaneers went 2-2 on the day, but thanks to Jen, kept things tight against the Pirates and Warriors for stretches in the game. She exhibited excellent poise and even put in a great shift at safety. With her leadership on offence, the Buccaneers can be expected to remain competitive throughout the Opal season.
Jem Thomson, East Kilbride Pirates
Jem earned herself an MVP nod from her squad for her sterling efforts in the Pirates’ 4-0 day. She picked off 5 passes and returned 4 for TDs, including 3 against the Hallam Rangers. She also notched a number of impressive tackles on the day to end opposition drives. She capitalised on her chance to play in the middle of the defence and used her excellent positioning and technique. Despite being very new to the sport, she’s one to watch…