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.


Round 2 of the AFL Switzerland season was played in Basel on Saturday, with Basel, Winterthur and Geneva all playing two matches each as part of the league’s round-robin style. Basel and Geneva battled once again after their thriller in the opening round saw the Dragons win by just two points. This time around the Geneva Jets kicked things into gear, taking out sizeable wins over both the hosting Basel Dragons and the Winterthur Lions to take the lead on the AFL Switzerland ladder.

Final Scores (AFL Switzerland)

Mixed: Basel Dragons (3.5.23) defeated by Geneva Jets (12.15.87)



The Soldermalm Blues came into this game having won their opening two matches while scoring a total of 304 points for while conceding just 77 so far. Their opponents, Norttajle, were also undefeated after winning their first match. It was set up to be a big clash up in Sweden, and it proved to be just that with the Dockers showing off the form that won them last season’s premiership with a huge 98 point win over the Blues.

Final Scores (Stockholm Australian Football League)

Sodermalm Blues (54) defeated by Norttajle Dockers (152)



This week saw round 4 of the Danish Australian Football League take place, with the Odense Lions going up against Port Malmo. For the Lions, they won their opening two games but suffered their first loss of the season last week, while Port Malmo had come into the game with their ledger all square at one win and loss. After a tense, physical game, the Maulers were able to come away with a narrow win and once again cement the rivalry between these two Danish powerhouses for the 2019 season.

Final Scores (Danish Australian Football League)

Odense Lions (4.12.36) defeated by Port Malmo (5.9.39)



A massive clash in AFL London saw historic rivals battle it out at the Wildcats home ground at Dukes Meadows. The Demons won their opening game last week in a one-point thriller against the North London Lions, while the Wildcats were tested early before running away against the Wimbledon Hawks by 40 points. This weekend’s grand-final rematch saw a hotly contested first half before the Cats pulled ahead in the second half to secure a dominant win over the reigning premiers.

Meanwhile at Wildcat Land, the Women’s Conference division saw the London Swans take on the hosting Wildcats on their annual ladies day. It was a tight affair between the two sides, with the Swans managing to hold onto a narrow lead and secure the chocolates, bringing them up to two wins from two for the season.

Final Scores (AFL London)

Men’s Premiership: West London Wildcats (17.15.117) defeated Wandsworth Demons (5.2.31)
Women’s Conference: London Swans (1.0.6) defeated West London Wildcats (0.3.3)



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

Match of the Round

AFL London Men’s Premiership

West London Wildcats v Wandsworth Demons 

18.05.19  Chiswick  15:30


Two of Europe’s powerhouse teams battle it out again this weekend, with the West London Wildcats versus the Wandsworth Demons headlining Round 2 of the AFL London season.

Specifically showing how dominant these two sides are in AFL London, is that since this competition began in 1990 only two of the possible 28 seasons have resulted in neither of the teams appearing in the Grand Final.

The two rivals are even close in the head to head premiership count where the Demons have nine and Wildcats 11.

Taking home the chocolates in recent seasons, Wandsworth has won the last two Men’s Premierships, last year the Demons edged out West London in a nail biter for the flag by one point.

Wandsworth Demon’s Coach Frank Caldow shares some astonishing statistics about this iconic rivalry over the years.

“Wildcats are our biggest rivals and these games always carry significantly extra weight. Over the last three seasons, they are the only team to beat us and hold a 6 – 5 record against us over this period. In the last two years we have played three finals against each other, all which have been decided by less than a kick.”

Still feeling the loss from last year’s Grand Final, the Wildcats will be using this emotion to get revenge on the reigning premiers this round.

“It’s quickly apparent to all new players at the club that the Demons are a strong rival and have been since the foundation of the league. The games are still worth four points but there is no doubt some added incentive when playing the Demons given the history of the two clubs,” said Wildcat’s Men’s Coach Rhett Kerr.

With this added emotion and the extremely high skill level that both teams have to offer, this should be one of the matches of the season.

This passion will also build from the Wildcats’ round one “Heritage Round” that welcomed the club’s new players last week.

Past players, from all the way back to 1996, were able to present the Wildcat rookie players with their jumpers before the game.

With such great connection to the club’s past, the players of today will want to make them proud in this upcoming season, both on and off the field.

“We have a great culture at the club. First and foremost, footy in London is about having fun, meeting new friends and broadening networks. We take pride in fostering an inclusive culture that promotes this and really adds an extra element to the London experience for members of our club,” Rhett said.

