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Sapphire Series 2019/2020

Sapphire 2019/20: Round 1 review and MVPs

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Final Score: 36-18

The Valkyries had faced the Bears before in the 2018/19 season and so knew that the game was going to be a physical affair. With players having also competed in various Diamond series there was a great sense of rivalry between the teams as friends off the field got to go head-to-head on it.

From the outset the game went as envisaged with both teams going back and forth at each other. The Bears landed the first blows with some powerful running for a score, but undeterred the Valkyries hit back through the powerful running of Laura Johnson.

Both defences were bringing the pressure and time after time saw Valkyries in the backfield, either shutting down runs or putting pressure on the Bears QB. In the secondary Zoe Wilder almost had a couple of interceptions and it was great to see club President Lois McConville, in her first match back from injury, solid in the tackle when needed.

With both offences facing heavy pressure, it was a case of looking for that big play and the Valkyries found one in a great pass from QB Kira Walker that found the ever-safe hands of Ruth Lewis, who did the rest taking it the distance.

Despite only 2 points separating the teams at half time, the size of the Bear’s squad began to show in the second half. Fresh legs kept the pressure up on the Valkyries and the pressure from the powerful Bear’s Defensive Line was rewarded with several defensive scores to end the game 36-18

Despite the score line it was great to see the new wave of Valkyries in action. A true baptism of fire against a powerful Bears squad did not deter them and they showed the “never say die” spirit that typifies the Valkyrie way. Fighting to the end, they did themselves proud.


Final Score: 20-8

With a short turn around of 20 mins the Valkyries were back in action again, this time facing the Falcons. With previous gaming experiences as the Division 1 Derby Braves, before forming as the Falcons, there was a sense of the unknown for the Valkyries.  With only a brief chance to see them in action against the Bears, the game was one of new challenges, bringing a fascinating and very different gaming experience to Cheshire.

Offensively, the Valkyries faced a very different style of play resulting in a different game plan to game 1. However, with the offensive line opening holes, the outcome was the same with more powerful running form Laura Johnson leading to another full field run for a score.

The game became another where both teams traded blows with Zoe Wilder coming in at running back to gain the hard yards and another long throw to Ruth Lewis ultimately coming up short of the endzone.

On defence, the Valkyries were facing a new style of offence and rookies were constantly tested to adapt to the well drilled and executed blocking schemes of the Falcons. On the outside, corners Lois and Ruth, as well as rookies Sara Pratt and Maria Cook, were called upon to play a big part in the run defence making plenty of big hits. Defensive adjustments began to cause pressure on the Falcons with Linebacker Zoe John causing fumbles and also getting a safety.

However, despite another non-stop effort, the Falcons execution ultimately proved to be the decider with the relentless running punching in for a couple of scores to seal the game 20-8

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Round 1 MVPs

While the score lines may not have gone in our favour, there was no denying the heart and spirit that the team showed throughout the day. The team took several rookies to the tournament and all not only contributed on the field but embodied the Valkyrie spirit of playing hard to the final whistle with a smile on their face. This is also despite being asked to play a range of positions through the day as well as adjust to new plays and tactics in real time, a true testament to how hard they have worked during the pre-season.

Given the effort shown by all, choosing MVPs was a hard job for the coaches as there were many great performances. However, the final decision came to…


Such a great performance from across the board. Rookie Sara Pratt showing immense hustle chasing down the ball carrier to save what seemed like a certain scored that typified the effort she showed all day. At Linebacker, both Katie and Jennifer gave it everything they had with constant effort and determination. They were constantly hustling to the ball and looking to play aggressive with real tenacity. Katie also came across and covered on the Oline as well in great two-way performance.

Overall though, the defensive MVP was Zoe John. Leading from the front, the veteran Linebacker made tackle after tackle. Always a thorn in the opposition side she seemed to always either be in the QBs face or hunting down the runner. A true captain’s performance and one whose energy and enthusiasm positively affected all those around her.


Facing strong pressure across both games the Oline gave the QB the time needed at key points allowing the explosive plays to the receivers. At receiver, Sara Pratt executed her role brilliantly. With crisp routes and great blocking on the edge it was great to see her develop and she showed the potential to really grow as the tournament progresses.

Overall though, Laura Johnson was the game changer. Either breaking runs to the outside or straight up the middle, she was a constant threat with ball in hand all day and thoroughly deserves the MVP award.


Overall one player stood out across the board. Another veteran leader of the team, she helped inspire those around her to greater levels of play. Asked to play the majority of tournament both ways as both receiver and corner she executed both to the high standard we have come to expect. On defence she was hustling to the ball and making key tackles in the run game. On Offence, she played her role to perfection and was duly rewarded for her efforts.

Congratulations Ruth Lewis.


