Belushi’s Presents: Player Spotlight – Slava Belov

Each week, AFL Europe in combination with Belushi’s will take a look at one of our star players competing in fixtures across the continent in Player Spotlight. 

Slava Belov grew up surrounded by many sports, but AFL was not one of them.

Always eager to watch ball sports like rugby and American football, Slava found his real passion in 2012 when visiting Australia.

Curious about the Australian game, Slava attended a NAB Cup game and from his first moments of seeing the sport live at Etihad Stadium, he was completely hooked.

Moving to study in London in 2013, Slava found out about the AFL London league, later joining the West London Wildcats and he was excited to finally play the sport that he loved to watch.

Since then, Slava has improved his skills in the game and selflessly wants to share his passion to help others join the AFL Europe community.

“I think my marking ability is quite good and I am not much an athlete so I see my role in the footy community to promote and inspire the game for other people.”

Moving back to his home land of Russia, Slava wanted to continue his new passion and share it with the locals.

In 2014 this dream became a reality when he founded the St Petersburg Cats, who are becoming an exciting club and continually growing thanks to Slava and his teammates.

“I’m so grateful to have made friends and loved ones who are now a part of the club life. My girlfriend Nastia keeps the statistics at the St.Petersburg AFL matches. It makes it much easier to keep the balance and I urge clubs around Europe to get as many people they can involved as it creates a real family environment.”

Along the way, Slava has also travelled to the US and played in the USAFL Finals, having a great time improving his own game for the Fort Lauderdale Fighting Squids in 2016.

Proud of his country and heritage, the pinnacle of Slava’s career has been being able to represent his country at an international tournament.

Representing the Russian Bears in some of AFL Europe’s major tournaments has been a real highlight and his efforts to get this team up and running have been phenomenal.

I would say that scoring for the national team is big thing for me. Playing on the highest possible level on two continents, Europe and America, makes me feel great. And to see that the sport that I started five years ago in my home town is growing and flourishing is an amazing feeling!”

Now known as a football nomad having played and promoted the game all across the world, Slava Belov really is what AFL Europe stands for and his work to grow the game has been exceptional.

 

Special thanks to Belushi’s for helping grow the game in Europe

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

AFL Europe 2020 Internship Applications

AFL Europe are now accepting applications to join our team as part of our Internship Program for 2020.

The role revolves around delivering the AFL Europe communications plan. This includes both written and video content to be published on our website and social media platforms as highlighted in the attached Job Description below.

To apply for the position, please send your CV and cover letter to admin@afleurope.org by Sunday, November 17th 2019 to be considered.

AFL Europe Intern (Digital Content) – Job Description

ANZAC Cup 2020 Applications Now Open!

AFL Europe is thrilled to announce that applications are now open for the Australian Spirit and Umpiring team to participate in the 12th Annual ANZAC Cup in Villers-Bretonneux, France.

The small town of Villers-Bretonneux in Northern France has a strong connection with the Australian Armed Forces. On 24th April 1918, the town was captured by German forces. Overnight the Australian troops retaliated and by dawn on the 25th April 1918, the town had been retaken.

The ANZAC Cup is played between the Australian Spirit team and French national sides for both men and women and is part of the annual ‘Australia Week’ celebrations held in Villers-Bretonneux in the lead up to ANZAC Day.

Players and umpires will be expected to arrive in VB on Friday 24th of April to attend the Dawn Service on ANZAC Day. Matches will be played on Saturday, April 25th with teams departing VB the following day.

The Australian Spirit men’s and women’s sides at the Australian War Memorial in Le Hamel.

The ANZAC Cup fee is £100 per player and includes a full playing kit and billeted accommodation for the duration of their stay.

Applications are welcome from any Australian or New Zealander with selection for the event emphasised on a player’s personal connection to WW1 and the Armed Forces and not just purely football/umpire ability.

Players/Umpires interested in applying for the 12th Annual ANZAC Cup should express interest to lily.beck@afleurope.org to receive an information sheet and application form.

Application forms must be returned by Sunday 1st December to be considered.

Community Spotlight – Sarah Howell

With a number of roles in AFL London, the Great Britain national teams, and AFL England, Sarah Howell is extremely busy, but she loves the sport and has seen it become a major part of her life.

Her love of the game all began when she was asked to go and watch a Wimbledon Hawks game. Along with her partner, David, she reluctantly agreed to attend. When they turned up, David was given a full playing kit and asked to get ready to start at Full Forward in 20 minutes!

“That was that – I watched them play, had no clue what was going on but I was hooked,” Howell said. “Over the last few years I started to take a greater interest in the sport and its become part of my life!”

What Sarah loves about the game is the athleticism of the players, more specifically, the pace and intensity at which the players consistently produce throughout a match. She also loves the off-field aspect – the spirit of the clubs and teams which she has become a part of since her first introduction to the game.

