Prince of Wales becomes patron of AFL Europe

AFL Europe announced today that His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has accepted an invitation to become Patron of the organisation for the next two years, lending his name and support to programs to develop the game, particularly for young people.

Prince Charles has a strong interest in developing young people and it is this passion, combined with his long held fondness for Australia, which led to his decision to support AFL Europe.

Chairman of the AFL Commission, Mike Fitzpatrick, who is in Ireland as part of the 2013 International Rules Series, warmly welcomed the support of the Prince of Wales.

“The AFL Commission is dedicated to the long-term growth of our game, not just in Australia, but internationally. To have the support of someone as highly regarded as the Prince is a fantastic opportunity for AFL Europe to develop the game,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Prince Charles spent a year studying in Australia in 1966 and has been here many times since.  He clearly has a great affection for Australia so we know this is the beginning of a long and mutually rewarding relationship between the Prince and the AFL.”

Speaking about the new role today, AFL Europe CEO Ben MacCormack said “AFL Europe is thrilled to have The Prince of Wales as our Patron. It’s a huge honour and we believe his support will greatly assist us to reach new audiences as we introduce Australian Football into schools and communities across Europe.”

AFL Europe also hopes to stage another AFL Challenge Match in London in 2014 in which The Prince of Wales would be invited to attend.

The past year has been a very busy one for the young organisation, with the Challenge Match between the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide in November 2012 drawing a crowd of 10,000 people to the Oval, AFL Europe Combine – Dublin, followed by the Easter Series, to the AFL European Championship held in Ireland in August, the 2013 Axios Euro Cup in Bordeaux this September, and the upcoming 2013 AFL Combine also to be staged in Dublin in early December.

Participation across the 21 member nations has grown over the past three years to more than 5,000 players and the majority are nationals of their own countries rather than Australian expats. This figure also includes a small but growing number of school and junior participants who register for 6 week long programs.

There is also a growing pathway for talented athletes from Europe to test themselves in the elite AFL competitions. Daniel Flynn (Kildare) has just been listed with Port Adelaide as an AFL International Rookie and will move to Australia to join the AFL Club in coming weeks.

Image: Tony Woods (AFL International Development Manager) and Chris Dow (AFL Europe Chairman) present The Prince of Wales with a Sherrin at the pre-Australia tour reception at Clarence House on the 24th October 2012. Copyright Clarence House.

#PrinceofAFLEurope 

Afterglow – A look back at the Axios Euro Cup in Bordeaux (2/2)

Wesley Hull

In this second part of the interviews arranged by the Bordeaux Bombers and the CNFA after the recent tournament in France, the focus is on women’s footy. Vanessa Degrave, a player for the French team – Les Inattendues – looks at how she became involved in Australian Rules football – in France.

How did you get involved in Aussie rules here in Europe?

Vanessa Degrave: “Our rugby coach was friend with the coaching team of the Bordeaux Bombers. One year ago, they came to see us as they wanted to create a French female footy team. Eight of us were more than happy to be part of this project so we started to train with the boys and got a chance to be part of the Axios Euro Cup.

How did you discover the game?

“I heard about the game in St Médard en Jalles where the Bordeaux Bombers are playing and also during my Rotary exchange student year in Australia in 2010. However, I never showed any interest in the sport before I got the chance to try it.”

What team do you play in, what position, and from what country?

“I played the Axios Euro Cup with the French team (Les Inattendues). During that game I was a follower.”

Are there many girls who play it where you are living?

“One year ago, only 2 girls were playing with the Bombers: Gaelle Hazimeh who moved to Toulouse and Chloé Tabountchikoff. One year later we are nine at training. Paris and Toulouse have the same story. This gives us a real chance to play more games in the future.”

Why do you enjoy the game?

“I think footy is a mix of many sports. You need to keep on running and have good physical skills. Also I love the fact that I can kick and hand pass the ball; in rugby my role doesn’t allow me to play with my feet.  All this made me really happy on the field.”

What is appealing about it?

“The welcoming spirit of the boys, the atmosphere around the ground and the game itself were really appealing to me. Also the fact that your teammates are always supportive and cheer you up, no matter what is really different from rugby.

How many girl teams competed at the event?

