‘The only team that can beat us is ourselves’: How London Warriors built a dynasty

By Matt Banks
April 8 2020, 21.30

The word ‘dynasty’ is used in American sports to describe a team that’s dominant for an extended period of time, garnering success and winning titles.

But dynasties aren’t limited to the United States.

In south London, the London Warriors have forged their very own dynasty, staying at the pinnacle of British American Football since 2013.

The Warriors have won six of the last seven National Championships, known as the Britbowl as a nod to its NFL counterpart.

“Everyone hates us,” says Ian Carpenter, the Warriors’ defensive line coach.

“They hate us not just because we win, but it’s the way we win.

“We’re physical and we compete to the best of our ability every game.

“Do we have to score 80 points to win every week? No.

“But if we score 80, we score 80. That’s your fault and you should have stopped us.

“Hey, that’s football.”

It’s the commitment to ruthlessness in their pursuit of excellence that has turned the Warriors into such a force.

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The senior team was only formed in 2007, then as the London Cobras, and have only ever known success.

They started in the bottom tier of the British American Football Association (BAFA) leagues and won promotion in both of their first two seasons without losing a game, launching them into the Premiership.

General manager and defensive backs coach Simon Buckett said: “Since that promotion to the Premiership, we’ve gone from strength to strength.”

In their first two seasons in the top tier, they fell at the final hurdle to their rivals from north of the Thames, the London Blitz.

“Once we found our feet, the club began to grow and once we won the title in 2013 over our rivals, there was no looking back,” said Buckett.

They would go on to win the next three titles, defeating the Blitz each time.

In that period, they have seen players and coaches go to the NFL, most notably Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada but they still maintain their high standards.

This success has trickled down into every team at the Warriors.

The women’s team were due to play for the National Championship in the BAFA Sapphire Series before the outbreak of COVID-19 after a dominant season of their own.

The London Warriors women's team in action

Tara Mardi, who plays as a running back and wide receiver for the women’s team, said: “The same things are instilled into every team, whether it’s men, women or juniors.

“We are told to get 1% better every day, to be physical and to compete.

“We always say the only team that can beat us is ourselves.

“Complacency is the only thing that can get in our way, so we need to remain focussed no matter the score.”

Carpenter, who also coaches the women’s team, said: “When you play for the club at any level, it’s always working towards winning the national title. That’s always the goal.”

This ethos has carried the Warriors across all levels to look forward, and to not get comfortable.

After conquering British American Football, the men’s team has their sights firmly set on continental success.

Buckett said: “We want to move on and play competitively in Europe every year.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve outgrown the competition we play in but our main goal now is to compete with the best teams in Europe.”

They were due to make their debut in the CEFL Cup next month, the second biggest American Football competition in Europe.

Their game against the La Courneuve Flash of Paris was supposed to be the next step in the Warriors’ journey.

“It’s disappointing to not be able to play,” said Carpenter.

“There’s a desire for professionalism. Being able to play in Europe and hold ourselves to European standards is important.

“We always say we’re an amateur club with professional standards because we don’t want to just win national titles, we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard and to be able to compete in Europe.”

Although both the men and women’s London Warriors teams weren’t able to complete their seasons, the foundations for success have already been laid.

During a period of global uncertainty, there is one thing you can be sure of: the London Warriors will continue to be a national force and, if all goes to plan, abroad too.

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