2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Five

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

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

 

Men’s Competition:

Wandsworth Demons

Frank Caldow – Wandsworth Demons coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prague Dragons

Paul Briedis – Prague Dragons coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s competition:

Zagreb Panthers

Dinko Irsag – Zagreb Panthers Coach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Irish Watch: AFLW Round Seven Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Zac Standish 

2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Four

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

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

 

Men’s Competition:

Oslo Crows

Anthony Harrison – Team Manager

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

We don’t have the biggest league in Norway compared to other countries, the league consists of 2 teams, the Oslo Crows and the Ås battlers (an all Norwegian university team). We played six rounds of footy in 2018, which saw the Crows win all matches bar one, in which Ås really turned it on!

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?

Preparation isn’t easy in the cold, with the amounts of snow we receive in the winter but we have recently secured a large warehouse to train indoors which should greatly improve our preparation for this years tournament.

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

We are aiming to beat our previous records of 1 win each year thus far at Champions League. Returning after winning the Crows player of the tournament last year, Danny Akuema is looking in fine form to bag a few goals. One of our newest Norwegian/Japanese recruits is one to watch out for. Christian K. Poppe is set to turn a few heads with his speed and quick ball skills off the mark. In addition our solid back man and captain Eivind Myrvold is looking fit and ready and last but not least club legend Tommy-Andre is hungry to bag a few goals again in the spotlight.

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

Champions League is a calendar event for the club and everyone looks forward to representing the Oslo Crows at Champions League knowing we have quite the reputation off the field. This year we hope to bring that onto the field as well.

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

We have 2 players in their 40s but with their skill and fitness, you wouldn’t know it.

 

 

Norrtälje Dockers

Martynas Alijosius – Team Manager

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

The Swedish league is divided into two parts. The northern clubs plays in one series and the southern clubs play together with the Danish teams. We qualified by winning the Swedish Cup last year. A very even and good final match against Port Malmö Maulers where we triumphed by an exciting two 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 have been training indoor all winter and also played an indoor tournament here in Norrtälje. Only a few weeks ago we couldn’t go out and play outdoors, due to the crazy weather. We have one or maybe two practice games before we go to Amsterdam.

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

Hopefully a team that’s playing a good and nice footy. We have a lot of interesting, new players for this season. Unlike the last time we participated in the tournament (2017), we have a wider squad. Much more routine in the team, so I hope we will be able to win more matches this year.

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

We look very much forward to going to Amsterdam and playing the Champions League in 2019. Of course, we rank it highly to be involved. It is an acknowledgment that we as a team did something good last year. Then getting a test of meeting the top teams in Europe is great for us as a club. It will also be nice to visit Amsterdam again.

 

Women’s competition:

Nottingham Scorpions

Laura Turner – Team Manager

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

We played in an England ‘outside of London’ women’s league with Cardiff Panthers and Sussex Swans. We did three tournament style days.

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?

Not yet, we have only recently started training but we have some practice matches lined up against young guns Birmingham University.

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

You can expect to see a team with some experienced and established players but also some new ladies who have only recently taken up the sport. We like to play good football and pride ourselves in playing the game in a smart way but of course having a great laugh at the same time!

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

It’s one of the most important parts of the season for us as we get to showcase our skills on the European stage. We work really hard all year round to develop the team and recruit more players for the opportunity to prove how much of a powerhouse the city of Nottingham is compared to other places in Europe.

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

We like to save the funny stories for kangaroo court at the end of the day and shared between players, over some drinks and celebrations after the tournament has concluded!

 

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Three

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

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For part three of the previews, we will be looking at the Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers and the Manchester Mosquitoes in the Men’s side of the draw, and the Port Malmö Lynx in the Women’s.

Men’s Competition:

Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers

Ivan Molnar – Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers coach

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

We qualified by winning the Central European Australian Football League (CEAFL). It was a very hard competition with clubs from Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Croatia participating. We won the first tournament in Zagreb which was a surprise considering the much more experienced opposition. In the second tournament in Prague, we took second place which was enough to secure a title. It is our second CEAFL title in two years.

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?

Before the 2019 Champion’s League, we will play in the Croatian Cup. The format of this competition should give us some good preparation for Amsterdam.

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

This year our team is more experienced with some players who couldn’t come last year. Our performance will be better for sure and hopefully, it will be visible in the final ranking.