Wandsworth Demons are also an exciting side of AFL London and with many of the players knowing how it feels to win the premiership, the hunger for another continues to grow and will show on the field through wanting the footy in contests.

Demons Coach Frank elaborates on their exciting yet poised game style, “We are looking to play a game that focuses on winning 50/50 contests, then once in possession, it’s about finding the balance between speed and composure.”

The Demons are off to Chiswick this weekend to the Wildcats home and with the AFL Europe community knowing how big the games are between these two sides and the Cat’s Ladies Day on during the matches, it should bring in a large boisterous crowd to watch some high-quality footy.


To hear more about these teams through social media and even be a part of the event, click here or see below.

West London Wildcats, Wandsworth Demons


Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

Community Spotlight – Ryan Tucker

Originally involved with rugby league in Australia before moving to Sweden in 2009, Ryan Tucker wanted to get back into a sport. He couldn’t find a league side in Stockholm but did find the Södermalm Blues Australian Football club and has been hooked on Australian Football ever since.

The main reasons behind picking up a new sport like Australian Football was so Ryan could try something new.

Initially, learning the skills and knowledge of the game was a challenge, but he says the speed of the game and the concept of continual play was something that really appealed to him.

In 2012, he joined up with some other friends to set up the Norrtälje Dockers, where he took on the role of president for four years. Last year, he returned as the secretary but has played and coached the team since 2012.

During this period the Dockers and Ryan have had plenty of success, organising two Swedish Cup’s, winning a Swedish Cup in 2018, played in the 2017 Champions League and winning a premiership in 2016.

The Dockers once again competed in the 2019 Champions League and will be hosting the 2019 Euro Cup.

Furthermore, he coached the Elks at the 2016 Euro Champs, before being elected as a commission member with AFL Europe in 2017.

It’s not just playing, coaching or volunteering that have kept Ryan busy in footy, he was a team manager with Sweden for the 2014 International Cup in Melbourne.

A busy man, who loves the game, has even adopted a new format of the sport to deal with weather conditions in Sweden. “I enjoy the fact that the sport can be altered to fit different levels of participation and here in Sweden we have gone a step further and created an indoor game,” he said.

On a larger scale, he has big plans for AFL Sweden. “The biggest long-term goal for AFL Sweden is to become a recognised sport,” he said. “To apply we need to grow our club numbers to 25 and member base to 1500 members.”

As is the case with Australian Football across the globe, the Women’s game is getting bigger each year. For cities such as Stockholm and Norrtälje, there is a market there which Ryan is hoping to tap into.

“I think Australian Football in Europe will continue to grow and mostly on the women’s side. Once we have fully functioning senior divisions, the juniors will follow,” he said.

A more personal goal for Ryan in his position on the AFL Europe commission is to get the Northern European section to become more involved with the main European tournaments through playing, coaching or organising events like this year’s Euro Cup in Norrtälje.

To help strengthen that section of Europe when it comes to Australian football, Ryan believes that seeing tighter bonds forming between European clubs and local clubs in Australia will help grow numbers.

It could also enable an exchange of players between clubs and those experiences will help raise awareness of the sport across Europe.

Ryan has become a big part of the game in Europe with his commitment to his clubs and AFL Sweden since he began in 2009. This year is a big year for him, with Norrtälje hosting the Euro Cup in June, but it’s an opportunity for him to achieve his goals in growing the game he loves.

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Belushi’s Presents: Player Spotlight – Pierre Boscart

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

With a passion for sport already and a love of mate-ship in a team environment, Pierre Boscart’s friend introduced him to the game of Australian Football and since this introduction six years ago, he has never looked back.

Moving to Paris for work, Pierre and his friend wanted to try something new and the overall connection he felt when finding the Paris Cockerels team was something that he knew he had to be apart of.

“My friend Bushy had discovered AFL during a trip in Australia and found out about the Paris Cocks club. We liked the easy going, family-like spirit of the club. Also, we quickly had the opportunity of playing games and having fun.”

Concentrating on the emotional side of the game and just wanting to enjoy the sport in a team sense, Pierre’s attitude on reasons for playing and feeling at home with the Paris Cockerels are humbling.

“I liked the spirit of the team and of the club. There were many experienced players who taught me a lot. Also, being tall, I managed to have a lot of fun in the ruck and full forward positions.”

