2022 ANZAC Cup Weekend Review

The ANZAC Cup returned to AFL Europe’s events calendar in triumphant fashion this past weekend. The 12th edition of the contest was as competitive as ever and saw both the Australian Spirit men’s and women’s teams emerge victorious against their French counterparts. The spirit of the ANZAC’s we were there to remember, was ever-present throughout both matches and every player in attendance should be proud of the way they carried themselves.

The ANZAC Cup weekend serves as an opportunity for Australians and French alike to reignite and reaffirm the bond they formed over 100 years ago in the town of Villers-Bretonneux, France, which served as a pivotal location along the Western Front during the first World War. Proceedings kicked off on Saturday when members of both the Australian and French footy sides put on an AusKick style, Aussie rules tutorial session for the children of Villers-Bretonneux. Over forty children were exposed to the game and taught how to kick, mark and handball in a fun and friendly atmosphere. The session served as the perfect way to begin the weekend and renew Australia’s connection to the town – sharing the game we all love with the next generation of French footballers, and let’s just say, we saw quite a few future stars in the making.

Following the AusKick session, our footballers spent Saturday afternoon under the tutelage of former Brisbane Lion and current Australian Spirit coach, Justin Clarke. Justin took both sides for a short and sharp training session to polish their skills ahead of the following day’s games. The short training was a great opportunity for our footballers to get to know each other, as many of them had never previously met, and share stories of their personal connections to World War One and the town of Villers-Bretonneux.

Saturday evening saw our athletes receive their ANZAC Cup jerseys at a small presentation put on by our French friends in the neighbouring town of Corbie. During the ceremony, the Australian Spirit captains were officially announced; congratulations to Sebastian Permain and Angi Crispe for earning the honour of captain for the men’s and women’s teams respectively. Seb and Angi were selected because of the way they represented the Australian Spirit both in the lead up to the weekend and throughout Saturday’s events. Both individuals were incredibly encouraging, helpful and genial – quickly distinguishing themselves as leaders.

Sunday was gameday and although we were there for more important reasons, the competitive fire was lit underneath both the French and Australian outfits as they prepared for the first bounce. As is tradition, the two matches were preceded by a formal ANZAC Day ceremony with a rendition of ‘The Last Post’ on bugle, a minutes silence and both national anthems played prior to the games commencing.

The day began with the women’s match-up and expectations were high but both outfits rose to the occasion and put on a show for the many local spectators who had come down to get a taste of footy. It was the French who came out firing, jumping to an early lead and keeping the Spirit goalless through the first term, but the Australians managed to claw their way back into the contest thanks to some relentless tackling from Katren Rogers and Anna McGlade. At the final break, just three-points separated the two sides, Australia holding a narrow advantage. The final term was a different story however, with the French finally faltering under the Australians pressure and the Spirit able to convert with more consistency, almost tripling their three-quarter time score. When the final siren sounded, Australia had managed to build a 22-point lead. The final score was France 1.7 (11) defeated by the Australian Spirit 4.11 (35). Australia’s Anna McGlade was awarded best on ground for an imperious performance despite dislocating her finger in the first term.

After the women had put on such a skilled, fiery and competitive display, the pressure was on the men to match it. On this occasion, it was the Spirit who came out firing. Using a strong wind to their advantage, Australia came into the first break two goals to the good, however, the lead didn’t last long. The French came at the Aussies with a vengeance, swinging the momentum and turning the game on its head from the second the ball was bounced to being the second term. At half-time, France held a two-point advantage which it was able to extend to a two-goal advantage at the final break. With the Spirit reeling, coach Justin Clarke, captain Seb Permain and forward Matt Hamilton stirred the side with a number of inspiring speeches and boy did the Aussies respond. Against a strong wind, the Australians fought to gain the momentum with an unabating persistence. Despite goals from the French and missed opportunities at the other end, the Spirit were able to will themselves to victory thanks to a last minute, lead-changing goal. The final score was France 8.11 (59) defeated by the Australian Spirit 8.13 (61). Bradley Geddes of the Australian Spirt was awarded best on ground for his countless defensive efforts, holding the Aussies together when they were on the brink of defeat.

