The London Warriors and London Blitz headline the Gladiators’ schedule for 2014 as they enter the Southern Premier division for the first time. After winning promotion to the top tier after an undefeated championship winning season, the Colchester Gladiators now look set for a challenging campaign as they look to take the team to the pinnacle of British American Football. The Gladiators senior team are poised for an interesting season, as they encounter some familiar foes, as well as some new adversaries in the coming year. Games with Cambridgeshire Cats, Sussex Thunder and the East Kent Mavericks will spark rivalries from recent years, but the less familiar opponents in the Blitz, Warriors, and London Olympians will see the club take on teams with a combined 18 national titles between them, and will need the Gladiators to be on top of their game to compete. Berkshire Renegades, South Wales Warriors, and the Bristol Aztecs round out the senior schedule for 2014.
The Gladiators’ Junior side see a slimmed down schedule as the National League scales back Junior football from 8 games to 6, in an effort to revive the flailing junior game. With teams around the UK struggling to sustain teams and retain players it’s been a difficult period for Junior football around the country, and BAFANL have recognised this and produced a lighter weight schedule as a result. Not only that but this year, for the first time, the Junior competition can be played over multiple formats, be that 8-man, 9-man or 11-man football. The Gladiators intend to complete all their fixtures in the 11-man format and will seek a return to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. That challenge falls to new head coach Tim Rowe, who takes the reigns from long-time servant of the club Dave Hogarth who stepped down in the off season. Coach Rowe will lead the Juniors against Watford Cheetahs, Kent Exiles, Essex Spartans, Cambridgeshire Cats, London Blitz and the East Kent Mavericks.
The Youth team, also under a new head coach with Neil O’Hare leading the youngest Gladiators, will continue to play tournament football, and will travel to the London Blitz, Kent Exiles and Norwich Devils, as well as hosting a home tournament at the end of May.
Club Chairman Tom Burridge said, “The upcoming season will see a lot of challenges for the club, at all levels, and i’m confident that we’ll be able to face these head on. The Senior team are salivating at the prospect of taking on the biggest and best in the business, and our players are relishing the opportunity to make a dent in the top division. It’s frustrating to see the number of games being reduced, with there being 9 games for the seniors instead of 10, and only 6 for the juniors as opposed to their usual 8. Unfortunately we’re at the mercy of the league in this instance, and so we must follow their mandate. However, i’m keen to explore any opportunity for friendly games or scrimmages with other teams, particularly at Junior level, to ensure our members are getting value for money from the club and from British American Football”.
Senior team Head Coach Matt Roberts was quick to add, “I’m really excited about this season and the schedule gives us some great opportunities to scout our opponents and prepare thoroughly. Starting later than many teams, on May 4th, means that we should be ready for anything they can throw at us. Our preseason camp will give us a chance to complete our pre-season prep, and going forward we should be well placed to challenge in the Premiership, with a number of very winnable games on our schedule”.
The Gladiators will open at the South Wales Warriors on Sunday 4th May, and will open at home with a double header, as the senior team host the Cambridgeshire Cats, and the Juniors host the Kent Exiles at Mill Road on Sunday 25 May.