Jo Kilby had a 2017 to remember
For quarterback Jo Kilby 2017 was a bit of a year! It started in February with a trip to Helsinki where the Birmingham Lions beat the Wolverines. Then in May she led the Birmingham Lions to their fourth National title in the Sapphire Series, and in late June she captained the GB Lions to a creditable fourth place finish at the Women’s World Championships in Canada. If you think she might now be resting on her laurels, you may want to think again, she has big plans for 2018 and beyond. I took the time to look back over the year with her, to get her thoughts on how the last twelve months panned out.
Hey Jo, going into Sapphire 17 everyone had you down as the favourites, how did that sit with the team, and how do you think it went overall?
“Yeah good, we set ourselves the challenge of defending our Sapphire title whilst ensuring game-time across the squad was maximised and I think we achieved that. We tend to focus on our own goals throughout the season which keeps us centred – and whilst it’s flattering to hear we’re tagged as favourites that doesn’t define us. The season itself went well, we mixed our squad virtually drive by drive and we probably played as close to a perfect game of 7s as we ever have, in the final against Leeds, which was a great way for us to end the campaign”.
I’d imagine with just a few weeks between the Sapphire finals and the start of the World Championships, the GB players from the Birmingham Lions would be game ready. How was the team spirit as you headed out to Canada, what were the team goals?
“The Lions are always in fine fettle when they’re together, be that on club or international duty, but we’ve also some firm friends within the GB set-up from other clubs so it was nice to be around a good squad that predominantly has been together for some 3 or so years now.
There’s no doubt the team’s primary goal was to reel Finland in, reverse the outcome of our first meet with them (when we lost to them in the final of the European Championships in 2015) and give ourselves a shot at a World Championship medal”.
The first game win against Finland made you unofficially the number one nation in Europe, and you held Canada scoreless in the first quarter of the second game, so hopes must have been high when you entered the bronze medal match against Mexico, did the team do itself justice in that game?
“No, I don’t think we did to be fair. We didn’t adapt quickly enough throughout the tournament and in the end we became too predictable. We are still a very young programme of course, but that game will, for a long time to come, feel like an abject opportunity missed. It wasn’t enough to have beaten Finland, we were there for a medal and we came up short”.
Looking forward internationally, what’s next for the GB Lions?
“Well in the grand scheme of things the European Championships aren’t too far away and the aim here must be for GB to go out and win that competition. Our win at the Worlds, for me at least, will mean nothing unless its backed up, but the Finns will be gunning for revenge for sure, so, if the two teams meet, what a game that’s going to be”.
Clearly at club level in 2018, Birmingham will have a target on their back that all the other teams will be hoping to hit. How’s recruitment and the off-season in general been going? After last years win in Finland against the Wolverines will Birmingham be getting their passports out again this year?
“Thanks to our recruitment lead Natalie Parker we’ve had our best ever uptake this year, which is awesome. We’ve some exciting talent coming to the fore, for example, flag exponents Ellie Thorpe and Jodie Harris are both proving naturals in pads, whilst a plethora of new and eager linemen are pushing each other, and our returners, on both sides of the trench. Rookie Linebacker Ciara Pinington too is Schecter-esque in her tackling prowess so we’re looking forward to seeing her unleashed. Some positional movements in personnel too will also give our opponents some food for thought moving forward”.
Good to see that you have no plans to hang up the pads just yet, what are your goals for 2018, and when you do finish playing, do you see yourself coaching (I’d like to see Kilby and Schecter heading up a programme somewhere).
“As a captain my goals tend to reside alongside the teams, so domestically we’ll be looking to win a 5th consecutive British title whilst maintaining a high level of performance throughout; I’ll be looking for my returners to set the tone and look forward to seeing which rookies both meet and exceed those standards. For me I need to make sure I remain an effective conduit and if I can run a few in along the way then that would be alright too!
Ha, I think Pheebs is a little further along that curve than me, but I wouldn’t discount a coaching role some time…a long, long way down the line from now. I still have ridiculous amounts to learn, especially as a QB, but we’ve a lot of the gang who are primed to offer coach-value both now and moving forward, folk like Afia Law, Nena Killick and Laura Moore who are all qualified and already working in these fields with much aplomb.
These guys – as much as our player are – are the future of the Lions, and that sounds pretty good to me”.
It looks like 2018 may well be “business as usual” for Jo and her two prides of Lions, and I’m looking forward to seeing her leading from the front again.