From starting off as a simple way to have some fun with mates and enjoy being part of a team, this choice to play Australian football has taken Pierre to many events around the world.

With experience, leadership and overall skill, Pierre was selected as Captain for the French national side where he played in the ANZAC Cup.

From honouring diggers in Villers-Bretonneux in a match against Australia to heading to the biggest AFL hub in the world, Melbourne, for the International Cup 2017, Pierre has played against teams involving the best international players in the world.

“International Cup 2017, in Melbourne, was an amazing experience. As it involved each day of one whole month concentrated on footy and playing with and against great players… and my favourite place to play would be Villers-Bretonneux in France, where I have had the honor of representing France, in the ANZAC Cup.”

Tall and with great leaping ability, Pierre has many attributes that are perfect for the Australian game, playing full forward and ruck he is never too far from the action and always trying to use his height to his advantage.

“Thanks to my height, I often am the key target in the forward line, although my teammates wish I was more effective in marking the ball! But once I get the ball, I manage to kick to goal most of the time.”

With a great start to the French Australian Football 2018-19 season in the CNFA, his statistics definitely can back him up.

Playing four games only so far this season, Pierre has booted 14 goals for the Paris Cockerels and will look to improve his tally to a massive total through the rest of the season and the tournaments around Europe this year.

With a wealth of experience behind him, Pierre has come a long way from not even knowing about this sport six years ago.

With his experience and willingness to help this game grow in his country and ones surrounding, Pierre isa fantastic advocate for this game overseas and is sure to have an exciting 2019 in store for him.


Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

Irish Watch – AFL Round 8 Review

Round Eight would see a tied season high five Irish players take the field on AFL venues around Australia with a number of outstanding performances highlighting an exciting weekend.

Friday night footy at the SCG would see two of the competitions most exciting cross coders do battle, with Colin O’Riordan’s Swans and Conor McKenna’s Bombers producing a match for the ages.

Decided by a David Myers 60 metre shot after the siren which just didn’t make the distance, it was a tight contest from start to finish with the lead constantly changing and never going above two goals.

In the end it would be the Swans that outlasted the Bombers, giving them their second win of the year and a springboard to get their season back on track.

Returning to the Swans lineup after some excellent form in the NEAFL, O’Riordan would reward the selectors faith with a breakout performance.

Playing across half back and on the wing, he would collect 17 disposals, four marks and four tackles to go along with a goal with his presence critical to the overall success of the team.

His hardness at the contest was a particular highlight of his game as he had a positive influence on a number of key moments, while his ball use and general match smarts were also on display for all to see.

On the other end, Conor McKenna continued his strong form for the Bombers with an influential 14 disposals at 64% to go with three marks and four tackles.

He was big in the last quarter in particular, as he took a number of bold kicks and was instrumental in Essendon’s improved ball movement.

His goal in particular showed the character and temperament of the man, as after gathering the ball on the 50 metre line he proceeded to go back and put through a long-range major to give the Bombers back the lead in the dying stages.

Moments such as that show McKenna’s development, as he continues to ingrain himself in Essendon’s best 22 and push towards being a very good AFL player.

Geelong would continue their stellar start to the 2019 season with a gritty win over North Melbourne under the roof of Marvel Stadium on Mother’s Day.

After withdrawing late with general soreness last week, Zach Tuohy would return to the Cats lineup with a solid display off half back, slotting beautifully into the competitions best defence.

In what was a see sawing encounter, Tuohy would warm into the contest with a moderate 15 disposals and five marks with his experience and decision-making particular highlights to his game.

Coming back from a long-term injury, expect Tuohy’s input to increase gradually over the next few weeks as he looks to be 100% right come the pointy end of the season.

Tuohy’s Irish teammate Mark O’Connor would continue his breakout year with another very strong outing in the back pocket for the Cats.

Dealing with in form small forward Cam Zurhaar for the majority of the afternoon, O’Connor was resolute as always as he defended strongly, was excellent in the contest and really gave the opposition forwards nothing.

Along with his lockdown work, O’Connor was impressive in helping springboard the Cat’s attack as he peeled off his man on a number of occasions to claim 17 disposals, three marks and two tackles.

With his confidence rising every week, it has been great to see his true character flourish on the field as he now looks for bolder options with ball in hand and backs himself in to compete at the highest level.

We would again be witness to a thriller on the Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon as Pearce Hanley’s Sun’s suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to the Demons.

