Tomorrow sees the Steelers make their Division 1 debut, as we travel to Manchester to take on Leeds Carnegie Chargers and Manchester Titans, in the opening tournament of this year’s Sapphire Series.
After an intense summer of preparations, a travelling squad of 20 Steelers will take the field, led by Head Coach, Ben Pardey. Joining Ben on the coaching staff sees Laura Hegarty returning as Offensive Coordinator, on the back of coaching for Team GB at this summer’s European Championships. Assisting Coach Hegarty will be Offensive Coaches Andy Smith and long-standing Steeler Becky Rafferty- as well as Player/Coach Jade Leighton, who will be assisting in the coaching of Offensive Line. Coach Pardey, who also represents the Steelers as Defensive Coordinator, is joined by newly appointed Defensive Coaches Mark Laing, former Sunderland University Coach, and Craig Blackett, a current player for Darlington Steam with a 26 year playing career in Rugby.
The Steelers, captained by Jess Graham (OL), Laura Harbottle (DB) and Jade Leighton (OL), will open the tournament against closest rivals, Leeds Carnegie Chargers, a strong side with a sizable reputation, after finishing last season with a 7-1 record and top of the Division. Following the matchup with Leeds, Teesside will take on tournament hosts, Manchester Titans, in the hope of claiming an away win on opposition territory.
In the alternative fixtures of this tournament, Manchester will start the day by playing East Kilbride Pirates, who will finish the day playing Leeds Carnegie Chargers.
With each respective team wishing to set a precedent within the division and leave the day with two wins, Saturday’s tournament will be a test of preparation and, ultimately, who will be the team to beat this year.