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Women’s American Football in good hands as Sapphire Series kicks off

By Cameron Hogwood

Yorkshire will be well-represented when the 2017 Sapphire Series Women’s Tackle Football Championship gets underway at the end of this month.

The Leeds Carnegie Chargers are the only women’s side in the city and will compete in the Division One North Conference when the competition gets underway on 25 February.

They head into the opening game with a strong reputation as the third-ranked team in the country for full contact American Football.

Chargers player Lianne Hare, a defensive line women turned running back, is confident the team can build on an impressive 2016 after a successful off-season in terms of recruitment and training.

She said: “Off season preparations have been going well. As well as welcoming returning members of the team we’ve also recruited a lot of rookies, so there’s been a lot of development and installing our new playbook.

“We are extremely lucky to have a dedicated bunch of women to play alongside each week and a wealth of knowledge and talent in our coaching staff behind us. We know that whatever happens the Chargers women will leave everything they have on the field and we couldn’t really ask for more than that.”

Hare and her teammates have set off for a weekend long boot camp as they continue preparations for the upcoming season.

It’s our first night at boot camp and dinner has been served! The schedule for the weekend is up and we’ve got some early mornings ahead 🚨

A photo posted by Leeds Carnegie Chargers (@leedscarnegiechargers) on

The Chargers share a division with the Edinburgh Wolves, having not played them since their first season while they will also come up against the East Kilbride Pirates and familiar rivals in the Manchester Titans.

Hare is looking forward to a match-up with the Titans in particular, and has high expectations for what her team is capable of in 2017.

She said: “It’s always a fun game to get out on the field and see Manchester Titans, we can’t let that war of the roses slip. We placed third last season in the National Conference, so of course we are setting our sights on the bigger prizes on offer this season and we know every team that we play will be challenging but we’re excited to take these on.”

Jim Messenger, the head of women’s football development for the British American Football Association, has hailed the Chargers as the fastest growing team over the past two years and believes they are a side worth keeping an eye on.

He said: “The three previous series have been won by the Birmingham Lions, but it looks like other teams are starting to close the gap and a great deal of interest will fall on the three key challengers. The Hertfordshire Tornadoes, London Warriors, and the Leeds Carnegie Chargers, who very narrowly missed-out on the runners-up spot last year.

“The crucial test will be round two of the Series when the Chargers will meet both Birmingham and Hertfordshire in competition in Manchester. If they can achieve even narrow defeats against the aristocracy of women’s football then anticipation of a possible change in national champions will rise.”

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