All athletes, from both countries, are to be commended for the way the two matches were played. Despite the air of competition, the foremost factors present throughout the contests were mateship, unity and good-will.

Following Sunday’s games and subsequent celebrations, everyone’s attention turned to the weekend’s main event – The Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, located at the site of one of the fiercest battlefields in World War One. Monday morning’s Dawn Service was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Australian Spirt to come together and share a moment of remembrance. Each player who was in attendance possessed various familial connections to the ANZAC’s, making for an emotional morning paying respect to those who sacrificed their tomorrow for our today. Following the service, we had the privilege of exploring the Sir John Monash Centre, located next to the memorial. The interactive museum was equal parts amazing and harrowing and is a must-visit for any Australian seeking to gain further insight and perspective into the horrors of the first World War.

Finally, following our visit to the Sir John Monash Centre, we bid our host families teary goodbyes before going our separate ways. We cannot thank the people of Villers-Bretonneux enough, especially our many host families, for welcoming us to their town with such generous hospitality and kindness. What was already a robust, undying bond, only grew stronger. Additionally, an enormous thank-you is also in order to our French liaison and President of the ABA, Xavier Graux, the French national women’s and men’s Aussie rules sides, the members of the Australian Spirit squads, our umpires and the many volunteers who without, this weekend wouldn’t have been possible. We thank-you for all of your help and look forward to renewing and maintaining our connection in 2023.

Lest We Forget.

2022 ANZAC Cup Preview

ANZAC Day holds a special place in the hearts of all Australians. It’s a time when we reflect on our past and remember the brave souls who have laid down their lives in protection of our country. On ANZAC Day in particular, we recall those soldiers who fought along the Western front with our European allies during the first World War.

During that time back in 1918, on April 24th, the small french town of Villers-Bretonneux was besieged upon and eventually overrun by German-led Axis powers. One day later, the Allies swiftly retook the town as part of a counter-strike in order to gain a protective foothold over the city of Amiens. The success of the counter-strike was largely due to the efforts of the 13th, 14th & 15th Allied brigades – forces made up primarily of Australian soldiers.

That morning of April 25th, 1918, marked exactly three years since the ANZAC’s landed on the beaches of Gallipoli. To successfully re-take Villers-Bretonneux and hand the small village back to the French on such a significant military date for Australia was a testament to the determination, grit, mateship and fighting spirit displayed by the ANZAC’s throughout the first World War. Unfortunately, the bloodshed that came with the endeavour saw 2,473 Australians lose their lives in the french town.

And so, over 100 years later, we continue to take time to reflect on and remember all those involved in that fateful day. The ANZAC Cup is not an event that merits flamboyance or superfluous gestures in the name of victory, but is a time when, despite the somber tone of the occasion, Australian and French Aussie Rules footballers come together to honour those we lost by attempting to emulate their determination, grit, mateship and fighting spirit on the footy field.

This weekend, for the 12th time, both the men’s and women’s Australian Spirit and French International footy sides will clash to determine the winner of the ANZAC Cup. With the two matches serving as the weekend’s main event, those attending will also be making a pilgrimage to the famed Sir John Monash Centre, putting on an ‘AusKick’ style footy clinic for the town’s school children and attending the dawn service on Monday morning at the Australian National Memorial.

The two games will be as hotly contested as ever, with both sides excited to contest the ANZAC Cup for the first time since Covid hit. The French women’s team will be looking to break Australia’s streak after losing to the Spirit by just six points back in 2019. While in the men’s game, it will be the Australian’s looking to make amends for their 2019 display, which saw them lose to the French Coqs by 42 points.

As always, the beginning of the matches will be bookmarked by both the Australian and French national anthems, as well as a rendition of the famous ‘last post’ on bugle horn.

Both countries squads are primed and ready to go – not just for the matches at Stadium Timmerman – but for the weekend as a whole. AFL Europe looks forward to hosting and can’t thank our many volunteers and host families enough for welcoming us to their town – we can’t wait to see you!