In a nail-biting affair, it would come down to the dying seconds for Melbourne who were able to snatch a famous victory courtesy of an ugly Tom McDonald behind with one second to spare.

Coming back from a brief injury setback, Hanley slotted seamlessly back into the Suns lineup, leading the teams inexperienced defensive admirably.

Claiming a solid stat line of 20 disposals, three marks and five tackles, Hanley was critical throughout proceedings on Saturday night as he often made the right decisions with the ball and made the players around him walk taller.

Although the Suns just went down, it was clear that Hanley’s presence brought out the best in the team, as he constantly provides that much needed veteran guidance.

In the VFL, Hawthorn midfielder Conor Glass was excellent for Box Hill in their thrilling draw with Footscray with 24 disposals and a goal as he pushes for senior selection.


By Zac Standish

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 weekends action and is presented by PSS International Removals.

Crocs with a Dream start in AFLG

Such a big build up for the inaugural AFLGW season, with the Rhein-Main Redcats in their very first game as a club, had onlookers excited. This match-up against the Berlin Crocodiles did not disappoint. In a dominating win in the previous round, onlookers were expecting much of the same from the more experienced club of the Crocs. This however, was not the case, the Redcats had eagerness for the ball in and around contests, creating this to be an exciting affair. The sheer class of the Berlin Crocodiles got them over the line by a mere five points in a nail biter.

This match-up of clubs was also on display in Frankfurt in the men’s competition, as the Frankfurt Redbacks were up against the Berlin Crocodiles. Building each round, the Redbacks were able to get their first win against the Munich Kangaroos since 2008 in the previous game. Playing tough in and under footy they seemed one of the top German teams for 2019. Coming up with some confidence against the well decorated Berlin Crocodiles, Frankfurt fought hard, but the pace and ball movement by the Crocs got the better of them as Berlin won this match by a convincing 88 point margin.

Final Scores (AFLG Premiership)

Women’s: Rhein-Main Redcats 3.6 (24) defeated by Berlin Crocodiles 4.5 (29)
Men’s: Frankfurt Redbacks 2.2 (14) defeated by Berlin Crocodiles 15.12 (102)


Demons edge over the Lions in AFL London

Two of Europe’s powerhouse teams in the Wandsworth Demons and North London Lions went head to head this weekend in the official first round of the season. A Grand Final rematch for the Women’s Premiership competition made for an exciting opportunity for the Lions to get some revenge on the reigning premiers. North London through their range of skill around the ground seemed up for the challenge. This was shut down though, by the Demons who showed great heart. With pace, skill and solid defence, Wandsworth were able to get a resounding 33 point win over North London to start their back to back premiership campaign.

The reigning premiers of the men’s competition, the Wandsworth Demons, were able to gain some strong leads in this Men’s Premiership battle. But the determination of the Lions, helped them to claw back into game through strong use of the body in contests. The Demons pace and aerial ability got them a slight lead late in the fourth and with the Lions gaining clearances and getting on the scoreboard, it turned into a tight finish. Wandsworth with a big home crowd behind them were able to hold on in defence and gain the victory by a thrilling one point.

Final Scores (AFL London Men’s Premiership)

Women’s: Wandsworth Demons 6.6 (42) defeated North London Lions 1.3 (9)
Men’s: Wandsworth Demons 7.9 (51) defeated North London Lions 7.8 (50)


Stade Toulousain Assert Dominance in Garonne Derby

In a real rivalry match and for a spot in the CNFA semi-finals, two of France’s top sides made for a great match-up on the weekend. Known as the Garonne derby, Stade Toulousain and the Bordeaux Bombers, played off in a shootout, where the game included a whopping 32 combined goals. Both eager, in a must win game for a playoffs spot, players put their body on the line and real passion was displayed throughout the game. The Bombers were accurate on the scoreboard, being efficient by foot, however the class of Stade Toulousain shone with their countless inside 50’s and attempts at goal. In great form heading into the postseason, Toulous were able to get a commanding 71 point win.

Finals Scores (CNFA Premiership)

Bordeaux Bombers 11.7 (74) defeated by Stade Toulousain 21.19 (145)



Magpies Swoop on the Swans in Ireland’s West Coast

2018 Grand finalists the Galway Magpies want to go one step further this season and win the ARFLI premiership. Coming up against the passion filled South Dublin Swans, this made for an intriguing matchup. The Swans battled hard all day putting bodies on the line and were strong through many midfield contests. The Swans played the game on their terms in small patches, but the sheer ability of the Magpies proved to be too much. A notable standout for Galway was the presence down forward of Shaun Murphy, who finished with 8 majors to his name. A real team effort though, where the Magpies used pace, kicking efficiency and scoreboard pressure and look to be one of the best teams in Ireland at this stage, finishing the match with a classy 52 point victory.

Final Scores (ARFLI Premiership)

Galway Magpies 13.8 (86) defeated South Dublin Swans 5.5 (35)





PSS International Removals have helped people move from 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.

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe




Match of the Round

Rhein-Main Redcats v Berlin Crocodiles (AFLGW)

11.05.19  Frankfurt  16:30


The inaugural AFLGW season kicks off round two with an in-form team, the Berlin Crocodiles, facing an exciting, new Rhein-Main Redcats side in their first official match.

Coming off a dominating 86 point win in Round 1, the Berlin Crocodiles have started the inaugural AFLGW season in dominating fashion.

Crocs Skipper Theresea Kresse was ecstatic from their first-round efforts.

“I personally was very delighted about the many individual efforts and creative responses in some situations of the girls during the game… was so proud of the beauty of the interplay between my teammates. Additionally, we supported each other a lot and the shepherding worked really well.”

The merging of the Rheinland Lions and Frankfurt Redcats women’s sides has created a fired-up Rhein-Main Redcats outfit.

Viviane Schumacher, who is the Redcats Co-Captain, shares her eagerness for their first game, as all their hard work and preparations have led to this moment.

“We are incredibly excited. We have a bunch of very talented girls who just started a couple of months ago, wanting to show what they learned during preseason and our training camp… and we finally want to make use of the skills we have gained over the past months.”

These two sides both involve some of Germany’s finest Australian football players, where 10 women across the two teams have played for the German Eagles National side, including involvement in the 2018 Euro Cup.

“With massive progression in less than a year, our keys to this success include, lots of support from the whole team, consisting of coaches, captains and players, targeted training and drills and high commitment from everyone involved,” said Viviane.

The support online through social media and the men’s side of the club getting behind the new women’s team has helped get them to where they are today.

This support even included a video message from Richmond AFL star Dustin Martin, who wished them well for the season and is great for AFL around Europe, to see Australian professionals getting behind the great game overseas.

These two sides are pioneers for this inaugural AFLGW season and their Captains are going a long way to growing the Australian game across Europe, with such a positive attitude.

Speaking of the great people behind the scenes and how the women’s game is on the rise is Theresa Kresse.

“We really must pay tribute to Lisa Wilson and many others, like our Berlin star Kathryn McKenzie, who have dedicated so much time and effort to build this league from scratch and made it what it is today… one of our club goals in Berlin is to build cooperation and support with other teams off the pitch, to help grow this league as much as possible.”

Now coming together to help this growth, the thrilling match up in Round 2 of AFL Germany Women’s will be on Saturday the 11th of May.

This will be a home match for the Redcats in Frankfurt who will have plenty of support behind them in their first game and a continuation for away matches from round one for the Crocs, who look to be the team to beat early in the competition.

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

To hear more about these teams through social media and even be a part of the event, click here or see below.

Rhein-Main Redcats,  Berlin Crocodiles

Irish Watch – AFL Round Seven Review

Seven weeks into the season and we saw a shake up within the Irish contingent of AFL Players, with good VFL form and unfortunate injury luck saw a new lineup take the field around the country this weekend.

The biggest story of the week came through the recall of St Kilda defender Darragh Joyce, who after a solid patch of form in the VFL came into the side for the first time since round one.

On a tough day in Canberra, Joyce would battle hard for the Saints in the defensive half producing a number of tough spoils and making some crucial defensive plays throughout the match.

He would also contribute to the St Kilda defence with 11 disposals and two tackles at an excellent efficiency of 91%.

In just his second game at the level, Joyce showed the composure and strength to thrive at AFL level as he continues to become accustomed to the nuances of the game.

His Saints on the other hand would struggle to get anything going on Saturday afternoon in Canberra, as they were outclassed from start to finish against the Giants who ended up coming away 44-point victors.

Another week, another big game for Essendon’s Conor McKenna as the Bombers faced the in form Cats in the annual Country Game at the MCG.

With 63,000 supporters in attendance, it was a hotly contested game from start to finish with the class of Geelong proving too much for the gallant Bombers in the end.

