Zoe picks up brilliant silver medals for Great Britain in two sports

Zoe with two trophiesLast year we wrote an article about Zoe John and her success in achieving a place in the Great Britain Lions team that travelled out to Finland for the World Cup in American Football and her remarkable achievement was heightened by the fact that she was the only Welsh player in the squad of 40.

Zoe now lives in Cardiff but hails from the Pembrokeshire village of Herbrandston and is rightly proud of the fact that on her next trip home she was able to show her family and friends the silver medal that she now has after they beat second-seeded Canada in an amazing semi-final - and then were level against hot favourites USA until half time before eventually losing - but showing their entitlement to compete at that level.

Second silver medal – in Aussie Rules!

Since then there has been even more excitement for Zoe because her love of contact sport has taken her into competing for the Great Britain Swans Australian Rules Football and she has since played in the European Championships in Croatia.

It is a game she says is a mixture of rugby, football, basketball and all-in wrestling - and she helped the team to a silver medal as she has adapted to the different rules and tactical play, and loved the huge physical contact and the increased pace of the game!


Zoe - Aussie Rules team


Total commitment rewarded

When we last spoke to Zoe she was anxiously waiting for confirmation of her selection for Finland for the GB Lions and thankfully came as reward for her total commitment in travelling on numerous occasions to the training camps in Nottingham, making the long journeys on her own and getting dubbed by the coaches as ‘The Welsh Pen-Knife’ because of her ability to play in different positions on the defensive line which causes disruption to the quarter back and ball carrier in the opposition, and Zoe mentioned how she loved “being in the trenches”!

Zoe needed no second bidding to join the large group that flew out to Finland and they were disappointed that first scheduled opponents Mexico were unable to attend because of late logistical reasons so there was a lot of pent-up emotions and an eagerness to take the field against the Canadians.

“Because the game-time turn around was so small - with rehab (including hot and cold treatment) and stretches before breakfast, actual training, tactical moves walk-through, film review sessions and loads of team meetings it meant we rarely had a moment to ourselves! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. We all bonded incredibly through this experience”

Great victory over Canada

“It was amazing when the time came to walk out onto the pitch amongst a great deal of razzmatazz, with the flame machines on the touchline working overtime,  and singing our national anthem was special - our opponents looked very relaxed with their expectation for an easy win.

“But we showed we were no respecters of reputations and we stayed in contention but needed a late score to snatch the victory.

“If you watch professional American Football on Sky Sports you will know how every second has to be with the ball in play and so with only SIX SECONDS remaining we had one final chance.

‘With the hard work of the offensive line (players who protect the quarterback who throws, passes or runs with the ball), she had time to decide where to attack and judged her throw to perfection; the receiver took the catch cleanly over the goal line - and we were in the final, with huge celebrations on and off the field!”

Another great tussle and a narrow defeat against favourites

That left Zoe and Co with two days’ recuperating from the physical and mental effort and then we were into the final against the Americans.

“It was a memorable occasion from the time we got up in the morning and at half time we were level after making such a monumental effort but then their experience, with some semi-professionals in the team, saw them raise the tempo and they won - but we knew that we gave it our all and came home with our heads very high indeed after 13 days I will never forget!” This was the first time any GB programme medalled in a World Championship!

Zoe on field


Off to Croatia – and more big battles

After a few months of training Zoe then went on another exciting sporting venture as she was called up for the team to play Aussie Rules in The European Championships in Croatia and with only 18 players on the field at any one time she was delighted with selection.

“It’s totally different because there is so much fluid movement required over the whole of a huge pitch and I was playing up front so expected to attack and help score goals.

“There are four posts at each end, with two taller ones in the middle, and 6 points awarded if the oval ball lands between those two, and a single point for a ‘behind’ if the ball goes just either side of the tall posts but inside the shorter ones.

“There is a goal umpire with a flag and it is their decision about the success of a score, with two on-field umpires controlling the general hurley-burley of play.

Zoe in action


 Lots of games en route to the final

‘We had eight days in Croatia and in that time we beat Germany (twice), Croatia, and France - to earn a place in the grand final against the lightly Irish team which has ruled the roost for a number of years.

“Most of them have been brought up on Gaelic Football and they are amazing players of the highest quality and we were the only team to manage to score a goal against them in the whole tournament.

So we won the silver medal again and left a lovely country very tired!

Zoe - Beating Canada

And finally . . .

So now Zoe is the proud owner of two silver medals – one in a European international competition and one from a World championship - but the next six months is going to be just as busy - starting next month with more US Football in the European Championships as they play in Sweden in their home tournament in Six Way Stadium, Worcester. The GB Lions will then fly off to Germany in May to play their away game of the year - so she’s hopeful of selection for this busy time.

Then it’s off to Paris with her local team, the Cardiff Panthers, for the European Club Champions League in Aussie Rules Football.

“We won our area league and this qualifies us to play in the finals, held in Paris, and there’s the European Cup for countries in June, in Germany. I’m hoping to be selected for Wales again for that, too!”

So it is hopefully going to be a very busy summer for Zoe John and perhaps next time we chat to her there’s be more good news and exciting events for her to anticipate with us: she is a great ambassador for Herbrandston, Pembrokeshire, Cardiff, Wales and Great Britain - and long may she continue to enjoy herself so much in both unusual sports!