2022 Champions League Tournament Review

After Champions League was absent from AFL Europe’s events calendar for two years due to the global pandemic, seeing it’s grand return to Amsterdam this past weekend was a sight for sore eyes.

Eleven men’s teams and ten women’s teams arrived at Amsterdam’s Sportpark de Eendracht with the hopes of leaving as champions of Europe. In what was the sixth edition of the competition, with over fifty matches played across five fields and a live stream going out worldwide, the annual nine-a-side tournament went off without a hitch.

Despite the temperamental weather, the standard of competition was incredibly high – a perfect representation of how far footy in Europe has come and how much work was put in by our clubs over the Covid-induced break. Overall, Europe’s premier Aussie Rules club-based competition returned in amazing fashion.

Women’s Competition

Group stages

Without 2019’s champions, the West Clare Waves, returning to the competition, the women’s side of the draw was difficult to predict. It also saw the debut of Northern Ireland’s East Coast Eagles, who came in as the greatest unknown of all. Spectators were enthralled to see Europe’s strongest female footballers take centre stage and each and every match-up didn’t disappoint.

Pool A consisted of the Wandsworth Demons, Norrtalje Dockers, South West Suns, Amsterdam Devils and East Coast Eagles. Experienced CL campaigners, the Wandsworth Demons set the tone of the group with a number of dominant performances. However, much like the Fitzpatrick Cup earlier in the year, it was the Northern Irish who took control of the group. Northern Ireland’s East Coast Eagles dispatched each of their four opponents with ease to go through the group stage undefeated. The Devil’s were honourable hosts, determined to play with pride on their home turf and despite a tough day results wise, showed plenty of promise which portends to some strong CL displays in the coming years. The remaining sides battled on valiantly but at the end of the day, East Coast and Wandsworth booked their tickets to the semi-finals.

Pool B, made up of the Cork Vikings, Oxford University, Rheinland Lions, Sesvete Redlegs and Edinburgh Bloods, was picked to be one of the most competitive pools of the day and it didn’t let us down. As is becoming the standard, the Irish Cork Vikings asserted their dominance and went through undefeated, but the rest of the pool was extremely close. Oxford’s winning run finally came to an end, Sesvete showed off its relentless Croatian spirit and the Lions were ferocious at the contest, but at the end of the round robin matchups it was the Edinburgh Bloods who joined Cork and locked in a semi-final berth.

Finals

There was an air of inevitability as the women’s finals commenced. Wandsworth were tasked with a meeting against Cork while Edinburgh tried its luck against the fearsome East Coast Eagles. An all-Irish Grand Final was on the cards and it’s exactly what we ended up with. However, that match-up didn’t come easily. Wandsworth reminded everyone why it’s London’s premier women’s club team by putting up an honourable fight and forcing the Vikings to play their best footy after falling behind at half time. In the end however, Cork was simply too strong.  The second semi-final wasn’t quite as close but the Bloods are to be commended for their efforts in front of a packed grandstand. The East Coast Eagles simply refused to be outdone and ran away with the game after a strong start.

The Grand Final was a tale of two halves, bookmarked by a two-to-three goal wind blowing directly down the pitch. Having been the dominant force all day long, the Eagles came out swinging and drew first blood with back-to-back goals in the early stages of the game. The crowd really got behind the tournament debutants as a fairy tale first CL win got closer and closer to becoming a reality. However, the dream run wasn’t to be. With the wind blowing behind them, the Vikings sailed home, overrunning the Eagles to emerge victorious and take home a first CL victory. Cork were the deserving winners, ending the day undefeated across all of its matches.

Men’s Competition

Group Stages

With eleven sides prepared to battle it out for the win, the men’s side of the tournament was split into three pools. As with the women’s side of the draw, the only CL debutants were Northern Ireland’s Mid Ulster Scorpions, who came into the competition with high hopes despite their lack of experience.

