Wales’ only female American football team hoping to continue their rapid rise 

The Cardiff Valkyries hope to show the growing strength of women’s Gridiron in Wales 

CARDIFF Valkyries, Wales’ only female American football team, are hosting rookie days as they aim to continue their growth ahead of the new season. 

Eleven rookies attended their first session of the year on February 25, and there are now just two months remaining before their opening round in Kent on May 11. 

The team trains at Moorland Park in Splott on Sunday, 11am-1pm, and want people to come down, even if they don’t know any of the rules.

Quarterback Katherine Fretwell encourages all-comers, saying: “There’s a place for everyone. No matter your fitness, size, shape or experience, everyone will get behind you.” 

The road to here 

The team was founded as a flag football team in 2016, since they did not have the money to pay for the equipment. Flag football is a non-contact version of the game where the defensive team needs to snatch the flag from the offensive player’s belt.

Since then they have secured grants from local businesses and purchased all of the kit required to enter the seven-a-side contact league. 

Offensive linewoman Mandy Gould and linebacker Lauren Oldacre, who joined the team in 2017, highlighted the need for new players, saying: “In our history we have only had two people who have played before. 

“Our coaches have a lot of knowledge and training, they have a wealth of knowledge that gets put into our team.” 

Valkyries claimed their first seven-a-side victory in their 2020 home tournament against Leicester Falcons and have only grown as a team since then.

In 2022 Valkyrie Zoe John represented Great Britain in the Women’s World Championships and the club hopes that its continued growth will lead to further national selections. 

Now the team is entering the 2024 season looking to showcase their talent around the country, whilst maintaining the atmosphere that has made them such a popular team. 

A second family 

The team are focused on creating a family atmosphere and using that bond to drive success on the pitch. 

“It can be serious, but most of the time we are having fun and spending time with people we like,” Fretwell said. 

The team atmosphere is built around head coach Andrew Brown. 

Brown played American football for 11 seasons and has coached for eight. He has also trained women in martial arts and rugby so knows how to bring out players’ full potential. 

“The reason for me to keep coming back is the players. We have so many strong and empowered women on this team and I want to help them grow,” he said. 

Oldacre reiterated the family aspect of the team, saying: “I just love the sport and the players. We have a great group of people, coaches and players and they have just become my second family. 

“The beauty of it is there is a place for everyone. Don’t worry if you don’t know the rules, I’ve played for seven years and I’m still learning.” 

Just give it a go 

The team have a focus of getting people involved that may have never played American football – or any team sport – before. 

The team are allowed to train at Moorland Park for free and receive grants to help pay for kit and travel. 

(Left) Offence and Defence team talks, Head Coach Andrew Brown in the middle

(Right) American football helmets, costing over £200 each

For their home tournament, held in Penarth on July 27 this year, they spend around £1,200 to cover the venue, paramedics and officials. This year they are encouraging everyone to come along to a session or the tournament just to see what it is all about. 

The matches are played on a 50-yard pitch in 40-minute matches, meaning they are always exciting and high-scoring. Full-sized pitches are 100 yards long and matches last 60mins at men’s professional level.

“We want to have a parallel and parity with the men’s league,” said Gould.  

“Anyone who is ever on the fence, just do it.” 

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