In December 2022 the Solent Thrashers Women became the newest face in the NWFL, taking the reins of the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts Women.
The Dreadnoughts rounded off a successful season in 2022 with a 7-1 record and a thrilling 27-21 victory in the Division One third-place-playoff against the Leicester Falcons.
Now under the Thrashers’ banner and with Great Britain Men’s offensive lineman Alex Phillips as their newly-appointed Head Coach, the Solent Thrashers Women have set their sights on the next level of competition.
“It’s a really exciting time,” Phillips said of the team’s alignment with the Solent Thrashers organisation.
NEW COLOURS, SAME MENTALITY
“It’s a team and a group of girls that did well last year under a kind of different leadership and different ideas. It’s now really about giving them the best opportunity going forward and really just putting them in the best possible position.
“When the committee approached me and asked if I would like to be their head coach I was quite surprised, but because of the way that the women’s game is growing it really is quite exciting. I think being able to be involved in that side of British American football is pretty cool.
“You only have to look at the success of the Women’s National Program at World’s and the really exciting stuff that’s going on in that program, being part of women’s football was a no-brainer.
“I’m really excited about what we can do going forward with some new ideas and coaches in the program and build on the talent that we’ve got there from last year. That’s my goal, to push forward and be competing at the next level for them. If that’s nine-a-side in the top division then that’s where we want to be because ultimately, we want to compete on that level.”
The Women’s team join an organisation on the rise in the Thrashers, with their Adult Contact side finishing 5-5 in the Premiership South in 2022 and a strong community building on the South Coast.
“I think we were lucky to have the Thrashers pick us up as an organisation, because I think that they match those goals,” Phillips continued.
“Really, if you look at the Thrashers journey over the last four or five years getting to the Adult Premiership. I think that it matches the ambition where we want to be as a Women’s club.
“I think having an organisation like the Thrashers does create a level of accountability and a natural professionalism that you expect to see from a well organised, established team.
“They want a certain set of values and a certain ethos, and I think actually having that as the fibre of the club helps build on the talent that we have.
“Teams like the Birmingham Lions and the London Warriors are to be respected, but they’re also teams to show where we need to be and who we want to be playing.”
NO SHORTAGE OF TALENT
While the Thrashers Women may appear a ‘new’ team from the outside, they are drawing on a player base with considerable talent, which has been on display both in the Great Britain setup and in the NWFL post-season.
When it comes to going up against those higher-level teams in Women’s football, Phillips has no hesitation in setting high expectations for what he knows to be a talented roster.
“We’ve got talent in the team that has been nurtured to this point.
“It’s really exciting knowing that you’ve got players that are playing internationally and right on the very cusp of being international players. I think seeing that really does get you excited, and if it doesn’t then maybe the Solent Thrashers Women’s is the wrong team for you.
“That’s where we want to be and I make no secret or apology about that.”
A FRESH CHALLENGE
Looking at the Thrashers competition in 2023, they join the Central West division of the NWFL’s seven-a-side Regional League alongside the Leicester Falcons, Cardiff Valkyries and Sandwell Steelers.
New opponents in the Falcons and Steelers will provide a much sought-after injection of competition and variation for the Thrashers and going off last year’s Division One finals, this division is sure to deliver some fierce matchups.
“I think that the nature of the seven’s competition creates a level of repetitiveness if you don’t have lots of people to play. Motivating players to play the same opponent four times a year and nothing else is really quite challenging.
“And that was a real challenge the coaching staff had last year. Having new teams come in, in Sandwell and Leicester, it’s going to be really, really exciting. It gives you a new challenge and it let us see where we are.
“We really want to be winning this division. We want to keep pushing through and and we want to be taking our competition onto the next level next season.”
It may still be the depths of the pre-season, but there is undeniable enthusiasm, positivity and ambition coming from the South Coast.
With the resource and initiative of the Thrashers organisation driving an already inspired group of players and coaches, Solent look well-positioned to make their mark on Women’s American football in the UK.
“We are two teams and two very individual teams, but I think that we want to create a shared set of values and ethos, and a shared culture.
“It’s about pushing into building and developing the program on both sides of the fence. The exciting times that the women are having, the Adult team had last year with that first year in the Premiership being able to go five and five and get a couple of big, big wins in there was great.
“If we can broaden football on the South Coast and show just how exciting it is, that’s really what we’re trying to achieve.”
Thank you to Jason Brown Photography.