2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Eight

Only 8 days until the 2019 AFL Europe Champions League, with the tournament returning to Amsterdam once again for what is set to be a competitive day of football as the best club teams from around Europe battle it out.

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For part eight and our final edition of team previews, we will be taking a closer look at the men’s and women’s premiers of the 2018 event. Firstly the West London Wildcats from the Men’s side of the draw, and then the West Clare Waves in the Women’s.

 

Men’s Competition:

West London Wildcats

Keith Della-Vedova – Team Manager

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

We qualified after winning the 2018 version of the AFL Europe Champions League.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

A trip out to Cambridge University for a highly competitive game, we managed to give plenty of people some valuable game time that will hopefully put us in good stead for the tournament.

What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?

As with every year, we look to be competitive and display a team first brand of football that is required to succeed in this tournament, prior year’s results are irrelevant! We have a mixture of new and experienced players that will look to create their own Champions League experience so expect to see a team ready to throw the kitchen sink at whatever comes our way.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

It’s the premier European tournament and it’s always a privilege to play amongst so many other quality teams, it’s fantastic to see each team grow year on year which is what makes this tournament such a great concept. It’s a unique experience that not many will have the opportunity to be involved in let alone be lucky enough to be successful, you only have to go as far as our past players Facebook page and the comments every anniversary on the photo’s to see how much people value being a part of this tournament. This year’s team will draw inspiration from our past years teams and look to emulate them.

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

What happens on tour stays on tour!

 

Women’s Competition:

West Clare Waves

Rosie Currane – Team Captain

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?
We qualified as defending champions after we won last years Champions League. We also won the first AFL Ireland Women’s Premiership last November.
Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? 
No, Champions League will be our first hit out for 2019. We haven’t played any games since the Premiership here. A couple of our girls played in the Universities Cup a few weeks ago. Hopefully we won’t be too rusty. We are looking forward to getting back in action.
What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?
We will hopefully be competitive again. We were rank outsiders last year so it was a big surprise to win. We will enjoy ourselves for sure, as we always do, and take it one game at a time. We will have a lot of girls playing in their first Champions League so they are all really looking forward to it .
Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?
Oh it’s an amazing competition and the pinnacle of club Aussie Rules in the continent, and one of the biggest club competitions outside of Australia. AFL Europe have done a fantastic job in growing the Champions League over the last 5 years. So even though it’s our first competition of the year, it’s one we very much look forward to and winning it last year, was a wonderful experience and it’s always great to be part of such a competitive and large, well organised event .
Do you have any extra bits of information about the club, like past years funny/interesting stories?
As most people will now be aware, one of our best players from last season and last year’s Champions League Ailish Considine, has gone on to be signed professionally by Adelaide Crows. Of course we are sorry to lose her as a player but we are really enjoying watching her play AFLW & supporting her.  Maybe we’ll find a new star at this year’s Champions League!
Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

 

2019 ANZAC Cup Player Profiles – Siobhan Giles

A keen spectator of footy from a very young ageSiobhan recently realised her love for playing the game and is eager to continue this passion over in France, when she travels across to play in a commemorative match in Villers-Bretonneux in April.  

Siobhan was able to join in on the action last year playing for South Melbourne in the division one Victorian Amateur Football Association.  

Finding a real hunger to play, Siobhan fell in love with her club, the game itself and the togetherness that comes with being part of a team. This type of passion towards a team and the game of Australian football is exactly the energy that will surround her come ANZAC Cup and is something that will shine through her and all 27 selected Australians. 

Moving to live in France just before the beginning of this ANZAC Cup event, Siobhan will gain great insight into the rich history of the land she will be living on and will make her move overseas a whole lot more special. 

Siobhan will be honouring her home country in Villers-Bretonneux, France, fothe Australian Spirit football team, where she will join fellow Aussies against the French National side on April 27thThis game will follow a big week for this French town, with the Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux being one of the largest outside of Australia. It is such a great way for all involved to honour diggers who have fought and sacrificed, stopping the German force takeover on April 25th, 1918. 

Many of Siobhan’s family fought at war for their country, making this event even more special for her and her whole family. 

In saying that, what will make this event even more special is that two of her great-great uncles are commemorated at VillersBretonneux. Both Frank and Edward Giles appear on the Villers-Bretonneux memorial for their honourable work as soldiers. Frank has an incredible story where he was shot in the face, patched up and then sent back out to battle showing the will power in which the man had to continue to fight for his country in the face of all adversaries.  