Pool A consisted of tournament hosts and returning winners, the Amsterdam Devils, as well as the Berlin AFC Crocodiles, Sesvete Double Blues and Prague Dragons. There was plenty of feeling on the pitch, with no club holding back and committing fully to their respective ambitions. Prague toiled away valiantly but was ultimately bested by a strong pool. Berlin in particular, served as pool A’s surprise package, proving to be the most difficult match-up for the ever-present Devils, who topped the pool and went undefeated – locking themselves in for a semi final.

Pool B was heralded as the group of death leading into the tournament. Consisting of the South Dublin Swans, Paris Cockerels, Norrtalje Dockers and Mid Ulster Scorpions. Two Irish teams, the Europe-renowned Paris Cockerels and Sweden’s defiant Dockers – impossible to pick a top two. In the end, Norrtalje had a tough day out, failing to register a win but it wasn’t for a lack of trying – it was simply outclassed by some of the competition’s strongest teams. Mid Ulster, Paris and South Dublin each finished with two wins, meaning one club was going to miss out on the top two despite only losing once. After a nervous wait, the Swans were the unfortunate squad who found themselves stuck in third place. Mid Ulster ended up topping the group, with Paris scraping into second and earning a semi final birth based on percentage.

Finally, Pool C, which only had three teams – the North London Lions, Edinburgh Bloods and Geneva Jets – rounded out our day of round-robin matches. It was clear from the outset that the Lions would be the team to beat and unfortunately for both Edinburgh and Geneva, all they could muster were honourable losses against the fearsome London squad. Edinburgh managed a strong win against the Jets but it was all about the Lions in pool C – they looked unstoppable.

Finals

The two semi final matchups were: the Amsterdam Devils against the Mid Ulster Scorpions and the North London Lions against the Paris Cockerels. Semi final 1 saw the Scorpions take the reigning champs to brink of defeat, leading all the way up until the final minutes of the second half before a contentious touched-off-the-boot call cost Mid Ulster a goal and ended up in a lead-changing major for the Devils up the other end. The second semi final was somehow even more dramatic. Pitch 1’s wind was immense and it proved to be the difference in a number of finals late in the day, including this one. Paris jumped out of the gates and used the wind to full effect, taking a two-goal lead into half-time. However, pressure is a funny thing, and once North London gained some momentum with the wind early in the second half, they were able to storm home and take the match-up right down to the wire. In the end, it was a goal on the siren to give the Lions a one-point lead that separated the two sides – this was the game of the tournament.

The Grand Final was a battle between two of Europe’s most famous Aussie Rules clubs – the Amsterdam Devils and North London Lions. The Devils came in looking to go back-to-back (with a two year gap), while the Lions were looking for a first CL victory after returning to the competition for the first time in almost a decade. Amsterdam went with the wind first, and although they didn’t quite dominate, they was able to earn a two-goal lead going into half-time, largely due to some inaccurate kicking from the Lions. The second half was a war of attrition. The Devil’s were fighting for their lives, holding on for dear life as the Lions stormed home with the wind. However, on this occasion the Lions were unable to capitalise on simple opportunities, shooting themselves in the foot and ultimately losing by five points. As the old adage goes, bad kicking is bad football and the Devils were deserving winners, earning themselves consecutive Champions League victories – It’s staying at home!

2022 Golden Whistle winner: Daniel Wild

Once again, AFL Europe would like to extend an enormous thank you to AFL Netherlands, the Amsterdam Devils and Sportpark de Eendracht for opening up their facilities to us. Their shared management of the event was second to none and the day couldn’t have happened without the hard work of so many amazing volunteers.

Additionally, thank you to all of our field umpires, goal umpires, coaches, players and pitch managers for playing and operating all the games in such great spirits and with an emphasis on fairness and mateship. Congratulations to Daniel Wild, winner of the Golden Whistle Champions League umpiring award. In addition to umpiring on the day, Daniel was enthusiastic about educating less experienced players on the rules of the game.

We would also like to acknowledge the Australian Ambassador to The Netherlands, Matthew Neuhaus for coming along and presenting the trophies, medals and team of the tournament jerseys to our victors.