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

The Champions League tournament for us is both the reward and the opportunity. A reward for the hard work of the previous season, and the opportunity to learn more from teams all over Europe. We are always looking forward to Champion’s League, this is our fourth consecutive Champions League tournament and we are very proud of that. It shows the quality of how things are done in our club, it is not easy to constantly be playing at a high level.

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

Last year, due to injuries, we played half of the season without ruck. Players started to joke that anyone could play that position. In the end, we managed to achieve good results. But one such season was enough, we don’t want any more injuries.

 

 

Manchester Mosquitoes

Glenn Murphy – Manchester Mosquitoes 

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

We qualified by winning the Australian Football League Central & Northern England competition (AFLCNE) last season, defeating the Nottingham Scorpions in the final. 

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?

Prior to Christmas, we hosted our annual Movember Cup charity tournament and for the first time since its inception, we actually won the tournament beating our mates the Wandsworth Demons in a great hard fought final. Last weekend we participated in the Haggis Cup in Edinburgh and we were lucky enough to win that tournament for the first time which was also a great result. Only a handful of players played in both tournaments which I think is a credit to our depth.

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

We felt last year we had a team that could have made the final but some wayward kicking by our champion full forward did not help.  With some new additions from last years team, we are hopeful we can do better than last year. It looks like we will have a strong squad and are excited about the opportunity.

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

Champions League means a lot to our club, it gives us a chance to show we are a good team and can genuinely compete with the rest of the clubs in Europe. Also, it provides a good opportunity for some team building and to have a beer with the other clubs

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

This year our 10 times most improved player Spike Kilheeney will not be playing in the Champions League but instead, be taking on a role as an assistant coach. After speaking with the rest of the coaching panel, they agree his input has been great and they believe it has made him an early favourite for the most improved coach in 2019.

 

 

Women’s competition:

Port Malmö Lynx

Ryan Davidson – Coach

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

The Port Malmö Lynx won the Sweden Cup and the Women’s Nordic Australian Football League (WNAFL), winning in a close encounter by seven points over the Stockholm Dynamite in the Cup Grand Final.

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

No, we have not had any pre-season matches yet but we are heading up to Stockholm on the 16th March for a practice match. Otherwise, it’s just been indoor off-season training with the rest of the club.

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

We are bringing a squad this year that has worked really hard over the winter with a dedicated core group of players. Longer time to train before the event this year means we have become a lot more experienced and closer as a team. We hope to push the other teams as far as possible and try to reach the final.

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

For us, it’s almost the same as the Euro Cup, sometimes the quality of football is at an even better standard and therefore we rank it quite highly. Not to mention it’s relatively close for us and it’s a really fun event.

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

Hanna Falkenström our co-caption for the women’s team received the Club-man award for 2018, therefore, being the first woman in the club to receive it. Her dedication over the past 5 years has been key to the success, survival and existence of the Port Malmö Lynx.

 

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Irish Watch – AFLW Round Six Review

It was a big weekend for the AFLW’s Irish stars, as four of the five hit the scoreboard to show off their drastic improvement over the past six weeks of action.

 

It was a big penultimate round of the AFLW, with a series of nail biters seeing the ladder take shape heading into the competitions first ever finals series.

With Ailish Considine unfortunately missing out on selection for the ladder leading Adelaide Crows for the first time this season, the remaining four Irish players would well and truly pick up the slack producing some of their best performances of the year.

Gracing the turf of Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium for the very first time, Collingwood’s Sarah Rowe would better her career best performance from last week as she claimed 17 disposals, five marks and a goal in the Magpies loss against North Melbourne.

Finding her own up forward in the past few weeks, Rowe’s game continues to go from strength to strength playing a connector role working up and down the ground to assist in the Magpies ball movement out of defence.

The major improvement out of Rowe’s game over the season has definitely been her game sense, with moments such as finding a teammate inside 50 off the side of the boot and outworking her defender to free herself in attack testament to just how far she has come over the past seven weeks.

Although Collingwood weren’t able to secure their first win of the season, the development of Rowe has been a major positive for the team as they hope to see her grow into one of the competitions elite players.

Following the Magpies game, another Irish rookie would get her chance to impress on the Marvel Stadium stage as Aisling McCarthy’s Western Bulldogs went down by one point in a heartbreaker against Melbourne.

In a major clash in the make-up of conference A come finals time, it was tight from start to finish as two of the competitions most evenly matched sides went to war in what can only be described as four quarters of absolute war.