Siobhan’s family relation to the ANZAC Cup not only gives pulling on the green and gold more significance, but to be living soon in France so close to a large part of her family’s history adds more value to her move. 

“I think it will be an amazing experience that will allow me to really reflect on the sacrifice of my own relatives and many other service men and women.” 

On top of this already impressive family history, great-great uncles of Siobhan’s, William and Nathaniel Giles, both fought in WWI. Nathaniel was awarded a medal for his courage and devotion. Adding to this side of the family, Siobhan’s great-great aunt also worked in WWI as a nurse. 

Siobhan is already reflecting on her family’s history and with many people joining together for this football match, it shows how different a time we live in and how a large community of people can come together in such an important time.  

I realise what a different world it was then and the huge sacrifices they made to defend our country. It’s easy to forget in the busyness of day to day life but I think this experience will be a particularly powerful way to reflect and really appreciate the opportunities and way of life we enjoy today and, of course, remember and appreciate the ANZACs.” 

In what will be the 11th annual ANZAC Cup, Villers-Bretonneux will be host to some well deserving Australians including Siobhan. She will be there for her whole family and will add to and remember the rich history of the Giles’ past throughout the trip. 

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe 

Irish Watch: AFL Round One

After months of hard work and preparation, footy is back for the men in 2019 with 14 Irishmen hoping to make an impact for their respective clubs throughout the year.

In a round dominated by upsets, the first week of the AFL season would see five Irish players suit up around the country and take part in what was a riveting weekend of action.

Gracing the Friday night stage for the first time in 2019 would be Collingwood and Geelong, as these two finalists from 2018 hoped to get their seasons off to a flying start in front of a big crowd at the MCG.

Drafted by Geelong at the end of 2016, Mark O’Connor is on the cusp of a breakout season with the Cats after earning round one selection on the back of a solid pre-season.

In what was a hot and tightly contested game of footy, the young Irishman looked at home on the MCG, with his ability to shut down the Collingwood small forwards and generate attack from the defensive fifty particular highlights of his game

O’Connor would end up collecting 13 disposals and three marks, as the Cats managed to see off the reigning grand finalists and snatch a famous seven-point win.

After O’Connor tasted victory on Friday night, the luck of the Irish would continue as Conor Nash’s Hawks stunned the Adelaide Crows on their own home deck.

Led by the master tactician Alastair Clarkson, Hawthorn would grind the high scoring Crows to a halt at the Adelaide Oval, with pieces of coaching brilliance limiting their ability to move the ball.

In a performance highlighted by the influence of a number of unsung heroes, Nash would be central to the Hawks game plan, as he applied great pressure on the Crows defenders and was lively inside forward 50.

Hard around the contest and brutal with his tackling, Nash’s impact on the game was not truly reflected on the stats sheet as he only had 10 disposals to his name.

However, what Clarkson and the entire Hawks coaching panel would be focused on with Nash was the five tackles he applied, as he looked to knuckle down a role inside the fast and frenetic Hawthorn forward line.

He was pivotal in upsetting the flow of game-breakerssuch as Wayne Milera, Brodie Smith and Rory Laird and creating the pressure that ultimately won his side the match.

At the recently renamed Marvel Stadium, Irishman Darragh Joyce would be given an opportunity in the Saints defence as they took on the Gold Coast Suns.

Holding down a key position role in defence, Joyce was terrific from start to finish as he defended brilliantly to keep the Gold Coast forwards quiet whilst also contributing to the Saints movement out of the back half.

In what was a memorable afternoon, Joyce would play a key role for St Kilda picking up 18 disposals and three marks.

Not looking at all out of place, Joyce was efficient with his ball use and composed throughout the game as he contributed to some big moments in the dying stages of the match.

With the Saints holding on for a gripping one-point victory, Gold Coast veteran Pearce Hanley would see himself on the end of a heart-breaking defeat as he hopes to lead his young side up the ladder in 2019.

One of Ireland’s most established players, Hanley has proven himself to be an excitement machine throughout his career with the Suns and Brisbane Lions, with his run off half back and slick skills seeing him develop into one of the competitions more dangerous defenders.

With injuries plaguing his last two seasons, it was great to see the 30-year-old back out on the park as he claimed 13 disposals and four marks off the half-back line for the gallant Suns.

Showing flashes of his trademark dash, Hanley will have without a doubt benefited from the run as he hopes to build continuity back into his game and rediscover his best form as the season develops.

As a senior player in one of the more inexperienced sides in recent memory, Hanley has a large role to play this year as he looks to guide the young talent of the Suns and build the club up into a contender.

