Lions welcome round 2
Tomorrow the Lions’ women despatch two teams to Stockton-on-Tees and Hertfordshire respectively to kick-start Round 2 of BAFA’s Womens’ Sapphire Series. We caught up with Club Captain Jo Kilby for her thoughts ahead of the games.
Both your teams had a good start to Sapphire?
They did. The Northern conference Lions only played one game in the end, against Manchester Titans, but they were clinical in their execution which we were pleased about, and our Southern side, well they were more than impressive, considering in particular how many rookies they had on board, alongside a new coaching staff and taking into account their lack of preparation time too.
What do you mean ‘lack of preparation time’?
Well it’s fair to say we’d all been concentrating on 9-aside football leading up to our game with French side, Les Sparkles, on 31st January, so when we got back to practice following that event we only had three sessions to learn the 5-aside play-book and rep it out; it bodes well for both sides though as we move through the tournament as we’ll hopefully become more and more familiar with what it is we’re trying to achieve.
Sounds like a bit of a risky strategy, leaving things so late?
To a certain extent yes, we challenged ourselves with the French game but as a result it didn’t leave us a great deal of time to do anything else, that being said decisions made were considered and took into account our personnel and the fact that we were going to be contact- and game-ready courtesy of the Sparkles game so it was more a case of making adjustments leading up to round one, but just making them quickly that’s all – fortunately our calculations stacked up and the first round went pretty well on the whole.
How will this approach serve you through the Series?
We’re playing catch-up a little at the moment but it’s not going to take us long before we hit our boot-straps in the North, and for the South, who are less experienced as a unit, they’re looking sharper and sharper every time they take to the training field, plus we’ve some great leaders on the field for the South team too with Alice-Mary Smith and Kiara Vincent heading up the Defense and the Offense respectively and with a lot of new talent alongside them we’re really excited about seeing the team develop and pretty confident they’ll continue to raise some eyebrows.
You’re the first club to enter two sides into Sapphire, how are you finding that?
On the one hand it’s less than ideal as we’re used to being one team – in France for example it was great to have that complete and singular identity in whatever we did – and whilst it was difficult for the coaches to split the teams for Sapphire they were committed to ensuring all players would play a decent amount of football over the coming months. Not taking this decision would have seen our squad of 30+ women sitting on one 5-aside team and we’d just never have been able to rep everyone in adequately – this way we maximise all players’ exposure to competition and that’s a win-win for us: everyone gets game-time and everyone takes responsibility for participating and that includes celebrating success together as well as taking the lessons learnt from facing adversity and overcoming challenge; this time next year we’ll be a far stronger team for taking this approach.
Aren’t you spreading yourselves a bit thin having two teams?
The short answer is yes, when you have injuries and player unavailability for example we’re going to be depleted but we’ve got to take more than a one-season-at-a-time view of our football team, if we have a single team of 30 odd girls then yes we have a great chance of defending our title say (as we’ll have so much strength in depth) but realistically you’ll have rookies who will still effectively be rookies next season too, its game-time that advances players, skills forged in the heat of battle if you will; when we have to travel with ‘compact’ squads (so to speak) we’ll just have to suck it up and get on with it – there are teams out there doing that week in and week out, so who are we to complain.
As you mention, you are defending champions, who’s the main competition this year do you think?
It’s a bit early to tell who the real movers and shakers are but you’d have to consider London, Hertfordshire and Leeds the interesting forerunners at present, in saying that however we’re firmly of the belief that any team is a threat on any given day – that’s the attitude we take: respect the potential of any team and the capability of any opposing player and deal with the task in front of you at all times.
Sounds exciting, thanks for your time and all the best to both North and South Lions’ teams this Saturday.
Image courtesy of, and with thanks to, Niko R. / Womens’ Sport Gallery.