In the biggest match of her short career, McCarthy certainly rose to the occasion as she produced one of her best games of the year picking up 11 disposals and a goal, playing a key role up forward all night for the Dogs.

Her football IQ and dazzling speed would be on show for all to see throughout the game, with a moment in the second quarter particularly showing her potential in the AFLW as she sprinted away from the Melbourne defense to get on the end of a long kick inside 50, before finishing on the run to put the Bulldogs in front on the stroke of half time.

With the Bulldogs season all but over, McCarthy will get one more opportunity to showcase her improvement and quick adaptation to the game as she takes on the Blues at the Whitten Oval.

Sunday afternoon football would hit the inner-city suburbs of Adelaide, as the Crows played host to the Giants at a picturesque Unley Oval.

As the locals came out in droves to support the red-hot Crows, Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner looked to spoil the party as their Giants make a late push for a conference B finals berth.

However, after a tight first half the class of the Crows would come up trumps, as they kept the Giants goalless for two quarters to claim a convincing 32-point win.

As has been the case for the majority of the Giants season, Bonner and Staunton would be key contributors all day for their side as the Irish combo’s chemistry continues to grow.

Playing in a hybrid midfield/forward role, Staunton showed her determination and courage all day collecting an impressive 15 disposals, three tackles and a goal to help drive the Giants to a potential.

Her work around the contest was particularly impressive, as she well and truly held her own in a midfield battle against seasoned stars such as Anne Hatchard, Ebony Marinoff and Erin Phillips.

Continuing her development as a key forward, Bonner would toil hard against the talented Crows defense collecting 11 disposals and a goal serving as the Giants major focal point inside 50.

Throughout the first half, Bonner would play a key role in a number of the Giants goals as she set up three, before her improving football IQ came to the fore in the dying seconds of the second term as she outmaneuvered her defender before putting through a critical major.

With just one week of the regular season to go, the competition in the AFLW is set to step drastically next weekend as a number of sides still battle hard for a finals spot.

As for the Irish girls, only Considine has a chance of tasting finals action with the rest of the girls set for one last match before their historic seasons come to a close.

 

By Zac Standish

2019 Champions League Team Previews: Part Two

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

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. For this part two of articles we will be previewing the Paris Cockerels and the Winterthur Lions in the Men’s side of the draw, and the Amsterdam Devils in the Women’s.

Men’s Competition:

Paris Cockerels

Alexandre Dulchain – Secretary

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

We got our ticket to Champions League by winning the French 2017-2018 championship. The level of the French championship is increasing every year and we were really proud to win the premiership having overcome our sister team, the Paris Cockatoos, in the semi-final and then running out winners against a strong Cergy Coyotes team in the grand final.

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?

The French season runs from October to June (with a winter break), so the Champions League tournament falls part way through the second half of our season. The start of our season has been rough with a few top players injured or unavailable, but we had a great year of recruitment in Paris and were happy to incorporate fresh blood in our teams – everyone will be back for the Champions League though!

Outside of the French league, we also invited the Wandsworth Demons in October for a small men’s tournament as well as a full women game; the development of women’s footy is a one of our focuses this year, with the co-hosting of the Gallia Cup (to take place in Paris on the 9th of March) among other planned events.

The Amsterdam Devils also came down to Paris to play in the French ‘North Cup’ in February. The North Cup is a one-day tournament, in the same format as the Champions League, played by the four teams from the north of France (Cergy Coyotes, ALFA Lions, Paris Cockatoos and Paris Cockerels). Cergy Coyotes hosted this year and kindly proposed to the Devils to play as a guest team. They are a very strong team and it was a great pleasure to have them involved on the day!

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

We are hoping to finish top of the group in the group phase. Having run into eventual champions West London in the group stages of our last two times participating at the Champions League, and being competitive against them on both occasions, we are hoping that with a slightly more favourable draw we can at least make the semi-finals.

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

We are really excited to be part of the 2019 Champions League! It’s a great additional reward for the efforts made last season and provides a great opportunity to test ourselves against a variety of high-quality teams. Amsterdam is also a great city to visit!

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

Back in our first participation in 2016, our coaches managed to lose a number of our magnets from the coaching board during the lunch break. Whilst most of the lost magnets were found scattered on the main field, one of the magnets was lost and the unfortunate player ended up with limited playing time during the afternoon session as a result.