Coaches’ Corner: BAFCA Coaching Convention

The annual BAFCA coaching convention kicked off in Nottingham with coaches from all over the UK in attendance. With a mix of classroom based and field based sessions there was so much to take away that can be utilised in developing the coaching practices at the Valkyries. The day started off with a talk on building a team with plenty of real life applications, advice and points to consider. Following that was two excellent talks from ex-NFL coaches on O-Line and QB play. The sessions were full of clear coaching points and tips that were a fascinating insight to the intricacies of these positions. Ending the day was a chance to watch these NFL level coaches in action on the field for live drills. It was an excellent chance to watch them in action and see how they pick up on different aspects of player performance and then rectify it. Overall copious notes were taken and thoughts are already turning to how they can be incorporated into Valkyries training to boost player development.

Day 2 carried on where day 1 left off with a range of classroom sessions. In the spirit of looking at different areas for new ideas I went to both flag football sessions to see how they handled issues around philosophy, game planning and scheme. Led by both Kenny Bello (defence) and Joe Cotterill (Offence) they were a fascinating insight into how they not only prepare themselves but, more importantly, their players to have success. The talks were full of points that were easily translatable into the contact version we play and certainly provided a lot of food for thought. Following that was an offensive session from Coach Mazzone who gave multiple insights into how he prepares for both games and training. A key phrase to come out of this was how he looks to “give players the answers to the test before they take the test”. Here is the emphasis on preparation and communication and ways in which we as coaches can convey information to players so that they can understand it. Again, many take always on how information can be structured and presented which will certainly be a help to us

The final day continued the trend of providing thought provoking sessions that really challenged us to think about what we were doing. First up was an in-depth look at constructing a defence for the women’s game that was full of key insights and statistically based theory. It was a truly fascinating look at how the best team in the country go about it and thanks must go to Coach Branagh for providing that level of detail and openness. This was one talk that certainly had the most direct take aways capable of making an immediate impact on the Valkyries. Following this was an offensive talk that forced us to really consider the ‘why’ behind what we do. At times a very uncomfortable talk due to the way it really made you consider exactly why you were doing what you were doing but ultimately one that gave very positive reinforcement and practical tips on how you could move forward so that you placed your players in the best position to succeed. In amongst these were talks about how to incorporate the Tight End position into an offence drawing on Phoebe Schecter’s direct experience with the Buffalo Bills and more from Coach Mazzone who went in depth on play install both in the passing and running game.

Overall it was a fascinating convention. Full of excellent talks that were full of direct tips and advice that could be taken away and utilised. It presented lots of challenges to our established ways of working and gave us new insights into how we might develop and, ultimately, give our players a better chance of success. Alongside this it was a great chance to meet coaches from all over the country and talk about how they do things and how they have overcome issues. Cant wait now to look to see how we can put these into action here at the Valkyries.


Valkyries Mention of the Month

With the women’s season in a stand by, the Britball nation is ongoing through other platforms, including the lead up to the European championships for the GB Lions squad.

For both the flag and tackle squad, they are hard at work preparing, and in BOTH of the squads we have Valkyrie, Ruth!

An incredible achievement and a true demonstration of what hard work and belief can get you, June’s Mention of the Month – Sponsored by Physis Ltd – goes to Ruth Lewis!


Valkyries Mention of the Month

Bringing our year to a fabulous close, our awards ceremony at the start of the month went out with a bang! At any event, there’s lots of organising to do – ordering trophies, food, venues (and one with a fabulous karaoke facility of course…). SO…this month’s Valkyrie of the month – sponsored by Physis. Ltd – goes to Zoe and Mandy for the work put into making our fabalous event happen!

Thanks to you both!

Sapphire Series 2018/2019

End of Year Awards 2019

With the season at a close, we come to our awards ceremony which celebrates the achievements of the team, but importantly to those individuals who provided a stand out and influential performance on the team…

Rookie MVP

We had a lot of rookies this year that we threw into the mix, with very little instruction from the side-line because you couldn’t physically come off for us to tell you what you need to do. But again one of the greatest thing we had as a rookie class you picked up what we were trying to do very quickly. In many respects it was easy for us to do what we needed to do, to basically trust you to go out and do it because as a class you showed that desire to learn you showed that desire to get better and understand what was going on. Not just physically in the game but outside and beyond as well. And there were certainly a few people we could have given this award to, there were several stand out rookies. The person that we went to was one that gave a contribution both sides of the ball. On the offense often doing a lot of the dirty work, the less glamour side of stuff. On the defense being thrust into positions not fully understanding. Effectively learning on the fly, but again giving a solid contribution in that as well. So the person we’re giving this award to is Zoe Wilder.