Everybody present represented their countries, leagues and clubs with pride – thank you and we can’t wait to see you again next year!

  • Joseph Arthur, AFL Europe

2022 Champions League Tournament Preview

We’ve been waiting with bated breath for AFL Europe’s Champions League to make its return to our events fixture for the first time since 2019 and its finally upon us. The sixth instalment of the famous tournament is less than a week away, with Europe’s top clubs making their final preparations before descending upon Amsterdam’s Sportpark De Eendracht complex on Saturday April 9th.

Once again, there will be both men’s and women’s competitions. After their big win on home turf in 2019, tournament hosts, the Amsterdam Devils, will finally get a chance to defend their title in the men’s competition. However, with so much talent coming to the tournament and several hungry club’s set to make their CL debut, expect the level of competitiveness to go up a gear in this edition of the tournament.

On the women’s side of the fixture, as Ireland’s West Clare Waves aren’t returning, a new victor is a guarantee. West Clare’s Irish counterparts, the Cork Vikings, will have high hopes to keep the Champions League trophy on home soil but the rest of the competition will have plenty to say about that. Keep an eye on the University of Oxford, who come into the competition off the back of a perfect NUL season, Fitzpatrick Cup victory and resounding varsity win.

This year will see eleven teams competing in the men’s competition and ten competing in the women’s. To see such strong numbers returning to the tournament after such a long hiatus is a testament to each club’s commitment to getting back into footy. Once again, teams will be placed into pools for a round-robin of qualifying matches before finals commence.

EXPLAINING THE FIXTURE STRUCTURE

This year’s fixture has seen each club ranked based off their respective league’s recent performances in CL competition, with debut clubs representing newer leagues for the first time in the CL among the lowest ranks – you’ve got to earn your stripes. Based off the rankings, pools have been created from which round-robin qualification will commence in a format designed to ensure fair fixtures for all competing clubs.

In the men’s competition, the eleven teams have been split into three pools, two with four teams and one with three teams. In order to make up for playing one less qualification game, each side in the three-team pool will start on four points – the equivalent of one win. After teams have played their pool matches, finals match-ups will be determined with the top sides playing off in Semi-Finals for a potential Grand Final birth and the remaining sides playing off for the remaining ladder positions.

The women’s side of the draw has two pools with five teams in each. Following the group stages, the top two from each pool will play Semi Finals and the winners will be meet in the Grand Final. As with the men’s fixture, the remaining women’s sides will play-off in finals to determine final ladder positions.

2022 Champions League Fixture

WHO PLAYS WHO?

In Pool A of the men’s competition, we have tournament hosts, the Amsterdam Devils, set to clash with Berlin AFC Crocodiles, Sesvete Double Blues and the Prague Dragons. The Devils sit as firm favourites to top the pool but expect a strong display from their competition, the Double Blues in particular are in a rich vein of form and won’t be beaten easily.

Pool B will see the South Dublin Swans, Paris Cockerels, Norrtalje Dockers and Mid Ulster Scorpions play one another. Ireland is well established as Europe’s most-fear Aussie Rules country, so expect big things from the South Dublin Swans. However, pressure is a funny thing and tournament debutants, the Mid Ulster Scorpions, will relish not being under any pressure and look to seize the opportunity to turn some heads and continue Northern Ireland’s impressive 2022 as it looks to establish itself as a European Aussie Rules powerhouse.

Finally, Pool C has the North London Lions, Edinburgh Bloods and Geneva Jets ready to battle it out for a semi-final spot. We know any team capable of keeping the West London Wildcats out of CL is worthy of respect, so North London will be no pushover and are a good chance to top the group. Both the Bloods and Jets will have their work cut out for them but for two clubs that are perennial winners, if anybody can handle the pressure that comes with a smaller pool, its them.

Pool A of the women’s competition contains the Wandsworth Demons, Norrtalje Dockers, South West Suns, Amsterdam Devils and East Coast Eagles. Good luck picking a winner. This group contains the perfect mix of talent, experience and desire to win. As always, the Devils will enjoy home ground advantage but it’s anybody’s guess who will emerge from this group on top.