As for McKenna, his strong run of form would continue off half back, with the exuberant Irishman again racking up 20 disposals in an exciting display.

With his trademark run and dash coming to the fore, he would be pivotal in setting up a lot of Essendon’s attacking movements and really making the Cats forwards accountable running back the other way.

In what has been a very up and down year for Essendon, McKenna has been a much needed model of consistency in defence as he continues to develop into one of the competitions most damaging players.

His use of the ball is another area that saw great improvement on Sunday afternoon, as he wasn’t afraid to take the bold option coming out of the back half and with his disposal going at 70%.

On the other side of the park, Zach Tuohy would unfortunately pull out of the game late with general soreness, meaning we would miss out on seeing three Irish players take the same field for the first time this season.

However, after a season best performance against the Eagles, Geelong defender Mark O’Connor was eager to continue his good form in a big game on the MCG.

Having to combat the likes of Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Jake Stringer in a dangerous Essendon forward line, O’Connor was again as solid as ever in the back pocket with his defensive work critical in restricting the Bombers to a lowly score of 54.

A player that prioritises the defensive aspects of his game, O’Connor was again excellent in that space as he quelled the influence of the Essendon forwards and produced some outstanding efforts on the last lines of defence.

He would also again prove to be a calming presence out there for Geelong, with his 13 disposals, four marks and three tackles all coming at crucial times for his team.

His ball use is another area of his game that has improved this season, as teammates now trust him to make the correct decision with ball in hand and hit those critical targets.

In the State leagues, budding forward Red Og Murphy continues to get valuable game time under his belt as he managed two disposals in the Kangaroo’s reserves side fell agonizingly close of a maiden win against the Northern Blues.

Meanwhile in the NEAFL, GWS rookie Callum Brown enjoyed a superb game in the Giant’s reserves win over the Canberra Demons as he claimed 11 touches, a tackle and a mark to go along with an excellent goal.

Giants reserves coach Adam Schnieder was extremely happy with the form of the Irishman post game saying “he is super, super quick, he’s starting to get the hang of it now, and when he runs forward, he’s very dangerous. I’m liking what I’m seeing.”

With a number of Irish players developing strongly, it is an exciting time for our cross coders as many look to push for an AFL debut in the coming weeks.


By Zac Standish

Irish Watch – AFL Round Six Review

The festival of footy continued into round six of the 2019 AFL season, as just two days after Geelong and Hawthorn squared off in an Easter Monday classic, the Tigers and Demons met for the traditional ANZAC Day Eve clash.

This would of course be followed by the biggest day of the home and away season being Essendon’s traditional clash with Collingwood before the weekend arrived with another slate of mouthwatering games.

Lining up on the special day in the red and black would be Irish star Conor McKenna, who continues to improve with each and every game.

With 92,000 people watching on anxiously, the young Irishman certainly wasn’t blinded by the spotlight, with his run and dash off half back critical to the play of the Bombers all day.

In what was instantly revered as an ANZAC classic, it was a tail of two halves on Thursday afternoon as the Pies came out hot early to open up a significant five goal buffer towards half time.

An inspired Essendon team came out swinging after half time, with their attacking style of play almost seeing them pinch a famous victory off last year’s grand finalists.

McKenna would be crucial to Essendon’s second half fight back, with the dynamic defender going over the 20-disposal mark for the fifth straight week, with 21 touches to go along with five intercept possessions.

He also wasn’t afraid to take risks with the ball on football’s biggest stage, which is a testament to the composure of the man.

After a five week stint on the sidelines to begin the 2019 season, damaging Geelong defender Zach Tuohy finally made his return to the Cats AFL side in their big win over reigning premiers West Coast at GMHBA Stadium.

Tasked with reintegrating himself into the competitions best defence, Tuohy wouldn’t miss a beat on Sunday afternoon as he immediately came on and made an impact with his excellent reading of the play, silky skills and raw pace across half back.

Alongside the likes of Tom Stewart and Mark Blicavs, Tuohy played his role to perfection in the Cats big win collecting 18 disposals, five marks and two tackles at a solid 78% efficiency.

With the Cats already sitting pretty at the top of the ladder, you could still see Tuohy’s importance to the team, as he provided more spark from their back half and gave them another excellent ball user to rely on in critical periods.

As Tuohy returned to the Geelong side, fellow Irishmen Mark O’Connor further locked himself into the best 22 after having his best game for the season against West Coast.

