Conor McKenna

AFL Europe are incredibly excited to watch one of our Irish recruits debut for Essendon FC this weekend! Congratulations goes out to Conor and all his hard work, it has been a long time coming.

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Essendon’s Irish recruit Conor McKenna will make his senior debut on Saturday night against Richmond.

The 19 year old travelled from Tyrone in Northern Ireland to Tullamarine at the end of last year for a shot at making it in the AFL.

“It’s great reward for the hard work he’s put in,” Essendon Development Coach Paul Corrigan said.

“He’s obviously crammed a lot in the time that he’s been here.

“He does more sessions than anyone else, he never misses a beat.”

While most Irish players are used off the half-back line, McKenna has shown some natural flair in front of goal.

In his 15 VFL games this season, he’s kicked 18 goals.

“The coach took me in yesterday about three o’clock after training,” McKenna said.

“Cora, who has been working with me all year, he just said ‘congratulations, you’re playing against Richmond this week’.

“It’s just good to get a role now.”

McKenna’s signature was highly sought after because of his elite speed, athleticism and endurance.

He grew up playing Gaelic football and has spent extra time with Essendon’s development coaches learning the finer points of the game.

“In defence, it was not too bad, but then I went forward and the structure of the game is just hard to get used to but hopefully I’ll get it right now and come Saturday it’ll come to plan,” he said.

McKenna’s parents are flying out from Tyrone to attend Saturday night’s match.

 

Written by Simon Conway for essendonfc.com.au

AFL Europe, South Australian Club Inaugural Grand Final Luncheon

THis landmark event is being hosted at the prestigious Australia House,in conjunction with Bill Muirhead (AFL Europe Ambassador and South Australian Agent General, London) and the South Australian Agent General’s Office in London, with support of the Australian High Commission.The first ever London AFL Grand Final Lunch will be held at Australia House, London at 1pm Friday 2 October 2015.

It will be a fully ticketed corporate event boasts special guests, incredible silent auction items and much more.

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For more details or to buy a table contact megan.hession@afleurope.org or admin@afleurope.org

Three Cities Tournament

The 8th of August saw an Inaugural 3 Cities Tournament hosted by the Czech Lions in Prague. Taking part were the Dresden Wolves, from Dresden, Germany and the Styrian DownUnder Dogs from Graz, Austria. The 3 game round robin tournament saw the Lions take out the top prize, the DownUnder Dogs come in second and the Wolves third.

3 cities tournament _ 0. 1.NP

1st game:
Lions 9.8 (62) vs. Dogs 7.14 (56)

2nd game:
Dogs 8.4 (52) vs. Wolves 5.6. (36)

3rd game:
Lions 9.8 (62) vs. Wolves 2.4 (16)

Congratulations goes out to the Czech Lions! We look forward to seeing whether it will be played in Dresden or Graz next year!

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From London to Sydney

Born and bred Englishman, Dan Evenhuis first discovered Australian Rules when a work friend brought him down to a Wimbledon Hawks training session, in London, a few years back. Instantly falling in love with the incredible sport that is AFL, Dan played a few season with the Hawks before migrating to Australia and joining the Manly Giants. Here Dan found fellow Europeans; Ian Bairds, also from London and previously playing with the West London Wildcats, Jimmy Falstrom from Stockholm, Sweden, previously playing for the Solna Axemen and Dermot Flanagan from Dublin, Ireland. All meeting at the Manly Giants, where they have been accepted with open arms, the boys are kicking goals and improving their skills ten fold. Dan gave AFL Europe an exclusive insight into his experience.

 

I moved to Australia in November 2014. Playing sport abroad has always been a goal of mine, the plan a few years back was to play a few seasons of cricket somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere; that was until I found footy.

Growing up in London I didn’t have much exposure to Aussie Rules as a kid, except the odd time you’d see it on Trans World Sport and take the mick out of them for playing hot potato. When I went down to my first training at The Wimbledon Hawks and the boys took me under their wings straight away and I knew I’d found a new love. After my 5 years at that great club, and picking up a few serious injuries along the way, I felt confident enough to get involved in Australia. I’d heard about The Manly Giants through an old teammate in Wimbledon who had done the old switcheroo with me; a native from the northern beaches now living in London.

When I touched down in Sydney I made contact with the Giants, and was told about training times and locations. With a promise they take on all playing levels, I thought why not! I was really lucky that my arrival coincided with the start of pre-season training in December. Rocking up on my own was a bit of a daunting experience; similarly to your first day at a new school.

After introducing myself to the group, and the few expected smart arse comments about a Pom playing footy were made, we got on with it. My skills weren’t too bad, fitness not great, but the boys got around us and made us feel really welcome. Names were the hardest thing to keep hold of, behind several pre season torps of course, but my first session was bloody good fun and I knew I’d made the right decision getting involved with the Giants.

It was an a really different experience coming from training sessions with around 20 blokes in South West London, to pre season in Sydney with 70 odd on the track, all looking like absolute guns. I was really impressed with the club’s Head Coach, Leigh Brain, and director of football, Chris O’Sullivan. Despite the huge playing group, they both made sure they knew everyone’s names, including mine, and were always approachable and welcoming. We eventually split into our playing groups, and I began training with the men’s 3rd grade team, who play in division 4 in AFL Sydney.

There were quite a few new faces around, including another European, Jimmy Falstrom from Stockholm, and an old hand in the team, Dermot Flanagan from Ireland who sorted me out a lot when I first got down. Some of the new lads had never played footy before, but all of us were made to feel welcome and before you knew it, a team was starting to take shape. Pre season training was hard but fun, my skills came along leaps and bounds, or “heaps” as they’d say out here, and I took part in drills I’d never seen before and didn’t have a clue about. I realised my fitness was nowhere near good enough to play competitively in Sydney, but with the northern beaches on our door step we took advantage of our surrounding environment and had a lot of hardcore beach sessions – soft sand running is a killer! We’ve also got some great lads in the club who run Code 5, a gym where all club members can train together and get the extra sessions in where needed off the footy field.

As the Manly Giants have links with the GWS Giants of the AFL, we were also lucky enough to be able to use their training facilities from time to time. Pre season testing there included speed, strength, agility and endurance, and getting to use a professional footy clubs state of the art facilities was a real treat, though I didn’t much like their recovery ice baths after! When the season rolled around we had a real sense of unity in our team and all of us were raring to get going. I was quite proud to be named in the starting line up in our first game. We got beaten that day, but showed some promising signs for the season ahead. My first game experience was something I wouldn’t forget in a hurry! I took a few big knocks, but took also a few marks and a few good disposals; it wasn’t a complete disaster.

And so the season rolled on and we started to get a bit of a winning streak under our belts. We were playing our own brand of footy that we worked hard in training to master, and things seemed to click in to place for everyone. We had a couple of big tests against some strong teams, we played on all sizes of pitches, most of them out west, and came up against some interesting looking blokes in the opposition. At the time of writing we’re sitting pretty in the top half of the ladder and in with a shot of finals. Now that would be something…watch this space!

So my experience of Australian Rules in my first season in Sydney has been fantastic. I’ve met a group of blokes I’m happy to now call my mates, knowing full well they’ll go hard at the footy out on the oval, and give it a good crack in the pub after the game as well. The Manly Giants culture is inclusive of everyone, no matter where you’re from, or what level you play at, and I’ve found a great new home away from home. I’d definitely recommend for any young budding footballers in Europe wanting to improve their skills to get out here and get involved with competitive footy in Australia, it opens your eyes to the full beauty of this mental game we’ve all fallen in love with!