Pool B is made up of the Cork Vikings, Oxford University, Rheinland Lions, Sesvete Redlegs and Edinburgh Bloods. Cork and Rheinland both put on strong displays at the Gallia Cup in Paris last month and are looking forward to renewing their rivalry in the ‘Dam. However, as we established, Oxford is deeper into its season than any of its competition and has done nothing but win in 2022 – it’s hard stopping a team in good form and form doesn’t get much better than Oxfords.

Kick-off is at 9am with the presentations scheduled to begin at around 6pm. Make sure you tune in via Sportvox to watch selected games live and don’t forget to peruse our social media channels throughout the day to stay up to date on the all the action.

2022 Team Previews:

Part One – Mid Ulster Scorpions, Sesvete Redlegs and Amsterdam Devils

Part Two – East Coast Eagles, Sesvete Double Blues and Rheinland Lions

Part Three – South West Suns and Paris Cockerels

Part Four – Norrtalje Dockers, Oxford University and South Dublin Swans

Part Five – Cork Vikings, North London Lions and Amsterdam Devils

Part Six – Norrtalje Dockers, Berlin AFC Crocodiles and Wandsworth Demons

Part Seven – Prague Dragons, Geneva Jets and Edinburgh Bloods

2022 Champions League Team Previews: Part Seven

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 our final round of team previews, from the men’s division, we take a look at the Czech Republic’s Prague Dragons and Switzerland’s Geneva Jets. Additionally, we spoke with Scotland’s Edinburgh Bloods men’s and women’s teams.

Men’s Division

Prague Dragons

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

With no other registered clubs in the Czech Republic (but trying to change this in near future) we represent all of the Czech Republic.

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?

Prague Dragons participated in the Wolves Cup in Dresden in late March, which included Dresden, Wroclaw and Switzerland teams participating.

Under very windy conditions, Prague won the tournament by beating Switzerland in the semi-final and then Dresden in the final. Great preparation for the Champions League!

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

A stronger team than we have fielded in the past. With the exception of a few players, we have the same playing group as 2021 and have formed a solid foundation for a mature team.
We had a long playing season last year and our numbers have been good at training, so we are more prepared than where we were last year.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

Billy Hutch (nickname Tom Sellick) is one of our stronger players who learned his craft playing some country football in Australia coming up against older opponents. Never takes a backwards step and loves getting his hands dirty.

Rory O’Dwyer is another strong performer who should get some touches in Amsterdam. Whilst his knees are about to give way at any moment, he covers some serious ground in the midfield.

Provided we give him the opportunities, Ronan Wordworth coming out from full forward should give us some good accuracy in front of goal. He is looking trim and ready to hit the packs.

What’s the key strength of your team? 

Having a good 2021 season under our belt the players are getting ever more familiar with what is needed to win games of football together.

And with only a handful of old veterans in the team we have plenty of youth and pace to run out the day.

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

With very strong opposition, no matter who we play and Australians being eligible to play, the Champions League is the pinnacle of the football calendar.

Coming up against Europe’s best players in such short games is the ultimate test for us and sets the high benchmark of where we want to be.

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

Cathal Doherty with his cracking mullet should catch some eyes, bobbing around as he attacks the ball. He would look like Bailey Smith if it was not for the curly hair.

And our courageous captain, Jan Novak, knocking back a shoey regardless of the outcome at the end of the day. This year he has agreed to drink from one of our midfielder’s boots who has size 12.5 hoofs.

Geneva Jets

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

The normal way – put more kicks through the big posts than any other team. That led us to the Swiss Premiership the last three years and that qualified us for the Champion’s 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?

Here in Switzerland we call ‘pre’-season ‘ski’-season. We believe it’s much more effective than actually training.

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

A new bunch of teenage Swiss boys who still don’t quite understand the rules but still manage to look and play better than the Aussies.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

Coach Tommy ‘Danger’ Ross and Seb ‘the shoe’ Permian will be explosive out of the guts and generally around the ground.

What’s the key strength of your team? 