 

 

Winterthur Lions

Stefan Burgener – AFL Switzerland President

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

We were given a wildcard as our Swiss League didn’t exist yet last season. We aim to qualify for next year’s Champions League by winning the inaugural Swiss 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?

We had a come and try session on Sunday. 24 men and women showed up including many new players. We played a scratch match at the end.

We plan on playing a friendly against the Zuffenhausen Giants at the end of March to have some much-needed practice against a really solid side.

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

A stronger, more experienced team compared to our first appearance last year. Having some similar players throughout games leading up to this we are becoming closer as a team and since last year have a lot more experienced players.

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

Very highly. It is an honour to be invited and we expect it be an amazing experience for all involved, as it was last year.

The Champions League is right up there with the Euro Cup and the upcoming inaugural Swiss League.

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

We’ve been training and playing whenever we can since August 2016, but only officially founded the club in February 2018. In January 2019 AFL Switzerland was officially founded and welcomed us, the Basel Dragons and the Geneva Jets as its founding member clubs.

 

 

Women’s Competition:

Amsterdam Devils

Bridgette Allen – Coach

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

We are a very new team, with a large mixture of nationalities, and will be bringing a lot of enthusiasm and excitement with us into the Champions League. It’s also really exciting to be the host women’s team for this tournament and to be able to play at home here in Amsterdam.

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

As previously mentioned, we are an extremely new team so will be taking this opportunity to learn as much a possible about the game and soak up the experience of playing some of the best sides in Europe!

Where will the opportunity to play in the Champions League take the team in the upcoming season/s?

We have some more games lined up for the rest of the year against various women’s teams across Europe and are wanting to keep providing opportunities for women to play footy here in Amsterdam regardless of precious experience levels. It’s just all about getting girls playing footy!

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

This is the pinnacle of the first season for the Amsterdam Devils women so has been a major focus for us and will be a real challenge which we are greatly looking forward to. The main aim has been to be able to field a full team at this tournament and so we have been promoting this to attract as many new players as possible.

 

2019 Champions League Teams Previews: Part One

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

This will be the fifth time the tournament has taken place, as this year will see all the games take place on Saturday the 6th of April. As part of the buildup, AFL Europe will be previewing all the teams competing. To start off with, we will begin by previewing the Belfast Redbacks and the Copenhagen Giants in the Men’s side of the draw, and the Hamburg Dockers in the Women’s.

 

Men’s Competition:

Belfast Redbacks

Conor Mallon – Belfast Redbacks team manager

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

2018 was the best season the Redbacks have had in recent years. We went undefeated through the entire season to finish top of the table before becoming AFL Ireland Premiers after defeating the Galway Magpies in the Grand Final. We also defeated a national team for the first time in the club’s history when we played against the USA Revolution as part of their 2018 tour of Ireland.

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?

To help with our preparation for the Champions League we have played two games against the Irish National Team, the Irish Warriors, and we have a third game to play on the 9th of March. We narrowly lost the first game by a point but we won the second so we are looking forward to the third game in the series. We will also host our pre-season friendly tournament, the Leprechaun Cup, on the 23rd of March in Belfast which will certainly help with our preparation for the Champions League.

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

The Redbacks played some great footy in 2018 with a good mix of new and experienced players. We have been training hard in the winter months and are looking forward to taking on the best teams in Europe.

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

Having only competed in the competition once before (in the inaugural 2015 tournament), the Redbacks are very much looking forward to competing at this level of footy. The club has been taking preparations very seriously and the tournament was never far from our lips since the Grand Final last August. It is great to be involved and to have so many guys travelling to the tournament.

Copenhagen Giants

Simon Malone – Copenhagen Giants team manager

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

A mix of experience and youth, and a love for the game. We have one of the most experienced players in the Danish Australian Football League (DAFL) history, who has played over 200 games and has caps for three different national teams in Europe. We also have the last two winners of DAFL’s best first-year player award. Amazingly, we’ve managed to get 16 great players ready for the tournament, with only four Australians. And of course, probably the best Mathias in the world.

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

Unfortunately, we missed our last chance, in 2016, because of issues with player commitments, so this time we are extra motivated to do our very best. The core of the team has played more than 100 years of football in DAFL combined, while some only have a few years experience. It’ll be a great opportunity for some of our less experienced players to see football outside Denmark for the first time, and hopefully, tie their hearts even closer to our great sport! Also, gold medals.