As competition for spots intensifies at the Cattery, O’Connor certainly rose to the pressure as he stood tall in the Cats defence with 21 disposals, nine marks and two tackles while using the ball at an impressive 81%.

Marveled by the commentators all day for his composure with the ball and defensive tenacity, it was a perfect back pocket’s game from the Irishmen who was also central to stopping the Eagle’s dangerous small forward lineup of Liam Ryan, Jamie Cripps and Jack Petruccelle.

It was a big Saturday afternoon up on the Gold Coast as Pearce Hanley’s Gold Coast Suns looked to bounce back from their poor performance last week with a win over cross town rivals Brisbane in the Q Clash.

Although they brought the heat around the contest and intensity early, the young Suns would eventually fail to keep up with the class of the Lions, who bounced back from their recent troubles to secure a comfortable 49 point win.

After having a brilliant 150th game last week against the Crows, Hanley was again excellent for the Gold Coast as he led an inexperienced backline with 19 disposals at a remarkable 95% efficiency.

Relishing being able to finally enjoy strong games together at his second club, it seems as if Hanley has a new lease on life at the moment, with that trademark dash and boldness returning to his game on a more frequent basis.

It was also a big weekend around the state leagues over the ANZAC period with a number of solid performances from the Irish players.

Collingwood’s Anton Tohill was excellent up forward in the Magpies loss to the undefeated Bombers as he presented hard all day and ended up being rewarded with two goals.

Meanwhile in the NEAFL, young GWS forward Callum Brown showed signs of development in their 45 point loss to Sydney.

Constantly crashing packs and trying to get involved, the Giant’s coaches were buoyed by the competitiveness of the young key forward as he continues to try and develop the intricacies of Australian football.

With the festival of footy now completed, the AFL returns to normality for a big round seven this weekend, as teams look to build on their early season form and make a push for September action.

2019 ANZAC Cup Week Review

Another fantastic ANZAC Cup took place on Saturday afternoon thanks to Major Partner National Australia Bank. The 11th edition of the tournament saw two fast, contested matches highlight the quality of both sides and the connection between the two countries.

After arriving on Wednesday to be part of the ANZAC Day commemorations and spend time in Villers-Bretonneux, the Australian Spirit team played the French Gauloises in the women’s at 12 pm before the French Coqs battled the Australian Spirit in the men’s at 2 pm.

With the women’s game beginning proceedings, the French Gauloises got off to a fast start, leading the Australian Spirit 2.3.15 to 1.2.8 at half time.

Barry Carr, Head of Engagement and Delivery for National Australia Bank, with French & Australian Captains at the coin toss prior to the women’s match

Once the third quarter got underway, it was clear that the fitness of both teams was going to have an influence on who would win. The Australian Spirit started to gain control in the midfield and opened the game up as they managed to get back into the lead heading into the final stages of the match.

France wasn’t going to finish without a fight though, and two quick goals late in the final term meant there were a few nerves in the Australian camp. However, the Spirit held on in what was a great example of attacking and physical football to win by six points, 6.7.43 to 5.7.37.

Australia’s Best On Ground player, Heather Muir, said the team were very proud with the hard-fought win against an impressive French side.

“All of the events leading up to Saturday’s match, including the dawn service, memorial visits, and time spent with the locals, put into perspective the significance of the event. It was an exciting and moving experience to play our national game in France, in a place with such a remarkable history of mateship between the countries.  The French national side was very impressive, and we were very proud to come away with a narrow and hard-fought win,” she said.

In the men’s game, the French Coqs started off on the front foot like their female counterparts, kicking seven goals in the first half.

At half-time, the Coqs saw themselves in front by 40-points, 7.7.49 to the Australian Spirit 1.3.9.

The third and fourth quarters was more even, but the Australian Spirit couldn’t break through a strong French defence as both sides kicked three goals each for the remainder of the match. Despite their best efforts, the Australian side couldn’t get any momentum, with the French being more dominant with their ball movement around the ground.

Claire Hart, Second Secretary for the Australian Embassy of France, with both the French & Australia captains at the coin toss prior to the men’s match

Thanks largely to their fast start to the game, the French Coqs played a perfect style of football for the conditions as they won their first ANZAC Cup since 2013, winning by 42 points, 10.15.75 to the Australian Spirit 4.9.33.

French Coqs coach Andrew Unsworth was thrilled with how his side played on the big stage, and with a busy year ahead, this was an important statement made by the French.