Sarah’s roles within AFL Europe include Secretary and Treasurer at the Wimbledon Hawks, Co-Chair of AFL London, Finance Manager for GB Bulldogs and Swans, and interim Treasurer at AFL England.

Those are certainly a number of busy roles, and Sarah says she wonders where she finds the time for it all, but thanks to a number of great committees, it all works.

Being in all these roles means Sarah has seen her fair share of funny or interesting stories both on and off the field.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint any one story, but my off-field highlight from the 2019 European Championships involved the [GB] Swans captain asking the most qualified AFL umpire on site and, in fact probably Australia, whether it was his first tournament. The story will become folk lore and I’m sure will be shared at many umpiring courses in the future,” Howell said.

In terms of domestic on-field highlights, that also happened this year, as the club where it all started for Sarah, the Wimbledon Hawks men’s team reached the Grand Final for the first time in six years.

“Internationally, the continued development of the GB squads is something I am passionate about and seeing them improve game-on-game is amazing. I sound like a proud mum!” Howell said.

“Being presented with a winners medal by the GB Bulldogs for the work I do for them behind the scenes was amazing – to feel part of the team without having set foot on the pitch has a big impact on me and helps me justify the hours spent on these things.”

With her role with the GB National teams, Sarah said that she was over the moon for the GB Bulldogs after they won the 2019 European Championships Grand Final against Denmark. Looking ahead, Sarah hopes they can replicate that performance and push for a top two spot at next year’s International Cup.

The GB Swans had a more challenging tournament, finishing third but produced an impressive performance in their last match against AFL London team, the Wandsworth Demons. Looking ahead for them, Sarah is looking forward to seeing them develop from a new, young squad into a strong team ahead of the International Cup.

This continued development is a positive for the sport in Europe, and with a number of goals in mind not just for herself, but for what can be achieved across the continent, Sarah is excited for the future.

“The sport can only grow from here – the talent across the European team is amazing and for a sport most of all only recently starting, the game can only continue to grow,” Howell said.

“I would like to see junior footy grow across Europe as this will be a great stepping stone for the future of the sport.”

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Belushi’s Presents: Player Spotlight – Josip Habljak

Each week, AFL Europe in combination with Belushi’s will take a look at one of our star players competing in fixtures across the continent in Player Spotlight. 

Croatian Josip Habljak has always been a keen sportsman and interested in fitness.

Growing up in Zagreb, Josip had a real eye for the game of basketball and played this up until the age of 22.

Throughout his 20’s Josip was a keen gym goer, but realised he missed playing sport with others and being around mates.

Upon seeing a flyer for an AFL training session, Josip found exactly what he was missing in his life and fell in love with the game and its qualities.

“The passion of the game itself and the camaraderie of the guys playing it was what had me fall in love with the game on my first training session, and I’ve been loving it more and more ever since.”

Starting his new found passion in 2013, Josip has now been playing for over six years and his love for the game still continues to grow.

Playing for his local side of the Zagreb Hawks, Josip has improved his game play each year but also improved the Hawks club and Croatian league as a whole with his efforts to share the game to new people.

“As I was becoming better and discovered more and more of the game it only made me love it even more. One of the best things about it all is the challenge of overall athleticism and skills involved with it. Anyone can play on their strengths and you can always contribute to a team in some way.”

With Josip improving, so was AFL Europe as a whole and through the AFL’s development in the continent and his hard work paying off, Josip was selected in a European Legion side for being one of the best under 23’s players in the continent and played in this great side in 2014.

Around this time, Josip lived in Australia for two years and played an extremely high standard of footy in South Australia.

Using his size and strength, Josip played in the SANFL for the Sturt Football Club, which is only a league under the highest AFL standard and played for the Unley Mercedes Jets in the SAAFL, which is a great effort only years after picking up the sport.

Josip’s ability to play at such a high standard, when still being new to the sport is extremely impressive and coming back to his homeland he wanted to continue playing at a high level and was selected for his national side, the Croatian Knights.

Josip  had a great deal of success with the Knights team and was a big part of them winning some major tournaments.

“The best and dearest achievements are by far winning the European Cup in 2016 in Lisbon and Division 2 of International Cup in Melbourne in 2017 with the Croatian Knights.”

Even being selected in the World Team as one of the best of the tournament in the International Cup, Josip feels great to have all of these individual awards but describes his ‘team first’ attitude.

“Nothing beats the feeling of standing victorious with your fellow countryman, especially when they are your friends as well.”

Josip’s desire to improve and continually grow as a player is now showing on the field and now being an experienced campaigner, he is a vital part to any side he is in.

His leaping ability and presence around contests are perfect for a ruckman and Josip exploits these strengths whenever he can to win clearances for his side.