“I think we were between 30 and 35 girls playing for two different teams.”

How do you see the growth of Aussie Rules as a sport for females in Europe?

“I think the growth has a good potential as it is a good mix of many sports.”

How does it compare to say soccer which traditionally attracts more girls?

“I think it takes the good part of rugby and soccer and gives more freedom to each of the girls on the field.”

 

Women willing to play please feel free to contact your country’s coordinator for more information (http://afleurope.org/female-football/how-to-join/)

Afterglow – A look back at the Axios Euro Cup in Bordeaux

Wesley Hull

The following is a series of questions and answers discussing the recent Axios Euro Cup in France. Locally, Alban Schieber and Frederic Zohar worked tirelessly with their team to put together the event in Bordeaux. In the afterglow of the event, here is their take on what the Euro Cup was, how it came together and how successful it was. These answers are provided by Alban Schieber, unless otherwise indicated.

How many teams and from what countries?

“There were 14 teams in total from 13 different European countries. Unlike the previous events, most of the teams came from the continent.” (Norway, Finland, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Cataluña, Iceland, Ireland, England and Crusaders + France and Crusaders women teams).

“England won their third Euro Cup defeating France in the Grand Final 92 – 15 while in the women game the Crusaders defeated France and won their first title. “

How many players or participants were there in total?

“We had in around 320 players in Bordeaux, comprised of 280 boys and 40 girls.”

What was the format for the competition?

“During the morning we had the seeding round. Groups were made with a favourite and two challengers. The base for the games was two 15 minute quarters. The only favourite who lost in the morning was Ireland, defeated 34 – 33 by France.”

“At lunch time each team had a break of an hour and a half to rest or have a look at the women’s game, which France lost to the Crusaders 26 – 45.”

“In the afternoon, we had the classification games and the finals. The games were two halves of 20 minutes. The plate winner was Austria who won their first game in the competition. Ireland was the bowl champion. England, France and Croatia were on the podium.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the tournament, how many matches and how long each match is played?

“There were 25 games, 12 of them were made of two halves of 15 minutes and 12 were made of two halves of 20 minutes. The last one was the women’s game made of four 20 minutes quarters.”

How many Australians are involved?

“The only Australians involved were umpires or members of the AFL Europe committee. No Australians were allowed to play with the national teams.”

How did you promote the event on the day?

“To promote the event we had over 2 500 posters and 8 000 flyers given in all the local shops in Bordeaux and Saint Médard en Jalles. We also had bigger posters in Saint Médard en Jalles set up by the city council. Finally we had a few articles in the press thanks to our press release sent all over the sport media a few months before the event. We even hit Youtube with a fun clip to generate interest.”

What were your overall impressions of the event, was it a success?

Frederic Zohar (co-organizer and president of the Bordeaux Bombers):

“It was a success because everybody was where they were supposed to be at the right time. We had over 100 volunteers on the day and it was crucial that everyone knew what they had to do and that they were autonomous.

During the day, when we had everything on track, I felt on the top of the world.”

Alban Schieber:  “After three weeks of rain we had a really nice weather on the day which was great to get some crowds over. We believe that there were 1 200 people, unrelated to footy, who watched the Grand Final. The biggest success was to see everybody with a smile on their faces. I had tears in my eyes when I saw the crowd during the final cheering and laughing.

On the next day we received text messages from many coaches and captains saying that it was the best Euro Cup organized so far. Which made both Frederic and I really proud.”

What were the biggest successes of the tournament?

Frederic  Zohar : “There are two major success in this tournament: the first one is a sport success with the French team getting to the Grand Final (best performance ever) and the organization of a French women’s footy team ; the second success is that thanks to the city council we had a great venue with four real ovals and posts which gave us the best venue the Euro Cup ever had !”

What were the drawbacks or areas that could have been better?

Frederic Zohar : “The only missing thing from a media point of view was TV.  Unfortunately no TV journalists showed up. Apart from that we had some issues with the protocol as some of the presentations didn’t go with the scheduled time. Last thing was we were hoping for more sponsors. The overall budget on the day was 76 000 €. With more sponsors we could have ensured wider media coverage and a better promotion of the game.”

“Looking back, it was the first time we organized such an event and we had some things we could have done earlier to prevent the last week of hard work under pressure.”

