2022 Champions League Team Previews: Part Five

After a long, Covid-induced hiatus, AFL Europe’s Champions League, hosted in tandem with AFL Netherlands, is finally returning to Amsterdam. As always, some of Europe’s most talented Aussie Rules outfits will be putting their best footy on display as they compete for club champion status across the continent.

This year marks the sixth edition of the tournament, and the 9-a-side matchups will all take place on Saturday the 9th of April in what will be an action packed day of competition. With the event less than a month away, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For part five of our team previews, from the men’s division, we take a look at England’s North London Lions. Additionally, from the women’s division, we spoke with Ireland’s Cork Vikings and tournament hosts, the Amsterdam Devils.

Men’s Competiton

North London Lions

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

We qualified for the Champions league by winning the AFL London Premiership of 2021 – in an absolute swamp fest in Wimbledon – defeating the West London Wildcats by 8 points.

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 were able to get up to Manchester for the Movember Cup at the end of 2021 and managed to take home the chocolates there too! Really excited for getting up to Birmingham Uni for a Quad series in March, and we’ll be heading out to Cambridge the week before Amsterdam too, it’s all happening!

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

We’re a tight unit, but that’s not without getting some fresh blood involved in the trip too. It’ll be the biggest Pre-season trip ever for the Lions, with 50+ coming over for the weekend. We’ve picked 9 GB including a few rookies, and that’s purely on merit and talent – and also based on what those players achieved last year; as well as the desire they’ve shown to be selected for this great competition.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

All 16 are fairly explosive, not that we’re keeping the cards close to our chest – but each player in this side can play 2-3 different roles on the ground, so that’s exciting as a coach.

What’s the key strength of your team? 

Plenty of these lads have experienced playing in a grand final together, they know what each individual player can bring, especially when under pressure. We’re a calm and level-headed bunch who have fun on the field, and the chemistry will be there for everyone to see.

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

The boys are absolutely buzzing. It’s a first for us since 2015/16 and it’s fair to say last time we probably put the Footy day second – but this year is different, it’s a different attitude amongst the playing group. It’s absolutely at the top of our list to be Champions of Europe, and to go into the season with that thought should help us strive to go back-to-back.

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

We’re just still trying to comprehend the fact that there’s over 50 of us coming along. The backing and support has been pretty wild and we’re very excited.

Women’s Competition

Cork Vikings

How did you qualify for this year’s championship league?

We defeated the Ulster Kookaburras in the grand final of the AFL Ireland Women’s Premiership last season in a hard-fought battle.

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

Our team competed in the Gallia Cup in Paris at the beginning of March, and by combining forces with four players from Zagreb Panthers (becoming ‘Vipers’ for the day) we managed to come joint 3rd/4th place with the Amsterdam Devils!

What can we expect to see from your team this Champion’s League?

You can expect to see a team of enthusiastic and determined players, ready to bring their A-game to the league.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

We have a great blend of new and more experienced players, which creates quite an exciting group. Along with the experienced players Maria Quirke and Marie “Keats” Keating, there are players who have been playing less than a year who are making quite the impact, including Sorcha Herlihy and Shannon Stevenson.

What’s the key strength of your team?

Teamwork is a major strength for the Cork Vikings; with cooperation on and off the pitch, we always have each other’s backs!

Where do you rank competing in the Champions league in the AFL Europe calendar and what does that mean for the team?

Being able to compete in the Champion’s League is a huge honour for the Vikings, as we reached the Irish semi-finals twice before, but never managed to make it this far! We have built up a strong team that we are hugely proud of, so we hope to display the talent in our team to its fullest extent during the competition.

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

Last summer, the Vikings were without a coach and so our brother team, The Leeside Lions, took us under their wing and we trained with them all season. They were an incredible help to us throughout the season and supported us in every game! Massive thanks to Aussie Sull, Ian Sull, Chris & Dom for all their support. Love you guys!!

Amsterdam Devil’s 

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

As the hosting nation for Champions League, we secured a spot for our growing women’s team here in the Netherlands, who currently all play under the Amsterdam Devils banner.

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 chance to participate in the Gallia Cup in Paris at the beginning of March which was a fantastic day of sport. We finished joint 3rd/4th out of 12 teams and lost in the Semi Finals to the Cork Vikings. This was the team’s first tournament in almost two years, with very little competitive football opportunities in recent times due to Covid. All the hard work and training paid off on the day. The sheer joy, passion and determination shown by the team on and off the pitch was incredible. This weekend we head to Hamburg with the Men’s team to stretch the legs once more before the 9th of April.

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

One of our team mantras is “show up, show off & enjoy the show”. We show up at training to learn. We show up on the pitch to help out a teammate. We show off these skills and behaviours both on and off the pitch. And above all, we get out there and enjoy the show because if we are not having fun – then what’s the point! We hope to #showupshowoffenjoytheshow at Champions League!

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

For us, it’s really the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. No particular players to call out, just great teamwork driving great results over the past year.

What’s the key strength of your team? 

The sense of community we’ve created the past year both on and off the football field has made us a much stronger team. Also, a shout out to our Coach (Steve) who’s been on this journey with us from Day 1 at Champions League three years ago. His belief in us from the very start is a huge factor in where we are as a club and as a team today.

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

This will be our second time at Champions League. Our first outing (3 years ago) was shortly after we started the women’s team in the Netherlands and we could just about field a team. We have two members from the original squad out playing this Champions League who are determined to make their mark on the scoreboard this time round 😉

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

We’ll be wearing temporary Amsterdam tattoos on the day but if we win, one girl in particular (who also likes a good shoey), will be making that ink more permanent.  

We’ve also become known for our “Nutbush” warm up before big games and we look forward to doing it (everyone welcome) on the big stage at CL.