The 2016 BAFA league season was one of the most competitive in recent memory, and 2017 promises to be no different. In the offseason, a number of squads re-loaded and got ready to get back in the ring, but they will be joined by a feared newcomer… Who are the top teams going in to 2017? Look no further, as we give our thoughts;
The Rebels earn top spot on our power rankings by virtue of their nail-biting victory last season to capture the Britbowl crown. Lead by QB Calvin Tarlton, the London outfit are brimming with talent. Kenny Bello highlights a potent offensive attack, while the defence kept the high-scoring Hornets in check during the final last year.
Before a ball is snapped, the Rebels are our top team in the nation, but for how long?
The Hookers are about to embark on their debut season, so how can they be second? Especially ahead of a number of seasoned squads who had respectable finishes in last year’s BAFA league season. They have pedigree of their own, having competed in Big Bowl, Jags Sevens and Pink Bowl against some of the best teams in Europe. That’s without mentioning their impressive outing at Flagging New Year ‘17. The Buttonhookers silenced any detractors with a convincing 20-0 win over last year’s finalists, the Glasgow Hornets. They then went ahead and won the whole tournament, with victories over the Dutch Lions and Walldorf Wanderers, who were both hot favourites.
Can the debutants translate their success in these invitationals to a league format? We think so, and that is why they hold the number two spot.
The Hornets fell one point short of toppling the Rebels at the 2016 Britbowl final, and will be looking to go one step closer and win their first title since. This is another squad with ample talent on the offensive side, while also being able to remain stout on defence. Their pre-season has been far from ideal however, as they arguably fell short of expectations at Flagging New Year with a disappointing 7th overall finish. However, they did defeat a host of HNC rivals at the Aberdeen Quaich, they left the Granite City with the winners trophy. The Glasgow outfit also secured an impressive victory at NuOla’s Spring Break tournament, defeating the Mayhem squad fairly comfortably.
The Hornets have done enough in the offseason and last year for us to feel comfortable about their chances in 2017. They sit third in our rankings.
Aberdeen are a real sleeping giant of the BAFA league. Captained by GB Lion Gary Elliot, the Oilcats have come incredibly close in recent years to having one hand on the Britbowl title. They lost narrowly to the eventual winners two years ago (the Cardiff Hurricanes), and repeated the feat last year, losing to the London Rebels. Aberdeen boast a tremendous defence, with GB talent at nearly every position on that side of the ball. Their offence is methodical, but can also score at will. They will be looking to overcome the mental blocks that have prevented them for going further in past seasons.
The Oilcats finished third in the UK last year, but are number four in our countdown. They have every chance to go all the way this year.
We don’t feel the Panthers get enough respect nationally. They do not have the biggest squad, or the flashiest play style, but they are a solid squad full of players who display excellent fundamentals. This recipe has served them well, as they finished fourth in the BAFA league last season. However, their podium finish at Flagging New Year (third overall) was what really caught our eye. They faced a stacked Carluke Cobras squad, who had recruited GB Lions for a run at the tournament.
The Panthers showed that continuity would trump any attempts to out-gun them. They were disappointing at NuOla Spring Break, but that doesn’t worry us this year.
The newly branded Giants (formerly the Predators) are another sleeping giant of the BAFA leagues. Their disappointing 2016 season can be written off as they suffered some important injuries. That being said, they still went undefeated, and only fell in the playoffs on their home soil. Despite the injuries, they still came close to beating the eventual third-place-finishers, the Aberdeen Oilcats, for the right to play at Britbowl. Their defence, lead by GB Lion Dean Whittlingslow, figures to bounce back and return to their stellar form shown in years prior.
Look out for the Giants this year, as they are another squad with all the talent to make a serious run at the Britbowl crow
The Broncos are another team bursting at the seams with GB talent. The Woods and Thomson clans are no strangers to the BAFA leagues and have a history of success. But why do they only come in at number seven? Despite their talent and experience, they’ve stumbled at the final block before Britbowl for a number of years in a row. Some disappointing performances in big games have sent the Broncos packing in the playoffs. We at FFW know that they have the ability to overcome any squad in the UK on their day.
Everyone in the Northern Playoffs will be looking to avoid the Broncos, as they look primed to hit their stride this year.
The Lions, it would be fair to say, didn’t really take last year very seriously at all. They entered the league in 2015 and romped their way to a championship in their first season. On course for a repeat, the attendance of the Lions became questionable. They no-showed a number of game days, and ultimately walked away from the season. However, when motivated, the Lions are among the best squads in Britain. QB Tristan Varney can shred any defence with his aerial attack, and the dangerous defence can create turnovers with their aggressive style. Though two losses against the Coventry Cougars at NuOla Spring Break have us concerned…
The Lions could have won it all again last year, but stopped themselves from doing so. They can go toe-to-toe with any squad, but will they turn up?
The former Britbowl champions are another squad which favour a close-knit group over a large-scale organisation. The Hurricanes won the title in 2014 behind QB Joe Cotterill and a sensational defence. In a tough SWC however, it may be hard to get much momentum going ahead of the playoffs. Last year, the Hurricanes lost in OT to the Aylesbury Vale Spartans, but with the prospects of a Premier Division looming, we feel good about their chances of staying focussed.
While it may difficult to advance further in the Southern Playoffs, but the Hurricanes have done it before – who says they can’t do it again?
Seven periods of overtime. Seven. SEVEN. That’s how many times the Titans had to reset, regroup, and go back to the field against the Victoria Park Panthers in the Southern Playoffs in 2016. The Titans lead by two scores with two minutes left in regulation against our #5 team, but the Panthers bizarrely tied things up. Then, after the aforementioned overtime, the Titans ran out of gas, and the Panthers advanced. Taking Victoria Park to the brink was admirable however, and the Titans are quietly putting together a formidable roster.
We fancy their chances of becoming an SWC powerhouse this season, and we place them at #10 ahead of the season