What kind of sponsorship/support did you have?

“On one hand, we had about 10 000 € sponsors in cash. Most of them were local and the two major ones were l’Ombrière, a vegetable farm, and the Regional council.  On the other hand, we had loads of sponsors exchanging merchandise or staff members for advertisements. For example, we had security and physiotherapists for free.”

How many volunteers and what did they do?

“We had about 100 volunteers on the day. Most of them were doing the boundary and goal umpiring or working in the bars. But we also had volunteers welcoming the crowd, taking pictures, co-ordinating  the food services, recording the game to have a full streaming coverage of ground 1 and taking care of the teams.  All of them were professionals coming as volunteers on the day. It was definitively a great day thanks to all of them. The Bordeaux Bombers, our local club, was looking after the logistic and had a really tough day.”

How much local business support?

“The whole budget was secured thanks to local businesses or institutions. The budget of 76 000€ came from Bordeaux’ businesses and institutions or from the revenue raised on the day.”

What level of international support did you receive?

Frederic Zohar: “Our ambassador in Australia, Daniel Jackson, couldn’t come on the day as he was playing in the AFL finals the weekend before. But he sent us a jumper signed by the whole Richmond Tigers team for the raffle we organized. We also had our brother club the Boxwood Hills Football Club on site which was a great way for me to thank them. “

How difficult was it to organise logistically and financially?

Frederic Zohar:

“To set up real ovals wasn’t a piece of cake as no one had ever done that in France before. But our grounds were definitively looking like Australian ones thanks to the public services of Saint Médard en Jalles.  Also with more money we would have had less problems to organize it.”

Alban Schieber:

“We did everything we had in mind in September 2012 and even a bit more. We had an ecological event and we managed to have the first Euro Cup making a profit!”

Umpiring AFL in Europe

Michael McCormick

The men in white who run out alongside the players every game often get overlooked, or even taunted, for their decisions on the field, but without them, the game would simply not be.

While the 2010 inaugural European Championships was a milestone for AFL in Europe, it also paved the way for the ‘stewards’ of the game – the umpires – to stamp their mark on the competition.

Three years on and the umpiring fraternity has gained momentum and a list of enthusiastic Europeans to govern fair play in this great game.

AFL Europe Umpires Coordinator, Shane Hill, suggests that developing and nurturing competent European umpires will stand the game in good stead for continued growth.

“Umpires of Australian Football in Europe now have a structured development pathway they can follow, enabling Europe’s finest whistle blowers to reach their true potential,” explains Hill.

The new breed of European umpires is acknowledged for their achievements through internationally recognised certification and appointment to local, national and international competition. Hill explains that the more exposure to the game and education of its rules the umpires in particular can get, the better off the competition will be.

“In terms of education, umpires and players alike have benefitted from attending our introductory ‘Level 0’ courses held across the region,” states Hill.

The aforementioned Level 0 course is a one day workshop in which participants learn all the fundamentals of being an umpire. Attendees aren’t expected to have any prior knowledge of the game and hence, the course seeks to provide a “safe learning environment where everyone feels free to ask the ‘silly’ questions,” according to Hill.

As of August 2013, close to 100 umpiring hopefuls had completed the course, some of whom have gone on to umpire in marquee events such as the European Championships. Several others have also completed the Level 1 accreditation course, which provides a more in depth understanding of an umpire’s role.

Confidence building is a major aspect of the course as the freshly certified umpires are encouraged to trial their new found knowledge in a practice game on the day.

Once certified, they may be called upon to officiate local matches in their region or even national or international competitions. One Bordeaux local, Alexandre Garandel, who made his boundary umpiring debut at the Euro Cup in September, 2013, experienced just that.

“I was nervous, I didn’t want to make mistakes because it’s important for AFL in France,” he stated.

Many locally sourced umpires took to the field in the 2013 Euro Cup alongside Garandel and more experienced Australian and European officials. This was a great sign for not only the status of AFL umpires in Europe, but also the game at large.

The development of AFL in Europe depends heavily on collaboration between players, umpires and officials, who are all striving towards the same goal. The support provided through the Umpiring Association is imperative to the longevity and continued growth of the game the world over.