Wrapping up the weekend’s action from an Irish point of view would be dazzling Essendon halfback Connor McKenna as the Bombers travelled to Sydney’s Giants Stadium to take on GWS.

Never afraid to take the game on, the exciting Irishman is now entering his fifth season of AFL football and is looking primed to break out into a genuine star of the competition.

With such high hopes, round one would turn out to be a disaster for the Bombers as poor efforts across the board saw them slump to an embarrassing 72-point loss.

Struggling to generate any run out of their back half, McKenna, like the majority of his teammates, would have a day he’d rather forget as he only touched the ball 13 times and failed to really get himself going.

In saying that, he was efficient with the ball in hand going at 92% and showed excellent composure in the back half.

So, with one weekend done and dusted it is clear to see that the Irish influence on the AFL is set to rise in 2019 with more and more players being given opportunities at the highest level.

With 14 players currently on AFL lists, we are set for a year filled with highlights from our Irish players as they all hope to contribute to the success of their respective teams.

 

By Zac Standish.

2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Seven

It’s only 11 days until the 2019 AFL Europe Champions League, with the tournament returning to Amsterdam once again for what is set to be a competitive day of football as the best club teams from around Europe battle it out.

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For part seven of our team previews, we will be taking a closer look at the Bristol Dockers and the Hamburg Dockers from the Men’s side of the draw, and the Paris Cockerelles in the Women’s.

 

Men’s Competition

Bristol Dockers

Sam Stevenson – Bristol Dockers President

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

We retained our Welsh Australian Rules Football League (WARFL) title from last year against our rivals from across the River Severn – the Cardiff Panthers.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

Yes, we hosted the Sussex Swans and London Swans in Bristol for a men’s and women’s tournament. It was the first ever match for our women’s side and a good chance for some of our newcomers to try out AFL for the first time.

What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?

Our target is to improve on last year and win two matches, which would be a massive achievement for us. We’re bringing a mixture of experienced and inexperienced players so we’re also looking to benefit again from the exposure to a high level of footy and a variation in styles.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

Its really big for us as a chance to push ourselves against stronger teams before our season – and also fantastic to be part of keeping the focus on club sides outside of London in the UK.

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

Some of our women’s team will be travelling with us on the trip to see how the women’s competition stacks up. Most of the players will also be coming out a day earlier this year, as we had too much fun on Friday last time! It was a tough first fixture against the Wildcats…

 

Hamburg Dockers

Oliver Kelsey – Hamburg Dockers team manager

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

The Hamburg Dockers won the Australian Football League Germany (ALFG) Premiership last year, beating the Berlin Crocodiles 14.9.93 to 6.2.38.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

We have not yet played in any pre-season matches, although we do have some coming up before the Champions League. We will be playing friendlies against the North London Lions from England and the Odense Lions from Denmark. Obviously we are hoping to come away with some good wins, but more importantly, we are excited to have some proper match time to help the experience of our players.

What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?

I believe we have a solid outfit this year and we are hoping to be strong competitors. Despite the experience gap between teams in the CL, I don’t think it’s beyond us by any means to come away with a cup.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

The Champions League is obviously a great way to share our love for footy with teams from across Europe, and the Hamburg men are proud to be the ones to represent Germany in the event. As if being premiers wasn’t enough, it’s a real confidence (read: ego?) boost for the players.

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

Maybe one of the highlights of the 2018 season was our impressive return to arms in our season fixtures against the Berlin Crocodiles. We went down 64-65 at home when we first met last year which was a really painful loss. I knew, and the players knew, that we had much more in us and were keen to prove it. Upon speaking with some of the Berlin players after the game, there was some talk of our next encounter where some of the Berlin players believed that at home they would have a much stronger side and thought that Hamburg didn’t really have a chance of winning – that we would likely sustain a flogging. After the drive over and some solid training and games in between, we ended up giving Berlin a thumping (45-152) despite them being able to field the strongest side they had all year. I think this really highlighted the determination and dedication of the Hamburg team who ultimately became unstoppable for the rest of the season. I, for one, would be thrilled to see that continue!

Women’s Competition

Paris Cockerelles 

Berengere Portal – CNFA President

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

At various competitions between the women’s teams of France. Paris and Bordeaux are the only two women’s clubs in France, and we had several meetings during the season, often at the same time as the men’s games.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

We had the opportunity to make some preparatory matches against London teams as well as friendly matches between girls of all teams in France. Lately, the Cockerelles took part in the Gallia Cup in Antony (Paris). They finished 2nd and showed great things. Also, we take advantage of the matches of the men’s championship to make matches 100% feminine or mixed matches if we are short of players. 

