By Peter Mann

An all too brief flirtation, a decade ago now, is all that the Nottingham Caesars have shown for their constant hard work, and striving to succeed.

By Richard Wohi C-Sportpics

On six occasions now, the East Midlands outfit claimed a divisional championship, two of which have arrived in recent seasons, in 2021 (British American Football Association National League Central East, 8-0), and again last time around (BAFA Division One South, 10-0). 

They’ve even reached the Division One bowl game on two occasions in the past, coming up short on each occasion. First dropping a 26-7 defeat to Redbridge Fire in 1997, then six years later, in 2003, fell to a 32-15 reverse against Bristol Aztecs. The Caesars Head Coach, himself a former player at the Nottingham club, is looking to shake things up, and come good on his words “We are a Premiership-level team that is stuck in Division One.”

Having come so close to promotion last season, Coach Warner has again strengthened his roster for this, 2024 campaign, one which saw them begin with a 20-8 success at home to Birmingham Bulls; it’s been the strengthening that has seen the addition of the likes of Courtney Etienne and Robert Wands, Dean Gabriel-Ojo and Connor Bibby, Sam Pearson, and Jean-Richard Wohi, to name a few.

By Richard Smith

Of those new additions, Wohi is certainly an interesting one, especially having spent some time away from the game through injury, coupled with his challenging, yet, enjoyable spell in the GFL1 in Germany; for Coach Warner, those new additions, alongside those retained, are just as important as each other, whilst for Wohi, he’s itching for that final dance, and some title success, which they both believe the Ceasars can bring. 


“We’ve managed to retain a good number of players and, with players here to look up to now, and emulate, we’ve not only got former juniors returning to the club but also players from NTU (Nottingham Trent University) coming on board,” explained Warner, whose love affair with the Caesars began as early as 1990. 

“This year we’ve probably got more defense than offense, but being able to rotate everyone at each position is a good thing. 

“For me, and being a former running back, I really wanted to keep those guys in the backfield; Sam Fraser is a top bloke and very versatile, whilst Will Hobbs is someone who I go way back with and is a player I’m excited about so last year, that was excellent, and this can be even better. 

“As for my quarterbacks, Liam MacGovern is someone I’ve known about five years and watched him develop, whilst Alex Baldwin is one of our former juniors stepping up and will give Liam some great competition. 

“Whilst with the new additions, Courtney (Etienne) reminds me of me as a player, has an elusive running back style about him, and who initiates contact whilst packing a punch – he’ll sure make your soul leave your body. 

“Sam (Pearson) is someone who, with Premiership experience, I’m looking forward to seeing out there, and Jean-Richard (Wohi) is definitely an exciting prospect for us.” 

By Richard Smith

Wohi meanwhile, has been on a sporting journey that has encompassed both Basketball, and American Football, the latter of which has seen him ply his trade on both British, and German soil, at Derby Braves, Leicester Falcons (now Panthers), and now the Caesars, in England, as well as a two-year sojourn in Germany with Marburg mercenaries and Frankfurt Universe. 

The Caesars’ Edge Defender, who has a degree in Sports & Coaching Development from the University of Derby, finds himself returning to the game following a spell recovering from not one, but two elbow injuries – not a good look in either sport, but he’s got through them. 

“This is my first time playing in a couple of years,” admits Wohi. 

“I ruptured the tendons in one elbow, and then in the other, so ended up stepping away from the sport; coaching though, and seeing other players enjoying it, it meant that for me the bug was still there. 

“Originally though, I played Basketball, but being a dual-registered player did mean that it couldn’t work out, and I was getting too big for it – at Derby though, a dorm-mate suggested my giving American Football a try.” 

In being too big for the court, Wohi, once he’d swotted up on the ins-and-outs of American Football, initially took to the field in the East Midlands, but, following his graduation, soon found himself being courted, and snapped up by, the Hessen town of Marburg, and the Marburg Mercenaries, winners of the 2005 European Federation of American Football (EFAF) Cup, doing so with a 49-14 success against French side Elancourt Templiers. 