Words from Shane Hill:

With understanding of the game and respect for the role of our umpires in Europe at an all-time high, umpiring is truly everybody’s business. If you would like further details about the game or how to become an umpire in your local league, please email umpires@afleurope.org. Alternatively, follow our somewhat irreverent updates via the AFL Europe Umpires Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/afleuropeumpires) and on Twitter (@AusFootball).

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Dublin To Host Fitzpatrick Cup

The last weekend of October will see Dublin become the centre of the Australian Football World as the Irish capital hosts the second test of the 2013 International Rules series, but there is more activity besides. The AFL Europe annual general meeting and conference will take place in Kilmainham and just a stones throw away, the inaugural AFL Europe College and University Championship will take place in Islandbridge. The tournament to be known as the Fitzpatrick Cup in honour of AFL Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick will feature his alma mater Oxford University, Northern Regional College, University College Cork and the newly formed Dublin City University. The competition will be played on a knockout basis, with two semi finals, the 3rd/4th Place play off and a Grand Final with all matches 40 minutes in duration.

Schedule.

11.30 Semi Final 1

12.20 Semi Final 2

13.10 3rd/4th Place Play Off

14.00 Grand Final

Daniel Flynn – Signed, sealed and ready to deliver

On the 3rd of October 2013, the 20-year-old Irish player Daniel Flynn signed his first 2-year contract with Port Adelaide Football Club as the club’s first international rookie.

From his county Kildare in Ireland, this elite underage player was destined to a great career as a Gaelic footballer but has recently made the decision to cross the world to play in the AFL.

Flynn showed outstanding performances at the annual NAB AFL Draft Combine recently, running the 20-metre sprint in 2,83 seconds, the repeat sprint in 24,25 seconds and the agility test in 8,08 seconds. These were all top 4 results of the 110 elite juniors from Australia.

AFL Europe is extremely proud of Daniel having come through the Talent ID program run in Europe including the combine run in Dublin in February this year. He showed outstanding athletic ability and a natural movement with a Sherrin tucked under the arm. Earlier this year, he played for the European Legion against the AIS-AFL Academy. His display in that match further raised interest and now he finds himself on the PAFC list.

We wish him all the best for the next season!

Early December will see the next AFL Europe Combine to be held in Dublin. Who will be the next to make the step into AFL?

EUROPEAN LEGION v AIS AFL ACADEMY

Zagreb Hawks Premier of the Croatian League

AAFC President, Croatian Knights player and Hawk hero Josip Kravar tells afleurope.org about their recent league premiership.

Zagreb Hawks won the Croatian League against our friends from Graz for the first time in our short history from 2006. The Hawks have tried so many times to raise this cup, mostly finishing as runners up, but this year we were superior.

After last year seeing the worst performance in the hawks history which involved struggles to have 9 players for every game, losing matches against the Bombers (now Dockers), Giants and Dogs, this season we showed something completely different.

From October 2012, the Hawks showed that working hard for the team pays and we managed to raise a reasonable number of players in the club. Now we are the Croatian club with the most active players. Also, the Hawks traded Milijan Mamić for Tomislav Cvetko (Knights captain and AFL Europe Championships 2013 top scorer) from Dockers and until 2013 they raised young guns that have been recognized on European big stage (Josip Habljak, Hawks rookie was the first ruckman in the team of the tournament European Championship 2013).

During the season, Zagreb Hawks only lost their opening game against the Giants and lost their last game. October 2013 confirmed the Hawks domination against Styrian Downunderdogs.

Best and fairest player of 2013 was Tomislav Cvetko who was also the best goal kicker. Best rookie of 2013 was Josip Habljak.

Next week, the Hawks will attend the Croatian Cup which is a charity event and the last event in the Croatian footy calendar.

There is a great atmosphere in the club, dedication on the field and off the field were recognized and rewarded during the same year as when our brother club won the Premiership. This year has been good for Hawks and here in Croatia, Zagreb Hawks will try to make it a standard story.

In the end, big thanks to our brother club Hawthorn Hawks, especially Mr. Ian Dicker who unselfishly helped us so many times.

Finally, the cup is ours.

