After two years of championships marked by interrupted seasons, the long-awaited Grand Final of the 2022 AFL France Championship saw the Paris Cockatoos and the ALFA Lions clash on Saturday 11th June. Both teams came into this game full of confidence after having dominated the North and South conferences respectively during the regular season.
In front of a large crowd, the first quarter offered a neck and neck duel between these two teams. The Lions came into the game with great intensity putting the Cockatoos in trouble in the first 10 minutes of the quarter and developing a lead by a few goals. The Parisians’ game gradually settled down allowing them to close the gap. Finishing with a bang, the Cockatoos managed to go ahead by a behind on the quarter time siren (End of Q1 – Cockatoos 3-5-23 vs ALFA Lions 3-4-22).
The next 20 minutes were dominated by the Paris Cockatoos, winning important duels in the centre of the field and putting the ALFA Lions’ defensive organisation in trouble. Taking advantage of this ascendancy, the Paris Cockatoos showed rare precision to score 8 goals and 2 behinds during the second term (Half time – Cockatoos 11-7-73 vs ALFA Lions 5-6-36).
The ALFA Lions came back with the intention of not letting up in the third quarter, leading their opponents in rough contests in their characteristic style.
Unfortunately, against the Paris Cockatoos playing one of their best games of the season, their attacks could not compensate the Parisian offensives. Despite some missed opportunities in the third quarter, the Paris Cockatoos maintained their lead (End of Q3 – Cockatoos 13-12-90 vs ALFA Lions 6-9-45).
The fourth quarter was similar to the third in that the Paris Cockatoos continued to keep the pressure on the ALFA Lions who were unleashed but without any solutions despite a more open game on both sides. The level of skills displayed by both teams was widely appreciated by the public, as the Cockatoos ran out winners after a tightly contested game (Full score – Cockatoos 18-15-123 def. ALFA Lions 9-12-66).
The Paris Cockatoos thus win the second title in their history!
It’s just a couple of days until the Euro Cup makes its much anticipated return to AFL Europe’s year of events. This year, 23 teams will embark on a journey to Edinburgh, Scotland, where the event will be hosted at Edinburgh Leisure, across four grounds. With everyone itching to pull on their country’s respective guernsey for the first time since the pandemic, expect to see a thrilling day of highly competitive international footy. Reigning champs, England (men’s) and Ireland (women’s) will be sure to have a target on their backs.
Set to get underway on June 18, as always, AFL Europe will build up some media hype by previewing each respective outfit ahead of the tournament. In the fifth edition of our team previews, we spoke with the Welsh men’s and women’s teams, as well as the French Coqs from the men’s side of the draw and the European Crusaders in the women’s.
Welsh Red Dragons
The Welsh Dragons have competed in numerous Euro Cup tournaments over the years, most recently in 2019 when they finished seventh. Team captains Owain Ryland and Scott Jones said the squad always loves competing at the Euro Cup and the opportunity to make new friends, catch-up with old ones and represent their country.
“We have a mix of experience within our squad this year to build for the future. This tournament will be a great opportunity to get some game time for the new faces and for the squad and grow as a team.”
Excited for the tournament’s return, the captains are eager to show what Wales can do and said they’re incredibly thankful to the tournament hosts for getting the competition back under way so promptly.
“It is superb to see the Euro Cup back on the schedule again after the chaos of Covid. Thank you to AFL Europe and AFL Scotland for getting this back on track and everyone is extremely excited to play again internationally.”
“We are always very proud and passionate about pulling on the Welsh team kit and thanks to O’Neill’s and AFL Europe we have a brand-new kit to show off this year! This was won during the pandemic in the Race to the MCG which highlighted what it means to be part of the Welsh team; lots of heart and lots of effort to get us over the line for the win!”
This year will be the 15th participation for the French Coqs at a Euro Cup, who have historically been very competitive. After finishing fourth last time out Sweden three years ago, team member Nicolas Boche said the squad is hoping to return to France with a medal for the first time since 2013, where they finished as runners-up to England.
