2019 Euro Cup Team Previews: Part Three

With just under three weeks now until the 2019 AFL Europe Euro Cup, this year the tournament will be held in Norrtalje, Sweden for what is set to be a thrilling day of football as national teams from 16 different European countries field their nations best players and over 350 players battle it out for the Cup.

This year’s edition of the Euro Cup will see all the games take place on Saturday the 29th of June. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. In our third edition of the team previews, we will be taking a closer look at the Finland Icebreakers and England Dragonslayers in the men’s side of the competition and in the women’s, the Swedish Ravens.

Men’s Competition:

Finland Icebreakers

Coaches: Steve Phillips and Wyatt Turner

What has your preparation been heading into the 2019 Euro Cup?

The extremely long distances between our cities mean that a lot of the training has to be done in local groups to minimise travel, so there are weekly training sessions in each city with the players’ respective clubs, then once a month (since March) we’ve been getting together for a combined session, rotating the city each time.

Weather can be a challenge, temperatures are typically well below zero as late as April, so a lot of the training is done indoors in smaller sports halls. As long at the temperature isn’t lower than about minus 15 outdoor training is also possible on artificial grass that’s heated from underneath to stop snow and ice from gathering.

How many clubs are represented in your national team?

All three Finnish clubs, the Vaasa Wombats, Helsinki Heatseekers, and Turku Dockers have players in the Finnish team this year.

How many of your players are going to be making their Euro Cup debuts?

None of our squad have ever played for Finland in a Euro Cup, our last appearance at this tournament was in 2013 in Bordeaux. Two of our current players played the last time Finland was at an international tournament, the International Cup in Melbourne in 2014 (IC2014).

What can we expect to see from your team this Euro Cup?

A team that leaves everything on the field. Finland is a relatively new country to Australian football, but has a proud sporting culture. Our players will give everything they have until the final siren, and will work hard for each other.

What does competing in the Euro Cup mean to your team?

This year at the Euro Cup means the end of some long years away from international competition, there is a real excitement among the group that this is the start of a positive period of development for the sport in Finland.

What are your expectations for the Euro Cup?

It’s been six years since we were last at this tournament, so we expect quite a steep learning curve. The squad is excited to see what the challenges of the day offer up, and to have a chance to test ourselves against the best in Europe.

Who are the players in your team that we should be watching out for?

Joni Kinnari from Vaasa Wombats has been around Finnish footy for many years, and on the field he sets the example for all to follow. Expect to see him putting his body on the line to create opportunities for the players around him.

Alix Kalliojärvi from Turku is one of only two squad members to have played in IC2014, so he brings valuable experience to a very fresh squad. He gives a good physical presence around the ground, and is a strong marking target when he goes forward.

Aku Immonen, from Helsinki, also brings International Cup experience to the squad. Aku is a no nonsense defender who never gives up ground in a contest, and acts as a linchpin in the Finnish backline.

Do you have any extra bits of information about the team, like past years funny/interesting stories?

The whole squad will travel together by ferry to Sweden the night before the tournament. The trip takes 12 hours and the onboard activities are limited, so we’re expecting to arrive in Sweden well acquainted with one another – hopefully not too well acquainted.

The Finland Icebreakers will be remembered in the 2019 Euro Cup for…

Giving their absolute best on and off the field, and for their Finnish ‘sisu’ – an untranslatable Finnish word that means courage, guts, determination and resilience all rolled into one.

 

England Dragonslayers

Coach: Dean Thomas

What has your preparation been heading into the 2019 Euro Cup?

With the domestic and GB calendar packed this year, this group have not trained together as an isolated group. At GB level many of them have trained together several times this year, as well as at club level. This combined with club fixtures has the boys physically prepared for the event.

How many clubs are represented in your national team?

Seven clubs are represented (Manchester 4, Wolverhampton 5, Nottingham 2, Birmingham University 1, North London 2, Wimbledon 1, West London 1)

How many of your players are going to be making their Euro Cup debuts?

Six players will be making their Euro Cup debuts. Jack Coughlan, Luke Carrigan, Paddy Lawson, Adam Reed, Adam Kelly and Sam Walon.

What can we expect to see from your team this Euro Cup?

Look for some quick and adventurous ball movement. We are not a big side in stature, however this group is rapid across the ground, so expect to see them taking the game on with some eye catching passages of play.

What does competing in the Euro Cup mean to your team?

For these players it means a lot. They get to test themselves against some of the best players in Europe. There is an existing camaraderie for these players via their Great Britain team connection. A trip like this gives them an opportunity to further develop that bond for England.

What are your expectations for the Euro Cup?

We expect a closely contested tournament. Others might go in as warm favourites, but the nine a side format allows for unpredictable results. Every team has a chance if they get off to quick starts. Our boys will enjoy coming in as underdogs.

Who are the players in your team that we should be watching out for?

All of them. Everyone of them brings a unique trait to the group. The beauty of this group is that if an opposition focus on one or two of our well known players there are 14 or 15 others who will get under their guard.

Do you have any extra bits of information about the team, like past years funny/interesting stories?

Spend an hour engaging with the two Andy’s (Cochran and Walkden) also known as B1 and B2 and walk away without scratching your head. I’ll buy a drink for anyone who can converse with these two for an hour. Conversely attempt to go beer for beer with Myles Hudson if we can pull off the win, he gives it a nudge and you won’t keep up.

The England Dragonslayers will be remembered in the 2019 Euro Cup for…

The goal and mark of the tournament. Great camaraderie.
Image may contain: 12 people, people smiling, sky, tree, outdoor and nature

Swedish Ravens

Coach: Ryan Davidson

What has your preparation been heading into the 2019 Euro Cup?

We have managed to string a few matches together either with Odense or internally within Sweden. Looking forward to a small round robin with Hamburg and Odense this weekend as a final hit out before the Cup.

How many clubs are represented in your national team?

In some way you could say three teams, Port Malmö Lynx being the only full team but Stockholm is now biting at the heels. Eksjö Bulldogs though not having a full team are also contributing significantly this year with three players.

How many of your players are going to be making their Euro Cup debuts?

Four players will be making their debut.

What can we expect to see from your team this Euro Cup?

You can expect to see the unexpected, with a new team developing in Stockholm and therefore the influence of another coach in the system is exciting to see what that brings to the team. National pride is also on the line being at home.

What does competing in the Euro Cup mean to your team? 

It’s the biggest event on our calendar especially being at home this year. Being later than the Champions League we have also had time to get a few matches under our belts and get organised. I’m sure this one will mean a lot to all the Swedes and especially the new players that have been given the opportunity to play for their country.

What are your expectations for the Euro Cup?

My expectations of the tournament are that it will be huge. The Norrtälje club is well organised and has a great vibe. Awesome to have it in summer as well. Result wise we don’t have expectations anymore, cliché as it sounds it’s one match at a time and a lot can change during the course of the day. Our expectations is a lot of effort.

Who are the players in your team that we should be watching out for?

All of them have their own unique traits that will help our team.

Do you have any extra bits of information about the team, like past years funny/interesting stories?

We had a team building weekend in Eksjö a while back, tiny little town out in the forest that has the coolest footy field and the friendliest people. We had a nine a side match then ended up taking joyrides in an old fluorescent green V8 jeep in the countryside, then we visited a dairy farm just for kicks, Swedish Ravens together are family.

The Swedish Ravens will be remembered in the 2019 Euro Cup for…

Giving it everything we’ve got and not giving up.

Image may contain: 15 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe