London-based American footballer joins first women’s professional league

A London-based American footballer has called for more female representation in the sport, after joining the world’s first professional women’s American football league.

Siobhan Walker, a receiver with the London Warriors, will be heading to Arizona in February to play for the Phoenix Red Tails in the first season of the pioneering Women’s Football League Association (WFLA).

After six years of competing with the Croydon-based Warriors and two years representing Great Britain, Walker, 27, was thrilled at the chance to represent the women’s side of this growing sport.

She said: “When I started playing for the London Warriors, I didn’t realise how big the sport was and when I turned up to the first tournament, I wasn’t expecting there to be so many teams.

“You don’t really hear about the women’s side, which is a shame. This is what we need to get people into the sport.

“Representation is important, but you don’t see women represented in the sport, so hopefully this will help move things forward.

“The WFLA is great to get exposure because that is exactly what the game needs, especially for women. We need more women in the sport to help it grow.

“The fact that it’s a paid opportunity, especially in women’s American football, is huge.”

OPPORTUNITY: Walker thinks the American league is great exposure for the sport Credit: Jody Davies Photography

Walker stumbled upon the opportunity on social media and had no hesitation in doing what is little more than a fairy-tale for even the best players in the UK.

She said: “I came across it while scrolling on Instagram. I remember seeing the post and I checked it out back in 2017. 

“At the beginning of this year I saw more posts about what was going on, so I reached out to one of the teams, the Phoenix Red Tails. I spoke to them and we did a virtual combine.

“After I sent them game tape, they asked me to sign a letter of intent, which means I can’t sign for a different team.

“The thought of going out to America by yourself is a bit daunting but when you know you’ve got great teammates who are going to be with you, it’s going to make the experience so much better.

“Overall it’s just going to be a massive experience, and for it to be paid is something that is definitely needed for women’s sport and women’s American football.”

Walker started her footballing journey in London and expressed her gratitude to a Warriors team that has long dominated the men’s competition in the UK.

She added: “I’ve been playing with the Warriors for six years now.

“I am so happy that I joined the team because for one, the coaching is top tier. They’ve got amazing coaches and amazing players. Everyone is always pushing each other to do better and be better.”

As with much amateur sport, Walker has had to brave less-than-ideal conditions during her time in the UK’s National Division, the Sapphire Series, but she has no shortage of fond memories from the league.

She recalled: “That first game-day. It was a muddy, wet day playing at Royal Holloway.

“I remember it was just so muddy, but it was a really exciting time to go on the field after everyone had put in so much hard work.

“Another one would be going to the finals last year. Unfortunately, we did lose to Birmingham, but I know everyone put their heart and soul into that season.”

After impressive performances in the league, Walker was then selected for Great Britain and given a chance to represent her country in a hugely significant moment for the 27-year-old.

REPRESENTING: Walker was grateful to represent Great Britain for two years
Credit: gw-images

Walker commented: “It was amazing. For me that was one thing that I always wanted to do, being able to represent the UK.

“Especially being able to do that on home turf, with supporters from the UK and my family there watching. It was an incredible experience, something that I’ll never forget.

“It’s a sense of honour and pride, being able to walk out and sing the national anthem. Not many people in their sports will be able to reach that level and represent their country.”

Walker’s family had doubts about the sport when she first picked it up, but they felt that same pride when she took the field in a Great Britain jersey.

Walker said: “When I first got into the sport they were always concerned for my health and wellbeing because it’s such a physical sport.

“When I did tell them that I was selected for the national team, they were over the moon. They were just asking about what they could do to help that period go smoothly.”

Walker’s newest stomping ground, the WFLA, certainly won’t be short of British representation.

The Warriors receiver will be joined by Shay Okelola, Vanessa Mansaray, Delta Npuna, Gaby Knops and Sydney Green, who have all also signed for the Red Tails.

They will head out in February 2021 and until then, Walker has been hard at work preparing for a massive step up at the forefront of the women’s game.

She said: “I’ve just been getting my body ready for going out there. Of course, we’re talking with the coaches on the team, going over playbooks and making sure we’re ready once we arrive at camp.

“I always thought that my dream job was to be a professional athlete.

“I was talking about that with one of my friends around the end of 2019 and then this happened at the start of the year. It almost felt like it was meant to be.”

Featured image credit: Phil3 Productions

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