Hawks premiership players: Luka Punda, Tomislav Marsic, Frane Boban, Luka Diklic, Josip Kravar, Jan Dolezal, Josip Habljak, Jure Prtenjaca, Dejan Pavkovic, Tomislav Cvetko, Josip Josipovic (c), Dinko Irsag, Marin Kolanovic, Branko Ban, Luka Dukic, Goran Pereš,  Matija Bašić, Kruno Cvitaš,

Coach: Josip Kravar

SANH – Croatia Knights website: www.sanh.hr

Zagreb Hawks website: www.zagrebhawks.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://hr-hr.facebook.com/zagrebhawks

Turku Dockers winners of the Finland Grand Final

Following a hard-earnt semi final victory over Salo, where the much improved Juggernauts got within 14 points of the undefeated Dockers, the Turku boys spent the week leading up to the grand final getting themselves ready for a tough game against 2012 premiers the Helsinki Heatseekers. Helsinki went into the grand final on the back of some good form, having won their semi final against Vaasa by 58 points.

The third place playoff was taken out by Vaasa, who ran hard all day and were too strong for the Salo side. Both sides played with great spirit and will improve next year following the extra experience that some of their emerging players have gained in 2013.

With third place decided it was time for the grand final. The premiers of 2012 up against the minor premiers of 2013 promised to be a contest worthy of the 5th FAFL grand final, and both sides delivered from the outset.

There was nothing in the match early, with the two sides trading goals as they tested each other out. Eventually it was the Dockers who were able to get out to a small lead with a series of goals through the middle part of the second quarter which took them to a 14 point lead in the shadows of half time, then just seconds before half time some clever work from Turku captain Tomi Virtanen found Anti Vasemägi alone deep in the forward pocket. Anti marked right on the siren and was allowed to take his kick, which he calmly guided home from a tight angle, giving Turku a 20 point lead and valuable momentum heading into half time.

The second half started with two quick goals to the Dockers that took the lead out to 32 points, but Helsinki were quick to answer with two goals of their own and restored the 20 point margin. The quarter continued to ebb and flow, but a couple of late goals to Turku got the margin back out to 32 points in Turku’s favour by the final break.

The pressure that both sides had applied all day didn’t drop off, and in a tight final quarter Turku were able to kick three goals to Helsinki’s one to finish up 43 point winners and 2013 FAFL premiers.

The win made it three premierships in five years for Turku (2009, 2010 and 2013), which sit alongside runners up finishes in 2011 and 2012.

Well done to Adam Vasey from Turku who was awarded the Grant Siermans medal for the best player on the ground (Grant coached the Dockers in 2009-2010 and has a perfect coaching and playing record in FAFL grand finals).

Turku Dockers 3.6   7.6   11.10   14.12   (96)

Helsinki Heatseekers 4.4   4.4   6.8   7.11   (53)

Goals:

Turku: Lee Grabski 6, Adam Vasey 3, Josh Walker 2, Craig Primmer 2, Anti Vasemägi

Helsinki: Terry Ludeman 4, Brendan Cliffe, Damian Roberston, Aku Immonen

FAFL GF Tomi tackle (4)

Irish Warriors winners of the Euro Bowl

Michael McCormick

Having come second in their group, defending champions, Ireland were still eager to take home some silverware. They eventually did so in emphatic fashion, beating Finland 78 – 5 to claim the 2013 Euro Bowl.

The Irish were hard to beat all day. Having lost controversially to France in the group stage by a single point, they were not going to let this game slip and they showed that from the moment the siren sounded.

Led by captain John O’Reagan, Ireland burst out of the blocks and kicked the first five goals within minutes of the umpire blowing his whistle to commence the match. Finland fought hard to stem the flow, but by half time the game was all but won.

Irish forward, Dominic Joyce was having a day out, booting several six pointers and setting up many more. The delivery into the forward line from smooth moving midfielders Caoitle O’Baoill and Jimmy Keogh was perfect all game.

The second half was slightly lower scoring from Ireland and Finland were only able to add a few points to their scorecard. As the siren sounded to end the game, the dominant Irish outfit had recorded another victory by a considerable margin to secure a fifth place finish.

Finland had its highest finish in the Euro Cup and will learn a lot from the day. The standout players for Finland throughout the tournament included captain Kaj Karlsson, Ikka Poti, Lasse Punttila and Tomi Keskinen.