Impact Sport spoke to Gafar Kuku, president of the UoN American Football Club, on their season and on their desire to avenge their quarter-final defeat at Varsity.
How has the season gone so far?
GK: “The season has gone really well so far this year. It has probably been our best season ever. We had the regular season where we won four games and lost four games.
“That’s obviously not the way we wanted to play but we got ourselves into the playoffs for the second time in three years. That’s a fantastic achievement for any university team. We’re very happy about that.
“We went up to Preston to face the University of Central Lancashire and beat them 22-25. That happened with four seconds to go with the quarterback passing it over. It was just such a moment for us. I don’t think I can ever forget that feeling – it was just wonderful.
“Once that was done, we won a playoff game for the first time in 8 years. We’re really happy with the progress. And that’s just the men’s. As for the women, they ranked 9th last year and ranked 6th this year. So it’s been progress, progress, progress. Varsity will be a lot of fun!”
Have there been any new players for this year that have really impressed you? Will we see them at Varsity?
GK: “So we have two scholarship players – one Nathan Hamar who is a running back and also a player coach. He doesn’t only play, he also coaches. He’s had lots of great games. He’s from Virginia, US.
“One of the most exciting additions for us was Will Hobbs who was Team GB safety – we managed to lock him down to come and play for us on a scholarship. He has been phenomenal.
“He came in to play safety. He started as a running back, then quarter back and has also played safety! I’ve watched him play all single positions in one game – that is incredibly tiring. He is a phenomenal person and player. He is someone who we should all look up to, I think.”
How is everything going so far?
GK: “We got knocked out of playoffs at the start of March. Trent knocked us out last week. So there’s a score to settle with Trent. That last game should not have gone down like that. I don’t think Trent beat us, I think we beat ourselves. We have more time for mental and physical preparation now. We need to talk more to our coaches and fellow members about how we are doing things. We are going to be 100% focused on April 29th.”
How is the preparation for Varsity going?
GK: “We played them twice in the regular season, twice in playoffs. We know what Trent are doing. They think they know what we’re doing. Every coach, every player will bring some sort of finesse come a game like Varsity. It’s an opportunity to show some flair and I think our coaches are cooking up something. Our plan is to get back to the fundamentals.
“But we also need a break to recharge our batteries. We had a couple more fixtures this semester. We had 7 games so we were competing every weekend. We got through it and we’re really happy that we came out of it.”
What is your favourite thing about the Varsity series?
GK: “It’s a game that’s not in the regular season. It’s such a spectacle. Some people don’t understand that unless they’ve played it.”
Are you looking to go any events aside from yours?
GK: “100%. I’ll definitely go to ice hockey. I was trying to get tickets for 46 minutes. I was not prepared to let it go! I’m also looking to go to basketball – men’s and women’s; rugby union, men’s lacrosse and hockey whenever that is.”
Interview conducted by Connor Higgs
Image: Impact Images Team.