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

After a rocky start as a breakout team from Farum Cats, the most successful team in DAFL history, we see this as, so far, the most definite milestone as a team to be reckoned with, and one that won’t fold from one season to the next. Two flags in three seasons are, of course, great, but now we are really seeing a team of Giants, not a team of former Cats with some new blood sprinkled in. Also, more gold medals.

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

We will do posts on Facebook throughout March, counting down to this event, that nobody in Denmark has heard of yet, but at least our fans will be sick of come April. Also, we will use our great Photoshop skills to make amazing art for our road to Champions League!

Women’s competition:

Hamburg Dockers

Lisa Wilson – Hamburg Dockers team manager

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

To support with the launch of women’s footy in Germany last year, the Hamburg Dockers were offered a wild card place at the 2018 Champions League, as a representative team of all the girls playing across Germany. Following the tournament, women’s footy in Germany saw huge growth with a number of exhibition games being held in different cities which has lead to the first-ever Australian Football League Germany Women’s league being created that will kick off in summer this year. Two of the exhibition games last year were between the Hamburg Dockers and Berlin Crocodiles. As Hamburg won both of these games, it was decided they should be offered the Champions League place.

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?

As of yet no, however, nine of the girls will be heading to Paris this weekend to play in a mixed team at the Gallia Cup. On the 23rd of March, we will be hosting the Odense Lions and North London Lions women for a tournament that will get us prepared for the Tournament!

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

The Hamburg Dockers Women’s values are fun, positivity and support, so all three of these values will be on show from all our girls. Teamwork will be a key focus so there will be lots of shepherding, lots of pump up talk and lots of high five’s and bum taps, regardless of the results! As our men’s team won their league last year they will also be in attendance, therefore expect to see a purple army on the sideline cheering us on.

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

Over the last 12 months, we have welcomed a heap of brand new girls to the club, with many of them quickly becoming addicted to the sport. We started the 2019 season early in mid-January to get prepared for Champions League and recruit new players, so we’ve already started to build a strong community. Champions League will be the first real taste of European Footy for most of the girls so there is still an element of the unknown, but a lot of excitement.

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

As we are still quite a young team there aren’t too many shareable stories yet but we can guarantee our men’s team will make up for that in their preview. A couple of facts though, the team will be made up of players from 6 different nationalities, the age difference between the youngest and oldest player is 15 years and six of the girls represented the German Eagles in their debut at the 2018 Euro Cup.

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

Irish Watch – AFLW Round Five Review

A career best performance by Sarah Rowe would headline an enthralling round five of AFLW action for our five Irish players. 

 

It was a defining round five of AFLW action over the weekend, with all five of the Irish players again featuring in crucial matches across the country.

With round four showing the rapid development of the Irish players and their brilliant ability to adapt to our game, this weekend would again put smiles on the faces of international recruiters around the league as they provided a number of highlights.

Collingwood’s Sarah Rowe continues to go from strength to strength as she produced a career best performance in the Magpies heartbreaking 5-point loss to old Rivals Carlton at Ikon Park.

Playing in one of the hardest positions in Australian football as a high half forward, Rowe was pivotal all night for Collingwood as she ignited a lot of her sides attacking movement and provided X-Factor inside the forward 50 through her frenetic forward pressure.

She would end up collecting 13 disposals and five marks in a trademark half forward flank performance, with her ability to work hard and present an option for her teammates mirroring that of star Adelaide Crows forward Tom Lynch.

Along with her ability to find the ball, Rowe would prove herself to be up to the big moments, as we saw her convert from a free kick on the three-quarter time siren to give her side a vital ten-point lead.

It would be a tough day for Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner’s GWS Giants, as they failed to recapture the form which brought them a breakthrough first win of the season last week against Collingwood.

Playing through the midfield, veteran Staunton would again prove to be a bright spot for the Giants as she battled hard to claim a season high 16 disposals to go along with four tackles in a well-rounded display.

Staunton’s toughness around the contest would be a particular highlight of her game, as she was often found at the bottom of the pack battling hard to get the ball moving forward for her team.

On a tough day for GWS forwards, Bonner continued to work tirelessly as she again proved to be the vocal point inside 50 for the Giants.

Challenged by a stout Melbourne defence, the X-Factor of Bonner was still on show for all to see as she picked up 11 disposals & four marks.

Exerting little pieces of brilliance throughout the day, it seems as if whenever the ball is around Bonner good things happen, with her feel for the game and danger around goal remarkable for someone five weeks into her professional career.