What can we expect from your team this Champions League?

Novelty! We had the pleasure of welcoming a lot of new recruits this year who will be able to prove themselves during Champions League! We have some new blood that will reserve some surprises during the matches. 

Where do you rank competing in the CL in the AFL Europe and what does it mean to the team?

We hope to be able to reach the top of the table this year, even if the task will be tough against the other beautiful teams present this year.

It is a chance that the team can evolve at this level, it allows us not only to evaluate our skills but also to gauge the technical improvements to be expected.

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

One of our superstar Cockerelles has gone to Australia to play footy, and we want to make her proud!! 

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Irish Watch: AFLW Preliminary Final Review

Ailish Considine becomes the first Irish woman to reach the AFLW Grand Final after Adelaide’s convincing performance against Geelong in the Preliminary Final.

With four of the five Irish players saying goodbye to season 2019 last week, it was up to utility Ailish Considine to fly the Irish flag as her Adelaide Crows belted Geelong to book a spot in the 2019 AFLW Grand Final.

Gracing the turf of the Adelaide Oval for the very first time, it was by far the biggest match of young Considine’s brief football career as 14,000 Crows fans came out to support the dominant Adelaide side.

With the weight of expectation on their shoulders, the Crows would be sharp from the outset with the class of their midfield setting the tone for what would be an absolute rout.

Playing as a pressure forward, Considine’s toughness around the contest and relentless harassment of the Cats defenders would be critical as they based their game plan on locking the ball in the attacking half and repeat forward 50 entries.

With stars such as Erin Phillips, Ebony Marinoff, Anne Hatchard, Chelsea Randall and Stevie-Lee Thompson around her, Considine has been able to settle brilliantly into her role and forge herself as a critical depth player in the powerful Crows machine.

In what was a dominant performance by the Crows, Considine would have one of her best games for the season, kicking a goal to go with eight disposals and three tackles.

She would also get the chance to show off the development of her foot skills, as after earning a free kick 25 metres out she would proceed to go back and easily slot the goal to add to the Adelaide barrage.

As the final siren blew, the Crows had blown the margin out to a whopping 66 points and completed one of the most dominant performances in AFLW history.

With her side now in their second grand final in three years, young Considine was at risk of missing out after receiving a rough conduct charge for a bump on Geelong midfielder Danielle Orr in the third quarter.

But some good fortune would see the MRO rule her eligible for the decider, with the incident not sufficient enough to warrant a suspension.

This will see Considine become the first Irishwoman to play in a grand final, as the Crows take on Carlton at the Adelaide Oval next Sunday afternoon.

 

By Zac Standish.

2019 ANZAC Cup Player Profiles – Ki Currie

Ki, age 29, does not shy away from tough competition at a high level. 

Playing Australian football for Western Sydney’s Premier Division side for six years back in Australia and now pulling on one of Europe’s powerhouse teams guernsey the past four years for the Wandsworth Demonsand even winning a premiership in the process. 

Despite already making some big career moves and playing the game in multiple countries, Ki will be embarking on an adventure that will stand out as a highlight of his time in Europe this April.  

Along with his 27 teammates, Ki will be heading to Northern France to the small town of Villers-Bretonneuxrepresenting his home country in the Australian Spirit team against the French National Australian Rules Football Team. 

This ANZAC Cup event on the 27th of April will be the 11th consecutive year that Australian Footballers have descended on Villers-Bretonneux for the commemorative matches.  

It’s an extremely humbling experience to represent my country and my family in the ANZAC Cup. Because of my family’s strong connection with the ANZACs and their sacrifices fighting in both World Wars, I’m honoured to play the game I love in their respects. It would also mean a great deal to me to stand where thousands of young Australian men gave their lives for a free world and to pay my respects. 

Now over 100 years ago since the monumental Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, the ANZAC Cup will again be a part of a big Australia Week for the locals. This week honours the diggers and the sacrifices they made, reclaiming the town against the German Forces on April 25th, 1918. 

With many of his family having strong connections to the ANZACs and to the Armed Forces, Ki has a lot to play for and is honoured to represent his family in the match. These family ties went a long way towards Ki’s selection in the Australian squadbeing one of just 28 very deserving members of the men’s and women’s teams. 

Proud of his history, Ki has several great grandparents and uncles who have served in Australia’s armed forces.  