Boche said, “The team has changed quite a lot recently, especially during the Covid break. 2022 has seen a fresh start for the Coqs as our former Coach, ‘Swadda’, left the spot to Jason, who has been helping develop footy in Lyon since the beginning of the season. Already, he has added a lot to the squad.”
After putting up a strong showing against the Australian Spirit at the 2022 ANZAC Cup, losing in the dying seconds of the match, the Coqs will be hoping to learn from that experience and find ways to win in Edinburgh.
“We can’t wait to wear the national jumper again and play against other countries after almost three years with limited international competition. Covid has been a difficult period for everyone, but French players have worked a lot in their home clubs and we just finished our 2021-22 season last weekend, so the team is in good shape and willing to prove what it is capable of.”
“Playing for your country is always a special feeling and gives you great pride. We have at the same time a young and experienced team with some good footy inspiration as we demonstrated it during last ANZAC Cup in April. There is a really good friendship atmosphere in this team and hopefully we’ll be able to sing again “La Marseillaise” altogether in Scotland on June the 18th.”
Edinburgh will be the Wyverns third time competing as a fully-fledged team. Whilst Bordeaux was the start of the journey for the Wyverns, it took to the following year to obtain a full squad in Cork, followed by another full squad competing in Norrtalje. Unfortunately, this year will only see a smaller Welsh squad of 13, but captains Carissa Turner and Jenny Green said they are extremely happy to have retained enough players to continue to compete.
“We had a huge improvement from finishing last in 2018 to 6th in 2019 and we would love to improve on this result again this year and feel optimistic about achieving this after the success of the Wales team’s performance in Clover Cup last October.”
“There is only one women’s club in Wales, the Cardiff Panthers, so the majority of the team already train together and the Welsh players from Birmingham University joined them in the opening round of the WWE9sAFL (Women’s Wales & England 9s AFL) in May where they won both of their games.”
Off the back of some strong form, the Wyverns seem poised to have their best Euro Cup yet. With the country having recently qualified for its first FIFA World Cup in 64 years, perhaps this effort with inspire the Red Dragon to roar again in Edinburgh.
“The Welsh are a passionate bunch and we take a lot of pride in representing our country so the players are incredibly excited to compete.”
“We have a great mix of debutants and experience within the team and it promises to be enjoyable for all.”
This year’s women’s competition will see a return of the European Crusaders – a collection of players from various countries not able to represent themselves independently. The Crusaders have been a regular fixture across both the men’s and women’s competitions in the past and have always competed with determination and grit.
This year’s edition of the squad is made up of players from Northern Ireland, Croatia and Galicia.
Team manager, Tony O’Hagan, said the most important aspect of the competition will be bonding as a team and ensuring every squad member enjoys the day.
“We are entering the competition with no expectations other than that the ladies will give it their all,” he said.
The Crusaders always represent the epitome of European Aussie Rules. Being an amalgamation of multiple countries coming together under one name to compete perfectly underpins the cross-border unity AFL Europe loves to promote.
Further, this side will certainly not be in Edinburgh to simply make up the numbers. Teams from both Croatia and Northern Ireland put on very strong displays at Champions League, with a Northern Irish side coming runners-up when all was said and done. Additionally, the women from Galicia are relative unknowns, giving the squad an exciting x-factor.
O’Hagan said, “Most of the ladies are making their international level debut and it’s great to be at this tournament showcasing the work both they and their home countries have put into the development of footy in Europe.”
It’s less than a week until the Euro Cup makes its much anticipated return to AFL Europe’s year of events. This year, 23 teams will embark on a journey to Edinburgh, Scotland, where the event will be hosted at Edinburgh Leisure, across four grounds. With everyone itching to pull on their country’s respective guernsey for the first time since the pandemic, expect to see a thrilling day of highly competitive international footy. Reigning champs, England (men’s) and Ireland (women’s) will be sure to have a target on their backs.