Despite the best efforts of Bonner and Staunton, the Giants were simply overawed by a diligent Melbourne outfit as they dominated from start to finish to run out impressive 39-point victors.

Over in the West, Aisling McCarthy’s Western Bulldogs would fall short in an intriguing contest against Fremantle, putting a sizeable dent in the reigning premiers’ finals aspirations.

Playing her fourth game of senior football, McCarthy is looking more comfortable by the minute as she forges a role for herself inside the Dogs attacking 50.

Renowned for her pace and athleticism, McCarthy’s pressure was outstanding all day as she worked tirelessly to pester the Dockers defenders whilst also claiming eight disposals for herself.

Her improved skills were also on display for all to see as the young Bulldogs executed the perfect 35-meter set shot early in the second quarter, judging the conditions to perfection and connecting with the ball beautifully.

After a tight first half, the Dockers would pull away in a devastating second half to run out 18-point winners in a crucial conference A matchup.

Hyped up as the game of the season, Ailish Considine’s Adelaide Crows continued their hot form to hand North Melbourne their first AFLW loss and climb up to pole position in the hotly contested conference A.

Playing a new role up forward, it would be a learning curve for young Considine at the Avalon Airport Oval in Werribee as she only managed the two disposals.

However, playing in the competitions best side at the moment, Considine’s constant pressure and presence would see her slot into the Adelaide forward system well, with a brilliant smother off the boot of a North defender late in the second term showing her determination.

Standing alongside stars such as Erin Phillips, Stevie-Lee Thompson, Chelsea Randall, Ebony Marinoff and Anne Hatchard, Considine is playing a very selfless role for the Crows who are now eyeing off a second AFLW flag in three years.

With only two rounds remaining until finals, the stakes for our Irish players in the AFLW are at an all-time high as all five players hope to experience a taste of finals footy in the coming weeks.

 

By Zac Standish

Irish watch – AFLW Round Four Review

The luck seemed to fall the way of the Irish in round four of the AFLW, with all but one of the international players claiming a win in an action packed weekend.

 

For the third straight week all five Irish players features in AFLW matches around Australia with GWS’s Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner claiming their maiden win for the season.

In what was undoubtedly the best collective round for the Irish this season, Staunton, Bonner, Aisling McCarthy, Ailish Considine and Sarah Rowe would all play pivotal roles for the sides and show drastic improvements as they continue to grow into AFLW players.

For the first time this season, two sides featuring Irish players would meet as the Giants and Rowe’s Magpies looked to claim their first win of the season at Morwell Recreation Reserve in country Victoria.

A fast start by the Giants would see them pile on three goals in the first eight minutes, as they led all day to claim a much needed nine-point victory to get back into the conference B finals conversation.

After difficult match last week against the Blues, veteran Staunton would produce her best match of the season picking up 14 disposals and six tackles as she proved to be more than a handful for the Magpies defence.

She would also put through her fourth goal for the season courtesy of a powerful mark and classy finish inside 50 late in the first quarter, proving her importance to the structure of the GWS forward line.

Her partner in crime up forward Bonner would again show her development into one of the most exciting young prospects in the AFLW.

With the Giants forward line firing on all cylinders, Bonner would prove to be a focal point inside 50, picking up nine disposals and putting through a classy snap in the third quarter in a well-rounded performance.

Blessed with an excellent goal sense and ability to change the game with ball in hand, the sky is limit for Bonner as she continues to garner more and more opposition attention each week.

For the Magpies, Sarah Rowe would produce her best game for the season picking up nine disposals and five tackles in a performance highlighted by her forward pressure.

With her side struggling to make any impact on the scoreboard, Rowe battled hard all day, with her hard tackling and tough attack on the ball proving to be major assets to the Collingwood side this season.

On Saturday night, AFLW action again returned to the Whitten Oval as McCarthy’s Bulldogs took on the Brisbane Lions in a rematch of last year’s closely contested grand final.

Having had their colours lowered by a rampant Melbourne side last week, the Lions were a team on a mission as they dominated the home side from start to finish to run out 32-point winners.

On a tough night for her team, McCarthy would produce the best performance of her short AFLW career, collecting 12 disposals, two tackles and a goal as she provided her side with some much-needed spark across half forward.

With her side struggling to combat the intense Lions pressure, McCarthy would lift the crowd at the Whitten Oval in the third term as she smothered a kick out of the Brisbane defence before recovering to kick her team’s first goal for the night.