Representing Croatia in almost all of the major AFL Europe tournaments since he began playing the sport, Josip has helped the side improve each year and now become a very competitive side against Europe’s best teams.

Josip uses a team first attitude in all matches he plays in and is a great asset to help build a side to success on and off the field.

Special thanks to Belushi’s for helping grow the game in Europe

Image result for belushis logo


Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

 

Irish Watch Season Review – Part Two

Welcome to part two of our Irish Watch reviews of the 2019 season.

This edition will see us dissect the season’s of a number of up and coming stars who broke out into solid contributors at AFL level this season.

Colin O’Riordan, Sydney Swans

After debuting last season, 2019 was always going to be an important year for Colin O’Riordan as he looked to build on his progress and become a part of the Swan’s youth rejuvenation.

Despite only featuring once at AFL level in the first eight weeks of the year, O’Riordan would keep working hard with some dominant early season NEAFL performances seeing him earn a spot in the side for the Swans round 8 clash with Essendon.

From there he would blossom, improving every week and eventually becoming very important to the structure of Sydney’s side.

Playing across half back and the wing, O’Riordan’s toughness, athleticism and ability to find the ball were particular strengths of his game, as the 23 year old proved he has a bright future in the red and white.

The highlight of his season would come in round 11 against the Cats at GMHBA Stadium, as he stood up in football’s most hostile environment to have a major impact with 20 disposals, seven marks and two tackles.

O’Riordan would end up playing every game from round 8 to 19 before a calf injury resulted in a premature end to his breakout season.

However, having averaged a solid 14.1 disposals and 4.3 marks a match in 2019 it’s clear the Irishman has an exciting future ahead at Sydney.

Pearce Hanley, Gold Coast Suns

2019 was exactly the year veteran Irishman Pearce Hanley needed, as he finally managed to put together a period of solid, healthy football as a Gold Coast Sun.

After two injury ravaged years, the Suns were finally able to see what Hanley can bring to their young list, as he led the Gold Coast’s defence with class, courage and determination all season.

Playing in 16 of 22 possible games, Hanley showed his best isn’t behind him as he managed to average 20.5 disposals, 4.8 marks and 2.3 tackles a game.

One of few experienced heads in the Gold Coast side, Hanley’s ability to use ball well was critical with his teammates often relying on him to get their ball movement going out of defence.

In a tough year, Hanley was without a doubt a highlight for the Gold Coast with coach Stuart Dew using him up through the middle of the ground and even up forward for periods towards the end of the year.

This change in position would see him produce his best game of the season in round 22, as he had the ball on a string at Marvel Stadium gathering 34 disposals in the Suns 60 point loss to Hawthorn.

As the Gold Coast look towards a new era, Hanley is one man they will certainly look to keep around for 2020 and beyond as he continues to develop into a leader and have an influence on the team’s exciting young talent.

Zach Tuohy, Geelong

One of the more high profile international footballers, it was another solid year for Zach Tuohy who got over early injury setbacks to become a key pillar in Geelong’s deep finals run.

Coming into the season with a consecutive AFL games streak of 138, it would be a different start to the year as a preseason knee injury saw the 29 year old dashing defender miss the first five weeks.

Returning for the sides round six clash with West Coast, Tuohy would take a bit of time to adjust back to the pace of AFL footy as he looked to nail down a spot in a very strong Geelong defensive unit.

This would see his role change, as a bit of time through the midfield and even up forward saw the Irishman again become a fixture in the Cats side.

Renowned for his electric pace, elite skills and excellent decision making, Tuohy would find his mojo through the middle of the season with a 28 disposal performance against Port Adelaide in round 14 really spring boarding his year.

Finishing with an average of 19.4 disposals and 4.3 marks a game in 2019, Tuohy ended up being a very important cog in the Cats team.

His performance in September was particularly impressive, as he gathered 27 and 26 touches in the Semi and Preliminary Finals respectively.

One of Geelong’s best ball users, Tuohy will without a doubt be a pivotal player for the Cats as they look to make the most of this premiership window.

Mark O’Connor, Geelong

Coming into the 2019 season you would have been forgiven for not knowing young Irish defender Mark O’Connor, who had only seven AFL games to his name and was a fixture in Geelong’s VFL side.

Fast forward to the 2019 finals series and he has transformed himself into a regular in the Cat’s AFL setup and one of the most underrated small defenders in the entire competition.

Standing at 191cm and 87kg, O’Connor has been extremely valuable all year for Geelong with the coaching staff often tasking him with some of the AFL’s most dangerous small and medium sized forwards.

An extremely tough customer who’s defensive work and ability to read the play is first class, O’Connor was one of the finds of the season as he added an extra layer to Geelong’s elite defence.

Along with negating opposition forwards, O’Connor’s offensive game began to blossom as the season progressed, with his ball use and ability to get involved in attacking chains improving out of sight.