Lineman MVP

This is for both offense and defense, and there were many contributions on both sides. Again we were plugging and playing people with very short notice without necessarily a lot of training sessions behind them, but going in there and doing what we asked of them to do. The person we are giving the award to gave a consistent presence on the line, the leadership she showed and developed through the season really helped a lot of this to actually work, the way she coordinated people and what they needed to do to take control of the line situation. And then that epic day when she never ever came off the field even though she begged us to do it, so this award goes to Mandy.

Defensive MVP

I really loved all of your efforts this year I thought it was incredible, and there was a huge amount of trust. I want to mention a couple of people who I thought did an absolutely outstanding job. One was Zoe Wilder who did an outstanding job at free safety with little experience of the position, and then corner as well. She really picked it up and she really did a great job and made a real difference on the field. And the other person I want to mention is Sophie. You did an incredible job, you always chased them down and it really made a difference for our line to put in that effort and we can’t wait to see what you do next year. And the person who’s getting it, she was a real game changer, she was in every play and our defense would have been different without you, Lauren.

Offensive MVP

The player that’s won this, as an offensive coach you realise when someone’s come to a particular point when the defense it trying to get that player out of the game. We’ve seen it before in the past, and you can see opposition coaches try and take this person out of the game. And that to be is a symbol of what this person was. She was a real threat on offense and she really had the potential to change the game and make defences worried. And then again sort of typifying that, with the Kent game, stepping in and catching the eyes of GB scouts just on one performance, so our offensive player of the year goes to Laura.

Overall MVP

Again, we’ve got a lot of talent in this team so picking an overall player of the year is not easy. We’ve got players that are playing the game at a very high level for us and putting the effort in, and all round and helping all round. Someone like Ruth helping people and guiding them through, helping us on the side-line for example. But the person who won the overall one had in our minds a dominant year and who contributed on both sides of the ball she’s someone who was dominant in her chosen position but when placed on the other side she put in outstanding performances there. Going up to Hereford as well and suddenly realising she’s now turning into a running back as well so just on pure impact throughout the entire year this award goes to Lauren.

Coaches’ Player

This isn’t about who is the best player, this is about somebody who we as coaches feel has contributed to the team than in more ways that just on the field. It’s somebody who’s practices and games outside of all those sessions. The player who’s won this has not only had a very good year from a playing point of view, how she’s developed from where she was to where she is has grown dramatically, and she’s someone who constantly pushing us as coaching staff, constantly asking questions, constantly striving to get better, constantly striving to improve her performance and be the best that she possible can be. And again from a coaching point of view that’s ideal for us, is pushes us to get better, it pushes you to get better. And from what we can tell she’s been a great team player as well. Unfortunately she’s not here tonight in true form but coaches’ player is Katherine.

Valkyries’ Valkyrie

Finishing off with Valkyries’ Valkyrie. The reason why we do this last is because in my mind it  is the most important of all. This is just by the players, someone that epitomizes what it means to play for this club. I’m lucky enough to read some of the comments you’ve made with you nominations, it’s one of my favourite parts to see how you view each other. Reading just a couple of comments before announcing, we’ve got Lois for her dedication to the team this year even as she’s not able to play because she’s injured, still turning up, taking warm ups, still being involved. Zoe for her hard work and her dedication. Kira, for always helping others on the line, always helping others, making people feel welcomed, and being very approachable. Lauren as well. Ruth – and a comment there being “half the stuff this year I wouldn’t have been able to have done without Ruth”. We’ve got one for Katherine about how much she’s improved, how motivating she is to everyone. Another one for Mandy and her dedication to training, meeting outside of training to help with playbooks. This is one of those things that are really great to read that as a club you’re all coming together, you’re all helping each other in a supportive environment, which is one of the most important things we do as a club. But, there was actually a tie this year for Valkyries’ Valkyrie: Ruth and Lois.

Flump Award

Perhaps the most prestigious award, the Flump Award is the clumsiest award for the night. It’s for things like Ruth, breaking her fingers, and then playing again, and then breaking her thumb and tying to play in a cast. Things like Zoe, getting two flags in one play. And there’s many other things. But the one it goes to is for someone who stepped into a certain position, not really sure what she was doing, made an excellent run with the ball, covered MILES, and then threw the ball forward. So this award goes to Laura.

For the coaches and our President

We just wanted to say a big thank you to Simon and Kate as a club from all of us to our wonderful coaches this year just for always being there for us, making sure we’re okay, dealing with our humor, dealing with the fact we love dogs, and have very short attention spans…and just to say thank you for sticking with us and coaching us. Although a lot of our players were on the field all the time, for you still still give us feedback, pointers, it’s just really amazing. So thank you again.

And to our Club President, Lois. She works incredibly hard as president of the club. There’s a lot of things that go into this team and being this team is really special. There’s ups and downs and we also look forward despite any struggles. You are a major cornerstone in this outlook.

To the team. thank you very much for your hard work, and we can’t wait for next year. Roll on next year!