Speaking of his German sojourn, throughout 2017 and 2018, first with the Mercenaries and then the Universe, Wohi added: “Having seen several uni teammates head to Europe I was like, yes, I could do that myself. 

By Richard Wohi C-Sportpics

“I uploaded my highlights reel and the coaching team at Marburg contacted me, although in reality, the move as a whole wasn’t what was promised, but I went there and turned it into a positive. 

“Not only was it my first time playing at that kind of level, but also the first time I’d played the O-Line; my end goal though is always to play to the best of my abilities and, although the step-up was surprising, eye-opening, it was an exciting, new experience.” 

With Marburg being one of those trying to oust not only the Frankfurt Universe, but also that of Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns, and a move to the Universe, in his second year, was soon on the cards, and with it, the closest Wohi has been to achieving that much-craved, individual success. 

“I didn’t know what I was going to do (after that first year),” explained Wohi. 

“Then Frankfurt contacted me and told me I was a prospect they could work with. 

“They were a step up from Marburg, pushing to be the best, but for me, it was sink or swim, and I always stayed afloat.” 

Having shocked people to reach the 2017 playoffs with Marburg (losing 28-14 to Kiel Baltic Hurricanes in the quarter-finals), 2018 would see Wohi part of a Frankfurt roster that would go all the way to the German Bowl, eventually losing 21-19 to the Unicorns. 

“Frankfurt was a fantastic opportunity for me and probably the best year I’ve had, although facing the Unicorns was always a tight game,” continued the Caesars defensive lineman. 

“I picked up my first serious injury though (in the 2017 overtime victory against Braunschweig-based outfit, New Yorker Lions) against the Lions, so missed the Bowl game. 

“It’s a shame how it ended though as I would have loved to have played in Europe longer. 

“Now though, having returned to England, and following a pitstop in Leicester (where he injured the other elbow early on), the opportunity to come to the Caesars was one I couldn’t pass up. 

“I want to win something, I’ve not done that yet, and I really like the set-up here at the Caesars. 

“Once I knew that I was on the radar of Grant Lawless (QB Coach) then there was nothing else; last season was bittersweet for them and I want the same thing they do, to get into the Premiership, so it’ll be nice to get to the final and to win something.” 

By Peter Mann

It’s the same aim that has always been there for Coach Warner, and those boasting longevity at the Caesars. 

The 2023 campaign was an enjoyable one on the main, for the Caesars; an unbeaten 10-0 regular season was followed by play-off success, 20-6, against Scunthorpe Alphas, before a trip to Tyneside, and the Northern Play-Off final, proved to be one game too far. 

Leading 13-7 at the interval following TDs from Wellington Tafireyi and Josh Oluwatosin, the second half would see the Nottingham club run out of steam as their opponents, Northumberland (Newcastle) Vikings registered 20+ unanswered points to claim a 34-13 success and take promotion themselves. 

“The aim this season has to be same as last, promotion,” insists the long-time Caesar, and HC, Vanden Warner. 

“If we can win a national championship as well then that would be amazing. 

“We’ve played in the Premiership before but didn’t give a good account of ourselves, but, if we keep on the same trajectory, we’ve been on in recent years then it should be promotion. 

“You have to earn that though, but I’m confident we can do it this year. 

“We’ve got a powerhouse coaching set-up, a really strong roster, and are a very ambitious club. 

“Everyone coming here knows that the goal is to be the #1 seed so that all roads lead through Nottingham.” 

For them, for the Nottingham Caesars, that is how it should be as well, all roads to promotion going through Nottingham – but first, and having won their season opener, there’s the small matter of circumnavigating the challenge of East Midlands rivals, Leicester, on Saturday (4 May) night. 

Although not necessarily make-or-break, maybe then will we see whether the Ceasars can #CaeaseTheDay. 

Feature Image Credit: Peter Mann