In 2019 Mark O’Connor played 23 games averaging 14 disposals, 4.5 marks and 2.7 tackles, as he became one of the games best and most reliable international players.

Now with a season of solid senior footy under his belt it is exciting times for O’Connor as he look to further develop into an elite defender and key contributor for this contending Geelong side.

Conor McKenna, Essendon

After establishing himself as an AFL standard player last year, Conor McKenna took his game to a new level in 2019 with his speed and skill seeing him become one of the game’s best running defenders.

The face of Irish football, every team is now on the lookout for the next Conor McKenna as the 23 year old dazzled crowds with his ability to run and create.

Together with Adam Saad, McKenna has made Essendon’s half back line the envy of the competition with opposition sides simply not equipped to stop their rebound from the back half.

Averaging 20.9 disposals, 2.6 marks and 1.5 tackles a game, McKenna was able to find more of the footy in 2019 as his teammates constantly looked for him to make things happen.

This would also allow him to run and carry more, as he ranked first in the competition for bounces and 15th in rebound 50’s, further proving the damage he caused on other teams.

As the season progressed we would also see McKenna venture up towards the midfield, with his round 23 match against Collingwood proving how far his game has progressed as he collected a career 35 disposals.

Easily one of Essendon’s most important players, in 2019 McKenna showed he has the potential to be a 200+ gamer player with his skillset invaluable in the modern game.

He also put on a show for the crowds, with his infusion of gaelic into the Australian game wowing the public on a number of occasions.

Having now officially broken out at AFL level, it is important for McKenna to continue developing and become the All Australian level player we all saw he is capable of being this year.

Zac Standish – AFL Europe

PSS Presents: Around the Grounds

Each week AFL Europe will take a look around the continent at the Australian Football highlights and thrilling matches. This Around the Grounds article delves into the standout performances from the weekend’s action and is presented by PSS International Removals.

ST. PETERSBURG CATS CLAIM BALTIC CUP IN THRILLING CONCLUSION

Five teams, 55 players, two umpires and one timekeeper, plus friends, families and Tallinn footy fans witnessed the first-ever Australian Football Tournament in Estonia on Saturday 5th of October 2019.

There were five teams representing four Baltic countries participated in a round-robin tournament: St. Petersburg Cats, Polish Devils, Norrtälje Dockers, Helsinki Heatseekers and the Russian Bears. It was the second-ever Baltic Cup after the first edition of the tournament took place in September 2017 in St. Petersburg where, in the final, the St. Petersburg Cats won against the Helsinki Heatseekers. 

This edition of the tournament also saw a number of ‘firsts’ as the Russian Bears played Norrtälje for the first time, and it was the first club level tournament for the Devils after their participation in this year’s Euro Cup. 

Each team played four games each, but by the end of the day, the winners still couldn’t be decided by points after the Cats and Dockers both finished with three wins, so it was decided by the teams’ head-to-head record. After that tie-breaker, it was the St. Petersburg Cats who ended up coming out on top after defeating the Norrtälje Dockers by 17 points. 

That wasn’t the only thrilling bit of action throughout the day, as the Bears and Heatseekers also played out an entertaining draw, with both teams finishing on 5.3.33 when the final siren sounded.

“The tournament location, beautiful Tallinn, was the perfect city for all teams to travel. We were really lucky with the weather, so the playing conditions at the Nike Arena near A.Le Coq Arena were really good. The balanced teams made the competition very intense and interesting… For the intensity and the nerve of the games, the tournament felt amazing until the very end,” said tournament MVP Pavel Aman from the St. Petersburg Cats.

It was a successful day of football that celebrated the passion that the Baltic region of Europe has for Australian Football, and hopefully, there are plenty more Baltic Cup’s to come as it continues to get bigger and better. 

Final standings:

  1. St. Petersburg Cats
  2. Norrtälje Dockers
  3. Helsinki Heatseekers
  4. Russian Bears
  5. Polish Devils

Team of the Tournament:

Maciej Burek (Polish Devils), Toni Kinnari (Helsinki Heatseekers), Buster Sund (Norrtälje Dockers), Ilya Levitskiy (Russian Bears), and Pavel Aman (St.Petersburg Cats).

To see all the finals scores and statistics, head to https://www.facebook.com/events/2186934054751460/permalink/2265679236876941/.

