Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Captain’s Corner: Oxford Lancers

Following Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday, Cherwell spoke this week to Saketh Subramanian, the new Blues captain of the university’s American Football team, the Oxford University Lancers.

When did you start playing American Football?

I started playing flag football in school when I was five. I started playing organized tackle football in year six when I was ten.

What drew you to the sport?

I moved to the US when I was four, where American Football is the dominant sport. My first memory of the game is watching Super Bowl XLII between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. This was one of the greatest upsets in NFL history as the Giants took down the 17-0 Patriots, led by Tom Brady. From there, I was hooked. I’m still a Giants fan, something that I struggle with every season.

Were there any specific goals for this season and how has the season gone so far?

Our one goal is always to beat Cambridge. With respect to BUCS, we focus on the process. The results take care of themselves if the team trains well and the players do their job on each play. The team is currently 5-2-1 (five wins, two losses, and one draw), which currently puts us in second place in Division One South and we will compete for the National Trophy in the playoffs. The Varsity match is provisionally scheduled for May 11th in Cambridge.

What has been the best win of the season currently?

Our biggest win of the season was a 26-12 home victory in November against Hertfordshire, who are five-time national champions and currently top of our league.

What have been the biggest sporting setbacks and successes in your time at Oxford so far?

The biggest sporting setback was our loss to Cambridge my first year (2021-2022). We lost 14-12 and this was a tough way to send off our leavers after an undefeated BUCS season and being promoted from Division Two to Division One. 

The biggest successes were our Varsity win and staying up in Division One last year (2022-2023), a first in programme history. Our current season is also promising, with the playoffs and Varsity still to come. 

How did Varsity go last year?

We had a historic Varsity match last year, as it was the first fixture hosted at the RC Millsap Pitch, our home in University Parks. We had a fantastic turnout of over 300 spectators in the stands, who witnessed us beat Cambridge 41-7. 

How difficult is it to have a high turnover of players, losing and gaining players each year?

It’s a tremendous challenge, especially when you need to put a squad out every year that can compete in one of the toughest divisions in BUCS. There are additional challenges – the Oxford term schedule and its associated academic rigour make it hard to recruit, train, and retain players, many of whom have never played the game before. We typically have about a month to assemble a team and get them ready – about half of the time that our opposition has. The solution is to recruit from a variety of courses. People assume that our team is made up of American graduate and visiting students who are here for one year. While those players are certainly high impact when they come out, the lifeblood of our programme are the undergraduates, DPhil students, and the medics who are here for three, four, or even six years.

What’s the best and worst thing about being the Blues captain?

The best thing about being the Blues captain is watching the newer players develop. Many of them have no experience with the sport and its rules. They come to the gym sessions, watch footage, learn about the game, and develop into great contributors for the team over a few years. It’s tremendously important that we can continue to offer them the resources, coaching, and playing time to grow in that way. 

The toughest thing about being Blues captain is balancing organizational responsibilities as President with the on-field captaincy responsibilities on game days. There’s a complex symphony of handling opponents, medical cover, transportation, referees, kit, and so on. It would be impossible to manage all of that and still focus on playing the game without the guidance of our coaches, alums, and SportsFed. 

Who are the ones to watch in the team?

American Football is a team game. Some players will touch the ball more than others, but we can’t succeed unless all eleven players are doing their job.     

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles