Preparations for Euro Cup 2018 in Cork are gearing up right across the continent as the countdown ticks to less than 40 days, and perhaps no nation is as eager to land on the Emerald Isle as the reigning champions from across the Irish Sea.
The England Vixens & Dragonslayers have been on the track in recent weeks with warm-up contests against the London premiers, the Wandsworth Demon’s, where two victories provided a welcome confidence boost as the competition for spots heats up.
Looking to retain the crown they earned at Bordeaux last October, the Vixens will be buoyed by an experienced leader in Laura Ramadan-Turner, with the Nottingham Scorpion named Captain for the fifth time in Euro Cup competitions.
The England Vixens girls watch on at Euro Cup ’17. Image – England Vixens
While the role and the tournament are becoming a familiar one for Ramadan-Turner, she says it is no less of a thrill.
“It’s an honour to be named the captain for my fifth Euro Cup. I love the tournament, and I hope we get the opportunity to belt out the national anthem again [in the final].” Ramadan-Turner said.
“We have gained a lot of new players to the squad this year – some really exciting young talent and combined with a few of the familiar experienced players, makes our squad very exciting,
“Our strengths will be our dynamism, our team ethos and our leadership. We have a new coaching team this year with Mitch Skelly and his assistant Bianca Valenzisi who bring copious experience and knowledge of the game, which we think will give us the edge.”
The obvious danger to the English crown comes from the side they toppled in last year’s final, the Irish Banshees, with Ramadan-Turner expecting the girls in green to provide stern opposition once again.
Is there another chapter in the Vixens Banshees rivalry? – Image – England Vixens
“Ireland is going to be tough, and we know they will also have new players, I played against the West Clare Waves at Champions League and if they have retained these ladies they will be a really strong squad.”
Ramadan-Turner’s assessment of the Irish threat is shared by her Dragonslayers counterpart, Matt Whiteley, although he expects his side will find equally difficult opposition in Denmark and Croatia.
“I see the toughest opponents being Ireland, as they are the home team and they will be wanting to win the tournament, so I am sure they will be going all out for this,” Whiteley said.
“The returning Denmark are always dangerous with their quick style of play, and we have also had good matchups with the Croatians over the years and they cannot be ruled out. With all that said, on the day any team can beat anyone that is the nature of tournament footy and what makes it so exciting.”
Whiteley says that the flexibility and work ethic throughout the Dragonslayers squad will be a key string to the sides bow, praising the current atmosphere amongst players overwhelmingly positive.
The Dragonslayers are expected to be a force again in 2018. Image – AFL England
“The squad has several returning players from last year and we have strengthened with the addition of players from all over the country. We have game winners right across the pitch and we all get on,” he said.
“I am excited to see how some of the new players go as they have shown in our recent warm-up game that they have the presence around the pitch to compete with anyone. With coach Garth Nevin as well leading us again, we have all the personnel capable of defending our crown.
“It’s an honour to be named as England Captain, and I’m hoping that we can emulate our performance last year and I will be able to lift the trophy once again come evening time. To lead the team out will be a magnificent feeling and one that will stay with me for a very long time.”
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe
England Euro Cup History
Vixens: Champions (2013, 2015, 2017), Runners-Up (2016, 2014)
Dragonslayers: Champions (2008-09, 2013, 2017), Runners-up (2015)
Euro Cup 2018
CIT Cork, Ireland
Saturday, October 13th
Stay across afleurope.org for all the build-up to Euro Cup 2018.