 

BAYONNE START CNFA SEASON WITH BIG WIN

On the weekend, the new CNFA season began with a number of games taking place across France. One of those matches saw Stade Toulouse take on the Bayonne Toreadors in sunny conditions as both teams looked their season off to a perfect start. It was the Toreadors who started the better of the two teams as they came out firing in the first quarter. Unable to match the intesnity and fast ball movement by Bayonne, Stade Toulouse only managed the two behinds in the opening quarter. Up the other end of the ground, the Toreadors were clinical as they kicked seven goals to lead by 44 points at the first break. In the second quarter, Stade Toulouse started to win more of the football, and after a tough opening quarter, they managed to score a couple of goals. However, the Toreadors continued their dominance in their attacking half, and even though Toulouse were more competitive in the second quarter, Bayonne managed to extend their lead to 45 points at the main break. The third quarter was similar to the second, with both teams battling hard, with a few bumps and bruises showing how physical the match was. Both teams continued to hit the scoreboard at regular intervals, but again it was Bayonne who extended their lead, albeit by just a point to lead by 46 points with one quarter remaining. Bayonne continued to control the game in the final quarter, and when the siren sounded, they had won by 48 points. However, Stade Toulouse showed that, apart from being outplayed in the opening quarter, they can well and truly match their opposition. Keep an eye on both these teams in what is set to be an exciting CNFA season.

Final Scores (CNFA)

Men’s: Stade Toulouse (68) defeated by Bayonne Toreadors (116).

 

STUTTGART TAKE HOME NECKAR CUP IN GERMANY

On Saturday, the 2019 edition of the Neckar Cup took place in Esslingen, Germany, as three closely matched sides travelled to play in the second ever edition of the tournament. The three sides that travelled for the Cup were the Stuttgart Emus, Freiburg Taipans (who recently merged to form the Zuffenhausen Giants) and the Winterthur Lions who attended all the way from Switzerland. All three teams were even matched across the day, but in the end it was the Stuttgart Emus who won the cup as they were just too strong for both the Lions and Taipans as the day progressed. It was an exciting occasion for all involved as they look to continue growing the game and hopefully the Neckar Cup continues for many years to come.

WEST CLARE WAVES PREMIERS OF AFL IRELAND WOMEN’S

The West Clare Waves have come out on top in the 2019 Harvey Norman AFL Ireland Women’s Premiership to add to their Super 7’s title won earlier in the season. On an action-packed finals day with four teams competing across three games, the first game saw the Cork Vikings and Dublin Angels battle it out in the Preliminary Final, with the Vikings coming out on top by 40 points to book a spot in the Grand Final. Up next was the Plate Final, and the closest match of the day saw the Cill Dara Sharks win by 14 points against the Angels. The day concluded with the Grand Final between the Waves and Vikings. After going through the whole season undefeated, the Waves continued their impressive form as they were too strong for the Vikings, going on to record a massive 91-point victory to claim another premiership on a big day showcasing the best footy on offer in Ireland.

Final Scores (AFL Ireland Women)

Women’s: Preliminary Final – Dublin Angels (4. 1. 25) defeated by Cork Vikings (10. 5. 65).
Plate Final – Cill Dara Sharks (10. 6. 66) defeated Dublin Angels (8. 3. 51).
Grand Final – West Clare Waves (13. 13. 91) defeated Cork Vikings (0. 0. 0)

 

PSS International Removals have helped people move from the UK to Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in the world for over 37 years. They offer friendly advice, no matter whether you’re sending a few boxes or a whole house removal including car. For more information call 020 8686 7733 or visit the PSS Removals website.

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Umpire Spotlight – James Olle

Before this year, James Olle had not umpired since 2003, but his experience and knowledge of the game has allowed him to become a key part of the AFL Europe umpiring team.

As a 14-year-old, James decided to take up boundary umpiring – a common way to begin for many – after seeing some posters at his school in Ararat, Victoria, that was promoting boundary umpiring. As a long-distance runner, James found that he was pretty good on the boundary, and with the fact that he earnt a bit of money plus he found something he enjoyed, it made sense to continue this for a couple of years.

After two years, plus a year overseas as part of a school exchange, James came back to Australia and decided to become a field umpire, going on to complete both the Level 1 and 2 accreditation that allowed him to umpire at a senior level.

James moved to Melbourne from the country for university and in the process, got invited to spend the 2000 season with the VFL Umpire Academy. He, unfortunately, didn’t get a “coveted” VFL appointment but continued for a number of seasons in the Essendon District Football League and Victoria Amateur Football Association.

He then made a decision to follow another interest that he had since his childhood and restarted playing field hockey. As that clashed with umpiring on Saturday afternoons, he put the whistle away in 2003.

James Olle receiving the Golden Whistle trophy at the 2019 Champions League from 2018’s Winner Katrina Stopinski

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

That was a while ago, but the kind of experience James developed throughout his time as boundary and with a number of high-quality umpiring groups means that now he is back on the field with the whistle looking to help assist any up and coming umpires within Europe.

One thing that differs with James to many umpires, not just in Europe, but also back in Australia, is the fact that he is still heavily involved with a club and tries to play whenever possible.