“I’m really happy for our boys. They’ve been playing some great footy over the last two years or so without consistently hitting the scoreboard. It’s a great reward for our core group and for the young guys playing their first ANZAC Cup, who were all strong contributors,” he said.

“They were thrilled to beat a team of that calibre. The spirit team were highly skilled, tall and great in the contest, but we put them under intense pressure and were able to hurt them on the rebound. This gives us great confidence coming into a busy year with Euro Cup and Championship to come.”

With one win for each country, the presentations saw both teams come together to commemorate the occasion and remember the ANZAC’s involvement Villers-Bretonneux in World War One.

For all those playing, it was a great opportunity to represent their country, and French Coqs player Julien Dagois was one of them.

“It’s always a good experience to play in the ANZAC Cup, especially to win today. This is my fourth ANZAC game and it’s the first time we’ve won so I’m pretty happy about that. It’s exciting to play while you are representing your country especially against Australia because we know [ANZAC Day] is very important for Australians and New Zealanders,” said Dagois.

Before the football action took place, the two sides joined each other on Saturday morning for a march around Villers-Bretonneux to see the town and for the locals to see the two teams side-by-side.

Due to this year’s ANZAC schedule, the majority of the French squad travelled up on Saturday morning, but the Australian Squad arrived on Wednesday for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service on Thursday 25th April.

Up bright and early, the Australian Spirit were joined by family and AFL Europe staff for the Dawn Service at the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial for the ceremony to remember all those ANZAC’s who have served or are serving, including the 11,000 servicemen remembered on the memorial wall who have no known grave.

Katrina Stopinski was one of the umpires for the games on Saturday and also attended the Dawn Service as part of the Australian contingent. It was an incredible experience for Kat, especially with her family history as two of her great uncles fought on French soil over 100 years ago.

“Attending the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial was an incredible experience. The service beautifully told the story of many Australian soldiers who now lay to rest on French soil. I am very humbled to have been given the opportunity to attend and pay my respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Stopinski.

Later on Thursday, the Australian Spirit visited the Australian Corps Memorial in Le Hamel which tells the story of various battles on the Somme and has views to illustrate the layout of the land which the ANZAC’s would have had to deal with in extreme conditions.

Following that, the team held a training session at Stadium Timmerman before heading back to their host families for the night.

Friday was another day spent seeing the sites around Villers-Bretonneux, with the team going to the exhibition at the Sir John Monash Centre to gain an even more in-depth story of where and when the war took place, what happened and individual stories of who was involved.

In the afternoon, the Australian Spirit welcomed over 150 young students from the local Victoria School for an AusKick session, which involved learning how to kick, handball, mark and kicking at goal.

Having coached football at a junior level back in Australia, teaching skills is not a new concept to Emily McKie, and even with the language barrier, it was a successful session for all involved.

“It was great seeing the kids enjoy it, and even though we didn’t know the language, we were still able to run good, fun activities by demonstration with some dodgy google translate skills. It really reinforced the softer skills of coaching, such as demonstration, body language and attitude,” said McKie.

Following that, the players were presented with their green and gold Australia guernseys, another proud moment for many during this experience.

“It was an amazing honour and privilege to have Captained the Australian Spirit team against the French National side in commemoration of the ANZACs. An incredibly humbling experience and one I will cherish forever. Thank you to AFL Europe, the ABA Association and National Australia Bank for making this all possible!” said Australian Spirit Captain Ben Carter when asked about his time in Villers-Bretonneux.

The few days spent in Villers-Bretonneux was then rounded off on the game day with two fantastic games of football, highlighting the skills involved and demonstrating teamwork that was shown by the ANZAC’s on the battlefields over 100 years ago.

“Looking back my four days in Villers Bretonneux were a whirlwind, but such an amazing opportunity. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect ahead of the trip, but the hospitality we received from the local community, the way we gelled as a team and the impact the dawn service and memorials had on me far outweighed any expectations,” said Australian Captain Nicole Young.

Talking post-match on Saturday, Australian Spirit player Ki Currie summed up what many players felt during their time in Villers-Bretonneux.

“What an experience… To have the opportunity to represent my country and my family, I’m extremely blessed and it’s going to be an experience I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life. To share that with 26 other Australian’s, we are going to be mates for a long, long time,” said Currie.

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

By Angus Boyle – AFL Europe.