“I believe this experience will mean not only a great deal for myself and my family, but in particular I think it will mean a lot for my uncles who served, and for my grandparents whose parents were returned veterans. To play in this game for my family would be exceptionally special.” 

With his bloodline spanning back to WW1, Ki’s great-great Grandfather Bert Speary fought in Gallipoli, eventually losing his arm fighting for his country. This incredible family continues to WW2 where another great grandfatherThomas Speary and brother Joseph Speary fought with the ANZACs all over the world. Although these two brothers were born in England they grew up in Australia, where not long after moving, they fought with the ANZACs, gaining many honourable medals for their service. 

If this wasn’t enough, these brave men were only a part of Ki’s mothers side of the family. On his father’s side, great-great uncles of Cyril and John Coughlin both fought in armed forces in WW2Noble Cyril rescued downed pilots in the RAAF while his brother John was a Staff Sergeant in the Navy until captured and killed by the Japanese. 

To slightly more recent times a few of Ki’s Uncles in John Coughlin fought in the Vietnam War, where he thankfully returned home in 1971, while his other Uncle Damon Currie served in the Australian Army and the RAAF between 1991 and 2015. Damon received an Australian Active Service Medal among many other medals for his great work. 

With such close family connections to the ANZACs and so many different family members serving for the country over the last decade, Ki has much of his own family’s history to reflect on when he lines up with his Australian Spirit teammates this Anzac Day.  

Ki’s passion and emotion seems to be building each day it gets closer to the event, having visited many memorial and battle sites around Europe in the past. Though some amazing experiencesKi says nothing will top his time in Villers-Bretonneux, where the ANZAC Cup match will become a treasured moment for his family and himself forever. 

 

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe 

Ailish Considine takes on AFLW Prelim head on

“A roller coast ride”: Crows Irish Star Ailish Considine reflects on her journey from Ireland to the Adelaide Oval 

If you’d told 26-year-old Ailish Considine a year ago that she would be gearing up to run onto the Adelaide Oval in front of 30,000 people for an AFLW preliminary final she would have called you crazy.

However, after a hectic few months, the Irishwoman now finds herself in a position that most Australian’s dream of as her ladder leading Adelaide Crows play host to Geelong on Sunday afternoon.

The occasion doesn’t faze Considine however, describing herself as relatively relaxed heading into the big game.

“The nerves actually aren’t too bad.” She told AFL Europe.

“I’m super excited to have made it this far into the season and it’s been a good lead up to watch, should be a great game this Sunday.”

Coming over to Australia from Ireland at the beginning of the 2019 AFLW season, Ailish says the great game of Australian Rules Football came into her life in November 2017 as she came across a league set up by AFL Ireland.

She would then join the West Clare Waves and participate in a number of different tournaments across Ireland before seeking opportunities to go professional in Australia.

“A few girls came out [to the tournaments] and the game started to grow.” She said.

“It was back home playing in that foundation league where I kind of fell in love with the game as I put my name in for cross coding to see how it goes.”

Through CrossCoders, Considine would be invited to trials in Melbourne as the dream of becoming a professional AFLW player was quickly forming into reality.

A strong performance at the trials would see her quickly impress recruiters, with the Adelaide Crows taking a chance on the raw but talented Irish woman.

“Since then it’s gone so quickly, the process has really been a roller coaster.” Ailish said on her recruitment into the AFLW.

“However, it was by the far the best decision I’ve ever made to sign up for CrossCoders and come over here to play AFLW.”

Finding her way onto the list of 2017 premiers Adelaide, Considine was quickly blown away by the professionalism and bond between the girls.

“It was something special [the relationships between players], I’ve been in a lot of teams and often it’s hard to get players to bond, but everything about the Crows is right, they really care about each other and get along which in turn has resulted in success.

“It’s more like a family than a team, so for me it’s made the whole transition so easy, I really can’t thank the girls enough.”

Along with the players, Ailish credits much of her rapid development to Adelaide Crows AFLW senior coach Matthew Clarke.

“He’s been so good.” Ailish said. “He’s such a different style of coach that I’ve had before and so calm during all situations in training and throughout the games.”

Along with the positivity around the group, Clarke has also put in extra effort to help Considine adapt to the nuances of Australian rules football.

“He always stays back and puts the effort in to help me.”

“Whether it be running through game footage or just running through how each part of the game works, he has always been there to guide me through this process.”

After experiencing first-hand the highs and lows of a move to the AFLW, Considine is keen to see more Irish girls take the plunge and consider a code cross.

