The 2015 season of the British American Football Association National League continues
on Sunday as the local Colchester Gladiators make their début and travel to Southampton
to take on the Solent Thrashers.
After a disappointing and tough season in the Premier League, the top tier of American
Football in this country when they finished with a 1-6 record, another restructure sees a
return to a three tier system. The Gladiators have been placed in the very competitive
looking Southern Football Conference 1, featuring some mouth watering matches against
some familiar foes such as Cambridgeshire Cats, East Kent Mavericks and Hertfordshire
(formerly Watford) Cheetahs.
Two weeks ago the Gladiators had their first taste of competitive action when they travelled
the short distance up the A12 to participate in a controlled scrimmage against the Ipswich
Cardinals. The format of a controlled scrimmage allows each team to run a number of
scripted plays in prearranged game situations. Head Coach Neil O’Hare was delighted with
the work out that also allowed a number of rookies and junior graduates to make their
competitive début in the blue and gold.
Many familiar names return such as QB Curtis Bourke, now recovered from an ankle injury
that forced him to miss half of last season. Star running back Casey Campbell is still a few
months removed from returning after a serious knee injury during the National Division final
in 2013 and is not expected to see the field this year. In his absence, Chris Jackson will
shoulder the load of the running game as he did admirably last season against the
country’s top defences.
Tom Burridge, Dave Crane, Paul Brunsden, Phil Moreton and Paul Bovingdon return to
anchor the offensive line with Matt Richardson moving across the trenches to add depth,
and Bourke will have an array of targets to aim for with Andy Clarke and Vic Williams
returning, and junior product Sam Huxtable, and former London Blitz receiver Joe Parsons
providing new targets.
On the defensive side, Garry Shuttleworth and James Birch also return from injury and
Christian Steward returns after a few seasons away. Rookie Nik Phillips and Josh Crelly
transferring from the Saints join veteran Dave Walton on the defensive line while rookie
cornerback James Peters follows in his father Rob’s footsteps, who played for the
Gladiators back in 1991-92 after the merger of the team with then local rivals, Chelmsford
Linebackers Ian Digby, Josh Milgate, Mark Gilbranch and Brendan Bignell return to provide
a veteran presence in the front seven as do Alex Robinson, Sam Gennings, Joe Stickings
and Raul Barclay to the defensive secondary, with Barclay playing his final season with the
team after completing his Ph.D. at Essex University.
Full fixture list:
April 26: @ Solent Thrashers
May 10: @ Farnham Knights
May 17: v Ouse Valley Eagles
May 31: @ Birmingham Bulls
June 7: @ Hertfordshire Cheetahs
June 21: v Cambridgeshire Cats
July 5: v Solent Thrashers
July 19: @ East Kent Mavericks
July 26: v East Kent Mavericks
Aug 2: v Farnham Knights
All home games will be played at Colchester Rugby Club, Mill Road, Colchester
Full details can be found through the Gladiators’ website at www.colchestergladiators.com.