“I am excited to be back umpiring. Last year I was aware of some opportunities but found it hard to stay in the loop so to solve it I started a footy club in Geneva, and this helped launch our new Swiss league and gave me somewhere to regularly umpire,” Olle said.

“I know I am not as sharp or as fit as I used to be, so I think my best days are behind me! Certainly, the desire to umpire big games always remains but after such a long break from umpiring, wherever umpires are needed I’m always eager to jump in. The game is growing so rapidly in Europe, and, with that, the need for a bigger pool of officials. I hope to assist with the development of umpiring in Europe and share my experiences with new umpires.”

James, along with a number of other football fans in Switzerland, started the Geneva Jets towards the end of 2018, and they competed in the inaugural AFL Switzerland League in 2019.

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

Before this year, he had never played the game, but now he plays as often as he can, usually pulling on the Jets guernsey before putting on the fluoro yellow umpiring top as he officiates up to three games a day during the summer for the Switzerland league.

James was involved at last week’s European Championships, running with a number of AFL Europe umpires across a range of disciplines, from field to boundary and goals. He was also fortunate enough to run with AFL umpire Matt Stevic and also attended an umpiring course with Stevic and fellow AFL umpire, Brett Rosebury, an experience that he and his fellow AFL Europe umpires will remember for a long time.

He also umpired at this year’s AFL Europe Champions League, including the men’s semi-final between the West London Wildcats and the Belfast Redbacks, where James was awarded the Golden Whistle.

It appears that James is excited to continue growing the game in Switzerland, where he has lived since 2006, and with his experience not just in umpiring with the game in general, the sport is in good hands and has a bright future ahead with James around.

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

2019 European Championships Tournament Review

After three days of thrilling football, it all came down to the women’s and men’s Grand Final’s on Saturday afternoon to decide the winners of the 2019 European Championships. In the women’s final, it was the Irish Banshees against the German Eagles, while the men’s draw saw the Danish Vikings battle the Great Britain Bulldogs.

With clear weather on Wednesday and Thursday, the weather took a sharp turn for the weekend’s games as the temperature dropped and the rain started to fall. Despite the weather, all the teams were as keen as ever to play, and it was intriguing to see how the teams adapted to the new conditions.

Every team played a carnival-style format of 20-minute halves on Wednesday, before the men switched to 20-minute quarters for their semi-finals on Thursday, while the women kept playing 20-minute halves.

However, Saturday saw all games played in the traditional format of 20-minute quarters, allowing for one big final day of football at Wimbledon Park to conclude the 2019 European Championships.

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

Placing matches:

Before those two finals took place, the third-place matches were played on pitch one with the Irish Warriors playing the Croatian Knights in the men’s, while the Great Britain Swans played an AFL London team, the Wandsworth Demons, in the women’s.

After just missing out on reaching the Grand Final due to points differential, the Swans were looking to finish their tournament with an impressive performance in this exhibition game.

A young Swans team made the most of their fast start as they quickly gained control of the match and didn’t look back from there as they finished their tournament with a 78-point victory. After their success at the 2016 tournament, the Swans will be slightly disappointed at their performance but will have gained plenty with a young squad getting some valuable international experience.

Following the women’s third-place match was the battle for third in the men’s between the Irish Warriors and the Croatian Knights. After both teams lost out in the semi-finals, they were hoping to finish their 2019 European Championships with the bronze.

It was predicted to be an interesting clash of styles, with the physicality of the Croatian’s key to the way they play, while the Irish rely on their ball use and direct play.

However, after a demanding couple of days, the Knights struggled to keep pace with the Warriors, as the Irish dominated the majority of the game on their way to secure third place at this years European Championships.

The Irish were hoping to challenge for the championship after finishing second at this year’s Euro Cup but came up against a strong GB Bulldogs side in the semi-finals, so had to settle with third place in the end. However, they will be happy with how they dealt with a number of challenges across the competition.

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

For Croatia, they just couldn’t match Denmark in their semi-final but showed in their pool that they continue to improve as they made Grand finalists, the Bulldogs, work really hard for the win in their game.

Over on pitch two, the sixth-placed German Eagles men’s team took on AFL London team the Wimbledon Hawks as the Eagles looked to finish their tournament on a positive note.

With muddy and wet weather arriving in London on Friday, Saturday’s games were much more contested affairs than the games on Wednesday and Thursday, and in this contest, it was the AFL London team that came out on top.

The Eagles were hoping to finish their tournament on a high, but with a depleted squad as a result of injuries throughout the tournament, they couldn’t match an impressive Hawks team who adjusted to the conditions better.

Despite not recording a win throughout the tournament, the Eagles will have learnt a lot, with a large portion of their squad playing the 18-a-side format for the first time.

In the fifth-place match between the French Coqs and another AFL London team, the Wandsworth Demons men’s, the opening quarter was a physical contest, with neither side giving an inch. However, the running game style and overall endurance of the French team started to show in the second quarter as they gained control and ran out comfortable winners to finish their tournament off with an impressive victory.

The French played some entertaining football, but just lacked a bit of physicality and adaptability to the 18-a-side format in their pool games against Croatia and Great Britain, as they eventually finished fifth following a big win over Germany in the placing match on Thursday.

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

Women’s Grand Final:

With all the final placing matches complete, it was time for the two Grand Finals.

In the women’s, the undefeated Irish Banshees took on the German Eagles as the Banshees were looking to go one better then they did in 2016. After winning the 2019 Euro Cup, the Banshees were also looking to claim all the major AFL Europe tournaments for the year.

Having won all of their four pool games in a comprehensive style, the Banshees were looking to finish the tournament with five wins from as many games, while the German Eagles reached the Grand Final after finishing with one win, equal with the Great Britain Swans, but had a superior points difference.

The Banshees were favourites, but the Eagles were hoping to cause an upset and make their opponents work hard for the title. However, as they had from the start of their opening game, the Banshees dominated this match as their midfield kept winning the centre clearances and managed to lock the ball in their forward half.

Despite a strong defence, the Eagles struggled to create any dangerous attacking play and the Irish defence held strong.

As the game went on, the Irish continued to extend their lead, and when the final siren sounded, they had recorded a 102-point win to claim the 2019 European Championships in style. The Banshees ended up going through the whole competition without conceding a point in what was a perfect tournament for the team.

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

 

Men’s Grand Final:

The final game of the tournament was the men’s Grand Final between the Great Britain Bulldogs and the Danish Vikings, with the Bulldogs looking to go back-to-back after their success at the same competition in 2016.

However, they were coming up against a strong Vikings team that had been impressive in their pool games and their semi-final against Croatia.

The opening quarter was a tough contest, with neither team able to get control of the match in very muddy and wet conditions as the rain continued to fall. At the first break, it was the Vikings up by just a point with both teams kicking a goal each.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs started to adjust to the weather better than the Vikings and were more efficient going forward, as they kicked two goals while keeping Denmark scoreless to lead by 13 points at the main break.

Just like the start, the third quarter was a battle against the weather as much as it was between the two teams, with both defences standing strong as the Bulldogs were the only team to kick a goal and extend their lead to 23-points heading into the last quarter.

The Bulldogs continued their dominance in this match as they extended their lead in the fourth quarter. The Vikings did manage to get their second goal of the game, but a quick reply from the Bulldogs put to rest any potential comeback, and it was the Great Britain Bulldogs who claimed a resounding 35-point win to claim back-to-back European Championships.

Of course, this kind of event wouldn’t be possible without the support and help from everyone involved, so thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, umpires, medics, volunteers, sponsors and fans for making this year’s 2019 European Championship such a success.

Photo by Danny Radis Photography

 

Final Standings

Women’s Competition:

1. Irish Banshees

2. German Eagles

3. Great Britain Bulldogs

 

Men’s Competition:

1. Great Britain Bulldogs

2. Danish Vikings

3. Irish Warriors

4. Croatian Knights

5. French Coqs

6. German Eagles

 

Golden Whistle – Dan Wild

 

Women’s Team of the Tournament:

Backline: Raffi Jones (GB), Annika Rode (Germany), Maria Quirke (Ireland).

Half Back Line: Lottie Colquhoun (GB), Katherine Franklin (GB), Elisabeth Maxeiner (Germany).

Centre: Michelle Farrell (Ireland), Mairead Coyne (Ireland), Chloe Hall (GB).

Half Forward Line: Mairead Seoighe (Ireland), Marie-Louise Winkler (Germany), Denise Heckmann (Germany).

Forward Line: Ionna Kapasaki (Germany), Kate Flood (Captain, Ireland), Maria Byrne (Ireland).

Followers: Aine Tighe (Ireland), Theresia Meißner (Germany), Dervla Higgins (Ireland).

Interchange: Marie Keating (Ireland), Jen Taylor (GB), Joanne Doonan (Ireland), Martha Williams (GB).

Coach: Michael Currane (Ireland).

 

Men’s Team of the Tournament:

Backline: Niall Down (Ireland), Kasper Jonck Hjuler (Denmark), Myles Hudson (GB).

Half Back Line: Andrew Cochran (GB), Florian Naumann (Germany), Owain Ryland (GB).

Centre: Martin Shannon (Ireland), Mikkel Kjoge (Captain, Denmark), Clement Decaux (France).

Half Forward Line: Arnaud Uzabiaga (France), Josip Habljak (Croatia), Jack Coughlan (GB).

Forward Line: Michael Sharp (GB), Mikkel Broe Hjerpe (Denmark), Phil Evermann (Germany).

Followers: Paul O’Halloran (Ireland), George Dibble (GB), Mathias Bernfried Biron (Denmark).

Interchange: Liam Burns (Ireland), Josip Karadza (Croatia), Aksel Wedel Bang Jensen (Denmark), Dino Sulic (Croatia).

Coach: Dean Thomas (GB).

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

2019 European Championships Day 2 Recap

Day Two of the 2019 European Championships decided the final standings for the women heading into their Grand Final on Saturday, while in the men’s competition, the semi-finals took place to decide both their Grand Final and final placing matches.

With an early start for some teams there was some sore, tired bodies entering Wimbledon Park it seemed, along with some dewy grass on a brisk October morning.

This wasn’t noticed right from the first bounce of the women’s game, with all players going just as hard at the ball as they did on day 1 and both the men and women showing great skill by hand and foot.

Women’s

Just like yesterday, each team played the other team once, so after the two days, each team have played four games and these pool games have now decided the top two sides who are set to contest in the Grand Final on Saturday.

First up today saw the Great Britain Swans play the German Eagles over on pitch one, where after a great performance on Day 1 from Germany today the Swans came back with revenge and gained an important victory.

Using their strength and long kicks, the Eagles looked in control at times and are an exciting team to watch in their Euro Champs debut.

In this game, however, the pace and quick hands of the Swans got the better of the opposition and started Great Britain off to an enjoyable start on Day 2 winning 8-1.

After that, the Swans finished off their pool matches against the Irish Banshees.

The Swans battled hard and through their tackling pressure were able to gain mainly holding the ball calls against the Irish and held down well in defence early.

Despite a strong display of effort from the British girls the Irish Banshees were again at their classy best.

With countless inside 50’s and shots on goal, Ireland controlled the game in their forward half and as the game went along their accuracy improved leading them to a large 58 point victory.

The final pool match in the women’s draw saw the German Eagles play against the Irish Banshees as the Irish Banshees were looking to continue their unbeaten run and the Germans eyeing off a spot in the women’s final.

The Eagles used their spirit and support from their loud men’s team to go hard at all contests and played some eye catching footy at times in this one.

Although a valiant effort from Germany they were outshone by the class of this Banshees side who made it straight through to the European Championships final, while the Eagles will join them for an exciting rematch.

Day 2 was an eventful day for the women’s competition, involving chase down tackles, snap goals and big marks, was a great standard and spectacle.

Expect more of the same in day 3 this Saturday to find out who will take home the 2019 European Championships trophy.

The GB Swans will take on the Wandsworth Demons at 9am, with the showdown between the Irish Banshees and the German Eagles for top spot taking place at 1pm.

Men’s

The men’s side of the competition turned up the heat, with the shorter games of Wednesday now into full match length of 20 minute quarters.

Each of the men’s sides battled it out using their fitness across the longer format in a game each on this Day 2.

First up for the men were the in form Danish Vikings, taking on the brute strength of the Croatian Knights.

Holding their own in defence and use of body in the midfield, Croatia kept the game on level terms to start.

The Vikings soon got on a roll with quick clearances in this one and never looked back.

The Vikings overcame the Knights 59-4 in the end asserting a real statement win for the men’s division of the competition.

In one of the most thrilling matches of the men’s competition thus far, the Irish Warriors and Great Britain Bulldogs battled it out in a close match.

Hard at the ball and with quick hands, the Warriors through string defence kept themselves in the game, while also playing exciting footy.

While the Bulldogs, with their pace and marking ability were able to gain countless inside 50’s, putting real pressure on the opposition.

In a real body on body affair and some big hits, the Bulldogs found a way to convert when heading forward and with a real lifting victory for the side prevailed over the Irish by three goals, 48-30.

The final game of day 2 showcased some very talented players and a chance for both the French Coqs and German Eagles to finish off the competition on a high.

The Eagles showed they were up for a challenge early using their size and strength factor over the French and had many great intercept marks with many balls heading forward.

Although an effort filled German team was on display the speed and overall fitness of the Coqs helped them create a great amount of inside 50’s and convert well on the scoreboard.

Finishing 5th overall in the competition, the French Coqs ran away with a huge 63-2 win, putting Germany in the 6th place spot.

With extreme amounts of big hits, quick clearances and sublime foot skills day 2 made for great viewing in the men’s competition and come day 3 on Saturday all six teams will be fired up for their final matches.

The 6th placed German Eagles and 5th placed French Coqs will take on AFL London outfits the Wimbledon Hawks and Wandsworth Demons at 9am and 11am respectively on Pitch 2.

The Croatian Knights will take on a strong Irish Warriors squad at 11am on Pitch 1, before the reigning champions the GB Bulldogs take on dark horses the Danish Vikings in the Men’s grand final at 3pm.

Liam McAllion  – AFL Europe