“I think the number one thing to remember is to just be patient.”

She said pondering the best advice to give somebody considering making the move. “You just think that everything is going to happen straight away, but you really have to learn and train hard to break into this competition and play your role for the team.”

“Most of all though just enjoy it and give it everything you have.”

As the Crows gear up to have a tilt at their second AFLW premiership, Considine could not be more excited to be a part of something special with this tight knit group of girls.

“There’s not a hope in hell I thought I’d be here, in Australia about to play a foreign game in front of thousands of people.”

“To be actually walking onto the Adelaide Oval with the kit ready to play a preliminary final, it’s just a dream.”

 

By Zac Standish

2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Six

The annual AFL Europe Champions League is just around the corner, returning to Amsterdam once again for what is set to be a competitive day of football as the best club teams from around Europe battle it out.

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For part five of our team previews, we will be taking a closer look at the Edinburgh Bloods and the Amsterdam Devils in the Men’s side of the draw, and the Wandsworth Demons in the Women’s.

 

Men’s Competition

Edinburgh Bloods

Chris Gurney – Secretary 

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

We qualified by winning the SARFL Grand Final in 2018, beating the Glasgow Sharks in a close encounter by five points. This was somewhat of an upset as the Sharks finished top of the regular season table, beating us twice in the process.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go?

We recently competed in the Haggis Cup in Edinburgh. We had a mixed day, results wise, losing out in the Semi-Final, but we were happy with our performance in general as we had a lot of new players in the squad (some playing their first ever game of footy).

What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?

We always back our skills and believe that we can compete against anyone on our day. Having that sense of belief in each other is something we drive from.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

Having taken part in the first two Champions League Tournaments, we really enjoy testing ourselves against different teams from around Europe.

 

Amsterdam Devils

Michael Stewart – Coach

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

We won the Netherlands Grand Final against Delft. Fantastic day that coincided with sunshine and Ladies Day.
Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?
Yes we have played in Paris and also in London, we had a great tournament and the hosts were fantastic.  We got to experiment with our game plan and see some of our new players who have joined the team.
What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?
We will be taking it one game at time, cliche we know, however the competition gets better and better every year so we can be looking forward to some great football all round.
Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?
This is the start of our season, we only have a few games here in The Netherlands each year so we are always looking to host teams to play us here in Amsterdam or travel to play some games in Europe. If there are any team who want a game this year please PM us on our Facebook page.
Do you have any extra bits of information about the club, like past years funny/interesting stories?
We have a new baby devil from our former club president Scott Martin. We wish him and his family all the best and they will be cheering for us this year on the sidelines this year.

Women’s Competition:

Wandsworth Demons

Priscilla Lodge – Vice President

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

We were premiers of the AFL London Women’s Premiership division for the 2018 season.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

We took 2 teams up to Edinburgh on Saturday 2nd March. This was a fantastic day that saw 16 girls pulling on the red and blue for the first time, many of whom had never played Aussie Rules before at all. Our focus for the day was about getting as much match experience in the legs as well as team bonding, and everyone’s hard work was topped off by taking home the chocolates. It was a great start to the year and I’d like to thank AFL Scotland again for such a fantastic tournament.

What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?

We’ve selected a team this year that is a solid mix of speed, strength and experience. 50% of the team are girls who are new to the Demons this year so I’m really excited to see what they can bring.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

We worked incredibly hard throughout the AFL London season last year which culminated in a tight finals series that saw us win the flag, so to qualify for the Champions League again is a massive achievement and honour that is not lost upon any of the SheDees. The opportunity to compete against the best of the best throughout Europe at the Champions League, the largest tournament in Europe, is something we are approaching with excitement, enthusiasm and a healthy batch of nerves. After losing to West Clare Waves in the Champions League grand final last year, we can’t wait to come back to Amsterdam and hopefully go one better in 2019.

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

Last year we made AFL London history by winning Women’s Premiership and Conference divisions. The grand finals were spread across two weekends in August that saw the conference girls win first followed by the premier girls the next week. To support each other throughout both games, and then be able to celebrate all together was incredibly special and something that will forever be etched in the club’s history. The moment of the siren sounding in the premier match and all the conference girls running on to celebrate and sing the song all together is something that none of us will be forgetting any time soon!

 

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Five

The annual AFL Europe Champions League is just around the corner, returning to Amsterdam once again for what is set to be a competitive day of football as the best club teams from around Europe battle it out.

