On 9th June 2012 history was made as the Hertfordshire Tornadoes became the first ever Women’s American Football National Champions after beating both Portsmouth and Southampton.
The first game of the tournament, played at Hertfordshire University, was intense and the nerves were showing for a lot of players. Hertfordshire showed great promise and no sign of faltering throughout, improving their plays on each down and beating Portsmouth’s defence to gain touchdowns. Hertfordshire’s offensive play was strong thanks to their quarterback Audrey Mann who was quick to find an open receiver.
Throughout the tournament, Mann impressed the crowds as she scored eight touchdowns. Portsmouth unfortunately succumbed to injuries throughout the game and had to end it early after it was clear they could not continue for a while. The final score was 34-0 to Hertfordshire.
After a break for Portsmouth to compose themselves, they took to the field for the game against Southampton. As Southampton only bought five girls with them, it was agreed that they would play a 4v4 format game to make sure the girls were not overtired. Unfortunately Portsmouth’s confidence had been knocked after their loss against the Tornadoes and this showed as the first play of the game resulted in a safety.
Southampton’s passing game was resilient as they made completions and were in the end zone continuously and their running back Lauren Hackney was also quick to find gaps and gain important yardage which was then converted for touchdowns. Alice Sadler from the Stags intercepted Portsmouth’s ball twice and returned one for a touchdown. Once more, injuries ended the game early after centre Vicki Hellard was taken off on a stretcher and kept in hospital overnight after a neck injury but was given the all clear the next day. The game ended 66-0 to Southampton.
In the third and final game of the day, Hertfordshire and Southampton were both keen to win the title of the first national champions and both put up a fair fight but it was the Tornadoes who came out on top after continuously getting through the Stags’ defence. Audrey Mann and Amanda Casey’s partnership was working fantastically and throughout the tournament Casey scored two passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns as well as playing on defence, making her MVP award well deserved.
The Stags weren’t going to be shutout though and in the second half their quarterback Laura Hill made good completions and gained yards that were converted to put 8 points on the board but they were no match for Hertfordshire who continued to score touchdowns. The final score was 44-8 to Hertfordshire.
Dr Elesa Zehndorfer, head of the Women’s league revealed on the day the creation of a Great Britain women’s team who will play against Sweden in a fixture that was announced a couple of months ago together with a men’s team from BUAFL squads.
Zehndorfer said about the new women’s league: “having a women’s full tackle league represents a really positive move forward for the sport. It opens up the game to a new demographic and attracts a lot of new talent to the sport. Anyone who has watched will agree that this is not a gender specific sport and that women bring a lot to the game.”
When asked about how she plans to further the development of the league next year, Zehndorfer said: “we will continue to support any BUAFL clubs that wish to start women’s teams. The formation of a GB’s women’s BUAFL squad establishes a national presence for the sport. The game against Sweden will showcase GB student talent and further increase exposure to, and interest in, the game.”
After the tournament, Zehndorfer was happy with how the day played out and was impressed with all three teams. She said: “It was clear that there was a lot of talent on the field and that the confidence of a lot of the players increased as the tournament progressed. There were some stand out players and Hertfordshire emerged as worthy winners, but with another year of practice, next year’s championship is anyone’s to win.”
It was clear that everyone was extremely proud of all three teams for making it to the tournament and setting the date in American Football history and Hertfordshire can now set their trophy alongside their men’s team’s national championship trophy. Portsmouth now plan on recruiting at fresher’s fayre to increase their squad number and go back to training so they can hopefully improve their performance for next year’s tournament as well as taking part in flag football competitions beforehand to keep their gameplay fresh.