The hugely successful BAFA Women’s Sapphire Series draws to a close with the Finals Day next Saturday (3rd May).
Lichfield Rugby Club, Staffordshire, is where this year’s Series will culminate but will also provide a chance for any new players wanting to try their hand at the sport with open sessions.
After five rounds of competitive play the teams are ready for one more day of football that will see a champion crowned.
Favourites for the event are the Birmingham Lions, but they will be pushed all the way.
The Derby Braves haven’t had the best of seasons results wise but for them and everyone else involved in the Sapphire series its not all about the winning, its about creating and establishing something that can be passed on and grown upon, as one of their coaching staff Jon Malsey explains.
“The coaches of Derby’s women’s team have around 30 years of collective playing experience, and around 15 years coaching experience. As a coach your aim is to always develop players and compete, we have found through the Sapphire and Opal series that the women’s leagues are incredibly supportive of one another.
“Other teams cheer you on, and give regular feedback on how progressive players are. This is something we as coaches love about the sport; by supporting one another it will help the leagues grow.
“We are now heading to the final of the Sapphire Series, with our first win under our belt, and with a dedicated group of girls our expectations are high, and we aim to go from strength to strength in the future.
“For the next tournament the aim is, as it always has been for the coaches, to improve – we want to continue improving every game, every training. The finals should be an excellent day of football, with a high level of competition and talent.”
His enthusiasm is clearly rubbing off onto his players – Sam Hand doubles up as wide receiver and cornerback for the Braves: “My experience being involved in the Sapphire series has been absolutely fantastic. It is completely different to anything I have done and I am very happy that I made the decision to sign up this year, I fully intend to continue with the sport once I leave university.
“It really is amazing just how organised and well-run the tournaments have been. There is a definite sense of camaraderie between the teams too, each trying to help the other improve.”
Where Derby are a team on the up, the Lions are the team setting the standard this year. They had a slow start in the Series but were soon running up big scores and becoming the team to beat.
Jo Kilby, their QB offered these words ahead of the big day: “We’re really excited about Finals day as it looks like it’s all shaping up to be a great day all-round for women’s football. We have some great players on the team, who we hope will go on to bigger things across the course of the summer’s BAFA-led Development sessions and Diamond Series, the latter the pathway to GB selection.
“For now keep an eye on the likes of (D-Captain) Nena Killick and Nancy Stone on Defence and Laura Moore and Ruth Matta on Offence.”
Full itinerary for Finals Day:
10.30am – Open practice. This is available to all players, no level of experience required.
1.30pm – Sapphire Series semi-finals and Open tournament games.
3.00pm – Sapphire Series 3rd/4th place game.
3.30pm – Sapphire Series Championship Final.
(Please note that timings are approximate and subject to change.)