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For part five of our team previews, we will be taking a closer look at the Wandsworth Demons and the Prague Dragons in the Men’s side of the draw, and the Zagreb Panthers in the Women’s.

 

Men’s Competition:

Wandsworth Demons

Frank Caldow – Wandsworth Demons coach

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

We qualified for the Champions League by winning the 2018 AFL London Premiership division for the second year running, winning by the smallest of margins.

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

We went up to play in the Movember Cup again back in November, which we love doing, as it’s our third time now! It’s a great tournament for a worthy cause. We were knocked off in the finals by the Manchester Mosquitoes who have a strong team, wishing them all the best at the Champions League.

We then hosted the Amsterdam Devils in the first weekend of March which was a good hit out for both teams. Our Champions League Squad won the first match but was beaten in the last match by a well organised Devils outfit.

Our pre-season training has been heavily focused on the 9-a-side format which we hope will hold us in good stead come April 6th.

What can we expect to see from your team this Champions League?

We have a healthy mix of new and old players at the club. Six of our squad are returning from last years team that bowed out in the Semi-Finals. We are a much shorter side than last year as we feel the 9’s game suits teams who can run, carry and use the ball effectively.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

Only one club has won the tournament and it is effectively the pinnacle of Aussie Rules in Europe. Going up against the best teams in Europe opens up to a much more broad competition and it’s exciting to be able to see how footy outside of AFL London is developing. We’ve had success recently in AFL London so being able to transfer that to Europe would be amazing.

Do you have any extra bits of information about the club, any funny or interesting stories from past years?

In 2018 we had a really successful season at league level where we were grand finalists in every division and managed to win four out of five Premierships.

We fell over the line against the West London Wildcats in the Premier Division Grand Final winning by a solitary point. This was off the back of a three-point victory in 2017 so we are very much counting our lucky stars to be in the tournament again!

Prague Dragons

Paul Briedis – Prague Dragons coach

How did you qualify for this year’s Champions League?

It was quite difficult actually. We are the only team in Prague and the Czech Republic, so we simply needed to pull a team together!

Have you been involved with any pre-season tournaments? If so, how did that go? If not, have you had the chance to play any other teams recently in preparation?

We will be playing a pre-season tournament against Denmark one week prior to the Champions League Tournament. They won last year’s Euro Cup in Cork so they will be a solid test. It turns out Vikings can kick an Aussie Rules football.

What can we expect to see from you this Champions League?

Consistent performance across the whole day. We struggled with fitness last year, so good preparation and maintaining our aggression across the whole day is our goal for Amsterdam.

Where do you rank competing in the Champions League in the AFL Europe calendar and what does it mean to the team?

We are certainly mid-table. With only a small number of Aussie Rules players to form a team, we are always going to be on the weaker side of things, however, when our key position players are on song, we can certainly challenge the more powerful teams.

Do you have any extra bits of information about the club, any funny or interesting stories from past years?

Several of our players walked 100km to a friendly match played in Germany three years ago. They wanted to trek across the mountains as an expedition before the match. Over the three day journey, one player got lost and we couldn’t track him down for another two days, and another lost a finger after being bitten by a dog. The third player played the game and pulled a hamstring in the first five minutes. Great team result…

Women’s competition:

Zagreb Panthers

Dinko Irsag – Zagreb Panthers Coach

What will your team bring to the Champions League in 2019?

Croatians are a passionate nation and that is reflected in their game. No doubt the Panthers will show that passion for the sport and for a win during the Champions League.

What are you hoping to get out of the experience as first-time participants at the Champions League?

Simply the experience of playing at a tournament of this calibre. The only time the girls manage to play something similar is at the EuroCup, so being able to play a tournament like this on a club level is going to boost the experience of all of the girls.

Where will the opportunity to play in the Champions League take the Zagreb Panthers in the upcoming season’s?

With the beginning of this season, another female club is active in the Croatian League and playing in the Champions League will definitely increase the rivalry between these two clubs. Having the Zagreb Panthers competing in the Champions League will definitely give them a slight edge on the home front.

How has the club promoted playing in the Champions League to help its growth?

Mostly through social media and university presentations. Having a club play a tournament like the Champions League has increased the popularity of the club and a number of new players have joined because of the opportunity to play on an international level.

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Irish Watch: AFLW Round Seven Review

Four of our five Irish girls would say goodbye to season 2019 with a bang, as Cora Staunton, Yvonne Bonner, Sarah Rowe and Aisling McCarthy left the AFLW community itching for more after historic seasons. Ailish Considine would be the highlight from round seven, with her two goals helping catapult the Adelaide Crows to a home preliminary final.