Slick ball movement and cheeky sideline banter. We are also proud to boast the two best kicks in Europe. Seb Permian’s right boot and also Seb Permain’s left boot.

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

This is our first time entering the Champions League, so we are stoked to finally get a crack at it and represent Switzerland. We aim to stir the pot and dethrone a few teams.

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

I believe we are the only contact sports team named after a water fountain.

Edinburgh Bloods men’s and women’s teams

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

The Bloods men won through to the Champions League by claiming their third successive Scottish premiership, defeating the Greater Glasgow Giants in front of a huge crowd at the end of last summer.

The Bloods women claimed the first AFL Scotland’s women’s premiership with a comprehensive win over the Glasgow Sharks following an undefeated 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? 

Both Bloods teams competed in AFL Scotland’s Haggis Cup on April 2nd, giving a large number of new recruits their first taste of competitive action.

The club hosted an intra-club practice match recently, which gave good insight into the game for new players and a nice tune-up for returning players.

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

The Bloods men will be relying heavily on their Scottish and local UK players at this year’s event and will be exposing some fresh new players to the game in Amsterdam.

The Bloods women are excited to test themselves against the best teams in Europe and will be fielding a team with a large number of players who helped them claim the Scottish title.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on? 

The Bloods will be led by their Scottish skipper Fraser Smith, and fellow UK local Sam Stokes who finished third in the club’s best and fairest count in his first season.

Veteran Adam Governi finished Runner-Up in the best and fairest and will headline a small number of Australian players.

The Bloods women will be led by coach and best and fairest winner, Sian Furniss, who is also taking the reins of the Scottish women’s national team this season.

Australian Hannah O’Brien and Scottish duo Elinor Geddes and Aimee Dallas will also be ones to watch this season.

What’s the key strength of your team?  

I think how tight we are as a club is a real strength that you will see on show in Amsterdam. We train together as one team and hopefully you will see some of our preseason practices on display at Champions League.

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

This is massive for us. The Champions League is the perfect way for us to kick off our premiership defence by testing ourselves against the very best in Europe. I personally was blown away by the standard of the competition in 2019 so feel we will benefit from that experience. This is an event we have had circled as a club since the final siren of our respective grand finals last season.

2022 Champions League Previews: Part Six

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 six of our team previews, in the men’s division, we take a look at Germany’s Berlin Crocodiles and from the women’s division, we sat down with Sweden’s Norrtälje Dockers and England’s Wandsworth Demons.

Men’s Division

Berlin Crocs

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

The Berlin Crocs qualified for this year’s Champions League by winning the AFLG competition.  They defeated reigning back-to-back Premiers Hamburg in a hard fought battle 13.13.91 to 7.2 44.

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?

Berlin have not been involved with any preseason tournaments or practice games.

This will be their first competitive outing for 2022., outside of intra-club scrimmmages.

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

The Crocs pride themselves on being hard at the contest and that’s what we hope everyone at the Champions League will see.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

Tino Roth – Born and raised in the back streets of Berlin, Tino came to AFL last year and was an immediate success down back.  He took his backstreet attitude to defending and is uncompromising and always making life tough for his opponents.

One Crocs official has said he will eat his hat if Tino isn’t in the national side this year.

Conny Hoher – Conny is a Crocs stalwart, being one of only 4 players to play in both Crocs Premierships (2017 & 2021), he has also been a permanent fixture in the German national side since he was 18.   This silky half forward oozes class and when he has the ball in hand you can be sure it will find a teammate .

Magnus Mariuson – When he isn’t walking the red carpet, Germany’s fiercest Viking will be found at the bottom of every pack.  Using his body as a deadly weapon, Magnus craves the hard ball and has taken to AFL like a duck to water.  Spending most of last season playing on ball, Magnus also kicked the 3rd most goals for the crocs during the season.  Not a bad year’s work in your first ever AFL season.

What’s the key strength of your team?

Berlin Croc’s key strength is how hard they play for each other.  Berlin is an amazing Club that is inclusive to all and has built up a very strong community.  This is reflected in the way they play, protecting each other on and off the field.