Valkyries Mention of the Month

In the off-season it can be difficult to stay motivated, but we’ve been lucky enough to partner up with new strength and conditioning coach Tom, who runs ProOlympic.

Although the Valkyries are working hard during these amazing S+C classes, this month’s Valkyries Mention of the month – sponsored by Physis Ltd. – goes to S+C coach (and now honorary Valkyrie!)Tom for driving this new motivation for the team.

We’ve only had our second session today, but you can see the excitement in the team for continuing this strength journey!

Thanks again and congratulations, coach!

We can’t wait to continue our sessions and see an improvement throughout the team! #ThisPhysisGirlCan


Valkyries Mention of the Month

This year has been a great one to reflect upon. We’ve had new players making leaps and bounds, Valkyries invited to the GB training squad, and all in all another year in our development.

Since the creation of mention of the month last year we have highlighted a range of important matters through which individual Valkyries have risen to. But there are certain members of the Valkyries team who are in need of mention at this point, and they are the coaches.

As many coaches do, they put in endless hours in to develop playbooks, individuals, and the team. They help to pull us through and see the best side of ourselves even in the less ideal circumstances – sharing their enthusiasm for the game to rookies and vets alike. Being the only women’s team in Wales can be tough, but with the coaches we have we will always pull through with a smile on our faces.

Thank you, coaches!


International Women’s Day #IWD2019

It’s International Women’s Day and there are so many positive things to take away from the last year both in the progress of our club and women’s American football in general. We’re so proud to be a club that continues to work, work, work each other – to build each other up, not tear each other down – and to see the empowerment and inspiration the women in this team bring forward to each other both on and off the pitch.

With this in mind, our fantastic sponsors at Physis wish to say a few words about what sponsoring our team means to them this International Women’s Day:

On International Women’s Day, it seems fitting for us here at Physis to recognise the Valkyries once again. Being the only all-female team in Wales makes them stand out as a positive representation of the importance of women in sport, as well as what it means to be a strong woman. The Valkyries are an inclusive, non-discriminatory team who welcome all who identify as a woman. They truly embrace their womanhood both as individuals, and as a team, and they strive to make a difference in a sport which is predominantly male. It is for these reasons that today we are prouder than ever to sponsor this group of amazing women, and show our support for each and every member’s development and success. Happy International Women’s Day to the Valkyries, and everyone else who supports women, on this day, and every day.” 

And of course, the team have some inspiring words to say about what football means to them, as a player, as a woman, as a team:


Football is somewhere I can be myself and no no one is judging me. I feel powerful when I play and that confidence translates into the rest of my life.


Playing American football with the only female team in Wales makes me feel proud. Proud to be a woman in a typically male dominated sport, but also proud to be able to show a side of me on the field that perhaps goes against the ‘norm’ of what it is to be a woman. It’s teams like the Valkyries and the inspiring players within it, that have shown me, and continually show other women and our future generation of women, that it’s okay to challenge the ‘norm’ and follow your heart to be whoever you want to be in life.

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Being part of this team has been an incredibly powerful and empowering experience. I think one of the things I love about the team is not necessarily just playing, but seeing other women join the team and get more confident in themselves. You become part of something outside of yourself, and seeing these strong women work continuously to better themselves and each other is an incredibly humbling experience. Not only this, but having a woman coach in the team – and others looking to coach, too – is just an amazing thing.


Playing football has boosted my confidence beyond anything I imagined. And it’s wonderful to coach young women across other teams and empower them through a sport I love to boost their own confidence


American football is the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life, the motivation the team have for each other, everyone looking out for each other and having each other’s backs. Everyone plays a role to win as a team. I only played rugby because that’s the closest I could get to playing American football. And the progress females are making in sport, especially football with Toni Harris etc., I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

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For the girls who are told that sport is for boys, the girls who are bullied because they play, for being too loud, too daring, apparently not good enough – This is your day

For the women who are told it’s not their place, not their pitch, not their voices that should be heard, that it’s unfeminine and embarrassing to see women in the game – This is your day

For the women who have found a place of belonging, sisterhood, and empowerment through this sport – This is your day

For the women who coach, referee, organise, the mothers, sisters, friends who support us all – This is your day

For the women who walked on dangerous waters to give us a platform to fight for the opportunities in this game and in this life – We thank you 

For the women who continue to walk on those waters – We stand with you 

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Valkyries Mention of the Month

At Cardiff Valkyries we pride ourselves on welcoming all shapes and sizes, skills and positions. Our drive to be inclusive and our drive to push forward in a game are second to none, and when a new player shines in a stand out performance, and always with a smile, it’s a thrill that her skills are recognized.

On this note, we are incredibly proud and honored to say that a forth player has been invited to train with the GB Lions squad after her performance at Sapphire Series Round 3, and for this astounding achievement she has the mention of the month. Congratulations Laura and best of luck in your GB journey!

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