In the top end, Considine’s Adelaide Crows would continue their good form claiming their third straight win over a previously undefeated Fremantle side at TIO Stadium.

It was a tight contest for the majority of the first half in Darwin, as the sides traded goals to have Adelaide up by just three at the main change.

The second half would see the Crows come into their own, as new coach Matthew Clarke’s system worked wonders as they piled on six goals to the Dockers none to run out convincing 42-point victors.

Playing a role off half back, Considine was a key contributor throughout the night as she was composed with ball in hand and attacked the contest hard to claim nine disposals at 66% efficiency.

With slick ball movement a major feature of Adelaide’s game, Considine has been brilliant with her rebound and pace off half back as she continues to grow and adapt to Australian Football.

Now one month into the season, the development of all five Irish players has been nothing short of astounding with all of them playing key roles for their sides as they push for a finals berth over the next three weeks.

 

By Zac Standish

Pre-season tournaments March 2019

With spring just around the corner, it’s an exciting time of the year for AFL clubs across Europe as teams step up their preparation for their upcoming seasons.

One form of preparation is taking part in a pre-season tournament, where teams travel for a big day of football, battling it out to win a pre-season cup. Teams also get the chance to test out tactics, put their skills into a real match situation and get to know teammates better.

 

Haggis Cup 2nd March, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Over in Scotland, the Haggis Cup will be hosted in Edinburgh after a couple of years in Glasgow.

Being played on the 2ndof March, AFL Scotland President Kristy Gray said, “We’ve had a great couple of years over in Glasgow although it’s good to keep things fresh… to offer something different for travelling teams.”

The time of year the tournament is taking place has also changed to March with a hope that it will be a dry day in Edinburgh, but Scottish weather can be unpredictable at the best of times.

This year will see the biggest women’s tournament at the Haggis Cup to date, with six teams expected to compete from SARFLW and AFL London. The men’s tournament will also see similar numbers with five to six teams playing.

London teams the Wimbledon Hawks and Wandsworth Demons will provide tough competition this year along with the SARFLW sides in the Glasgow Sharks, West Lothian Eagles, Edinburgh Bloods and Greater Glasgow Giants.

Over in the men’s draw, the Edinburgh Bloods return as reigning premiers and will be keen to retain their title but will face keen opposition, with the Manchester Mosquitoes expected to be a contender.

 

Gallia Cup 9th March, Paris, France.

Another tournament set to take place soon is the Gallia Cup, an all-female Australian Rules tournament held in Paris.

The 2019 edition will see four teams compete in a cup that is designed to put the spotlight on women’s football in France. Teams from the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the Paris Cockerelles will all compete on Saturday 9thof March.

Fittingly, the tournament takes place the day after International Women’s Day. Organiser Fanny Maillet said one of the main goals of the tournament was, “To give the girls some playing time as they don’t have as many games as the men and also a chance to prepare for the Champions League in April.”

By connecting the Cup to International Women’s Day, Fanny says it’s a great opportunity to show that there is a lot of girls playing footy in Europe and hopefully clubs will get coverage as a result of sending some of their players to Paris.

“The reception has been great. We have been contacted by lots of women who wanted to participate,” said Fanny.

 

Leprechaun Cup 23rd March, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

A short trip away in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the Leprechaun Cup will take place on the 23rdof March.

Numbers are still being finalised, but it’s promising to be another big tournament after last year saw 14 clubs travel from Ireland, England, Scotland and Paris, which included seven women’s teams, growing from just two teams in previous years.

So far, there are clubs from AFL London, Ireland and a number of university squads that are going to be playing as they all look to make the most of this opportunity to play in early 2019.

Lots of the teams competing have put in big efforts in their off-season, which isn’t always easy with adverse weather conditions at times, but organiser Conor Mallon said, “everyone definitely seems to be looking forward to some competitive footy.”

“We always look forward to the tournament and welcoming clubs to the city for a great day of footy. The success of last year was very encouraging to see and we are hoping for an even bigger day in 2019,” said Conor. If last year’s tournament is anything to go by, then Belfast is in for a fantastic day of AFL.

These tournaments may be down as pre-season tournaments but expect some exciting and competitive football as teams will get the chance to blood new players while enjoying a social day of football across Europe. 

If anyone would like further information about playing as an individual or a team, please get in touch with us on email at admin@afleurope.org

 

Angus Boyle – AFL Europe