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

Berlin ranks the Champions League very highly and are very honored to be able to participate.  Being their first major hit out for 2022 they are under no illusions to the challenge they face to be competitive with the best clubs in Europe, but will give it their all and use the competition as a springboard for the upcoming German season, with the goal of being able to come back next year.

Women’s Division

Norrtälje Dockers Women

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

After a year that is unlike anything else and with a season that was anything but normal, we, Norrtälje Dockers, played the finals against Malmö Lynx in the Swedish cup. A match that Malmö Lynx initially had a grip on, but after a strong finish, Norrtälje Dockers were the Swedish champions.

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?

No, unfortunately not outside the club. We have been organising mixed teams indoor tournaments, as a warm up for the trip. We still have snow in Sweden, so it’s hard to play outside.

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

A fun bunch of girls playing their hearts out for the sport they love.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

The Norrtälje Dockers players deliver the most unique things, in the most unlikely situations, so it’s best that you keep an eye on the whole team.

What’s the key strength of your team?

We are a team with almost only Swedes and we play our way. It can shock the opposition and give us an advantage in the match, when they expect the obvious and we deliver something else.

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

Getting to Amsterdam is definitely the highlight of the year. Every kick in the rain, running in snowstorms, the gym sessions in the morning, it’s moments like the Champions League that makes it all worth it. Champions League, and to have a beer in the sauna afterwards…..

Do you have any extra bits of information about the club, like past years funny/interesting stories? We are an AFL club with Swedes, where almost no one has heard of the sport before they become members of the club. The foundation of the club is more or less built on the Sund family, a family with seven siblings where everyone has been involved in the club in one way or another. All the siblings, boy/girl-friends have played for the club and on this trip there are three sisters in the women’s team and in the men’s team you will find their brother together with three of the sisters’ boyfriends. Norrtälje Dockers is the definition of the club being one’s family.

Wandsworth Demons

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

We won the AFL London championship, beating our great rivals the West London Wildcats by less than a goal in the pouring rain in 2021.

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 haven’t managed to play against any other teams, but held a really successful trial match for girls interested in playing in Amsterdam. We’re hoping to get another intra-club match in ahead of the champions league.

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

Lots of running and skilful footy! We worked hard last season to play in a way that is attractive on the eye, and focused on hitting targets and playing clean football. We’re hoping to carry that into this season.

Any particular players to keep our eyes on?

Each of players is bringing something to the team, but a special mention to Kelsy Dyer who won the league’s leading goal scorer award last year in her first year of footy.

What’s the key strength of your team? 

Teamwork – getting through covid, and pulling together to win the grand final last year has really built a sense of togetherness; our girls are keen to get out there and play for the jersey and each other.

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 pinnacle! Competing against the champions of all the leagues in Europe is a huge privilege. We can’t wait to get out there and start playing and other teams better watch out – we’re coming for victory.

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

One of key players, Priscilla Lodge, is unfortunately unable to make the tournament this year as her sister’s wedding is back in Australia. Last year, she was chaired off after our grand final, amidst much sadness by all, having played a big role over the last few years  as VP at the club. 3 weeks later she promptly U-turned and will be back at the club again this year; safe to say any news of her to heading back to Australia will be taken with a pinch of salt next time!

O’Neills to continue its partnership with AFL Europe

AFL Europe is delighted to announce its continued affiliation with O’Neills as the sole supplier of AFL Europe football strips, staff uniforms and other athletic leisurewear.

O’Neills has been a long standing supporter of the AFL Europe community and we are overjoyed to be able to continue to grow our partnership with such a respected brand.

An Ireland and UK based manufacturer, O’Neills innovative designs, product continuity, personalisation, flexibility, reliability and convenient online platform have made it a key contributor to raising the professional standards associated with AFL Europe’s brand.

As a cornerstone sponsor of AFL Europe, we proudly endorse O’Neills and recommend it for all purchases of on-field and off-field team wear and training apparel.

Visit their website for more information: https://www.oneills.com/uk_en/

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.