For West Clare Waves product Ailish Considine however, the journey continues as she embarks on her maiden AFLW finals series with the ladder leading Adelaide Crows.

AFLW action would hit the nation’s capital for the first time this season as an underwhelming GWS side looked to end their season on a high and play spoiler to Geelong’s finals hopes in the process.

Instilled with a sense of freedom, an inspired Giants outfit would take advantage of a nervous Cats side as they produced their best performance of the year to complete an unlikely upset.

Much like she has for the majority of the season, veteran Staunton was consistently brilliant all night for the GWS in and around the contest as well as around the goals, as they hybrid forward-midfielder saved potentially her best for last in season 2019.

Picking up 16 disposals to go along with a goal and six marks, Staunton proved just how far she has come in two seasons with her unique kicking style and unrelenting approach to the game seeing her quickly become one of the faces of the women’s game.

Her trademark courage would be on display midway through the last quarter at a crucial stage for her side, as she went back with the flight of a ball travelling deep inside 50 to take an inspirational mark before converting from a tough angle to effectively see her side home.

Along with the heroics of her veteran teammate, Yvonne Bonner would also close the season out with some tricks of her own as she again proved to be that critical X-Factor up forward for the Giants.

Claiming ten disposals, four marks and a goal, it was a performance typical of a centre half forward as she attacked the ball with ferocity and presented an attacking option for her side all night.

Exhibiting an almost sixth sense around the big sticks, Bonner’s immense talent would be on show for all to see at the UNSW Stadium on Friday night as she constantly found herself in scoring positions.

An integral part of the Irish Banshees development squad, season 2019 was nothing short of a success for Bonner as she looks to become an AFLW star of the future.

In what was set up as a blockbuster Saturday afternoon clash at Casey Fields, Considine would produce a breakout performance as she fueled the Adelaide Crows to a crushing ten goal win over a helpless Melbourne outfit.

With a win securing their place in the 2019 finals series, Considine would prove a major catalyst for the Crows early as she slotted her first two AFLW goals in the space of three minutes to kick her side into gear.

A piece of magic off the back of a forward 50 stoppage would be a particular highlight of young Considine’s career as she battled a number of Demon’s defenders to break free and soccer through a memorable goal.

From there she would sit back and enjoy the dominance of her side, with her move to the forward line proving a master stroke by coach Matthew Clarke as she always provided excellent pressure and presence within the forward 50.

Ending up with seven disposals to go along with her two goals, Considine showed her worth to the Adelaide side come finals time whilst also illustrating great character to respond with a career best performance following her recall to the team.

Collingwood returned to its spiritual home of Victoria Park for the second time this season, as they played host to a desperate Brisbane side hoping to sneak their way into the finals.

Having not won a game all season, the Magpies would galvanize and produce their best performance of the year in front of their home fans with young Rowe leading the black and white charge.

After taking some time to adapt to the nuances of the game, Rowe has really come into her own over the past few weeks having picked up 13, 17 and 16 disposals in her last three games.

Moving into that role at half forward, she has proved just how valuable she will be for the Collingwood football club for years to come with her hard running and toughness around the contest particular highlights of her game.

In a performance that typified her drastic improvement over the season, Rowe would run the Lions defenders off their feet taking four marks and playing integral in a number of the Magpies scoring opportunity.

The final match of the round would feature another of Melbourne’s famous football venues as McCarthy’s Bulldogs looked to salvage some pride with a win over the finals bound Blues at Whitten Oval.

It was a tight tussle from start to finish, as the reigning premiers put in a spirited performance to push the in form Blues and give their fans some satisfaction to end what has been a dismal season.

One of the shining lights however has been the play of McCarthy, who produced a season best performance to round out what has been an extremely successful maiden campaign.

Collecting 16 disposals, five tackles and a goal, like the other Irish girls, McCarthy would take this final opportunity to prove just how far she’s come in seven weeks and her potential to grow into an elite player in the competition.

Renowned for her pace and athleticism, McCarthy would have a major influence over proceedings at the Whitten Oval as she helped set up a number of Bulldog scores and put one through herself mid-way through the last term to help spark an unlikely comeback.

So, with the season now done for Staunton, Bonner, McCarthy and Rowe it is safe to say that AFLW season 2019 has been a raging success for the Irish, with all the girls proving Ireland to be a plentiful recruiting area as the competition continues to expand.

 

By Zac Standish