Set to get underway on June 18, as always, AFL Europe will build up some media hype by previewing each respective outfit ahead of the tournament. In the fourth edition of our team previews, from the men’s competition, we take a look at the Swedish Elks, England Dragonslayers and tournament hosts, Scottish Clansmen. Additionally, from the women’s competition, we preview the French Gauloises.
The Swedish Elks are looking to build upon their 2019 performance which was hosted on home soil in in Norrtälje. The Swedish national finished fifth in that tournament and has been a consistent participant in the Euro Cup for over 10 years.
Elks’ coach, Leighton Rowsell, said of the squad, “We have a few senior players but are built around an exciting young core that love the game and will be around for a long time to come.”
“Sweden has been desperate to get back to top quality football as playing only internally, while being helpful for newer players, is less exciting for the top level of players.”
Immensely proud to be such tournament stalwarts, Rowsell said he understands they will always be underdogs but that’s just how they like it.
He said, “We are proud athletes and have always punched out of their weight division when it comes to sport.”
Sweden is one of the top ice hockey countries in the world and always does great in the Winter Olympics, especially when compared to the size of its competitors. Aussie rules is no exception and we are hoping to upset those much bigger countries. Kom igen Sverige!”
Looking forward to finally getting an opportunity to defend their 2019 victory, current trophy holders, the England Dragonslayers, have high expectations for Euro Cup 2022.
Team member, Andrew Cochran, said, “Expectations are most definitely high. We have a good mix of new faces and experienced players which look very strong. To be honest we think we can win it again and that’s exactly what we will try to do.”
Confident in his sides ability to go back-to-back, Cochrane said everyone is also looking forward to catching up with old friends and returning to the social aspect of AFL Europe’s events.
“As a whole we are excited to see the return of the Euro Cup because it’s always a top day (and night for that matter). It gives us all a chance to reconnect with friends and teammates from all over the country and let’s face it who doesn’t want to play for England.”
“I think for everyone, no matter what level or sport, it’s an honour to represent your country.
“There are a few new boys who will no doubt be super excited about the opportunity to play for their country for the first time and I don’t think that feeling goes away no matter how many times you have done so.”
Tournament hosts, the Scottish Clansmen, are excited to see the Euro Cup back in Scotland for the first time since 2012.
Team manager, David Baldie, said, “Since 2012 our domestic game has grown dramatically along with the skills and talent on show. We’re looking forward to welcoming teams from across the continent back to Edinburgh and our squad preparations have been ongoing since October when we participated in the Clover Cup in Belfast. That cup gave us the opportunity to try out players who had never participated in international competition, and every play gave a strong account of themselves.”
Satisfied with the depth and balance of his squad, Baldie said expectations are high, with every player incredibly excited to represent their country on home turf.
“We’ve got a really strong Euro Cup squad, with a great mix of domestic and international experience and there’s a really positive vibe amongst the players. We’ve got high expectations, but more than anything we’re aiming to go out and show our metal.”
“Our men’s team has participated in every Euro Cup since it started, with the exception of two, so we’re old dogs and that experience has given us good understanding of what to expect.
“We’ve made sure that we’ve done everything to make this tournament as special as possible and can’t wait to see old friends and make new ones over the course of the weekend.”
After a two-year hiatus, the French women’s side is excited to return to the Euro Cup for the eighth time. After finishing fifth in 2019, team member Bérengère said, “We expect to do our best after two years without a Euro Cup. We aim at finishing in the semis and goinf as far as we can. And obviously, we can’t wait to share some great moments with all the amazing footy community.”
Ready to reunite with some old friends, Bérengère said the niceties won’t stop the Gauloises from getting fired up and bringing their best footy.
“We are more than happy to be back both on and off the field with all the best players around Europe. We can’t wait to be in Edinburgh and fight against them for victory,” she said.
As with every other country, the French are ecstatic at the opportunity to pull on their nations colours and represent it at international level.
“It is always an honour to be able to represent our country and nobody will take the chance for granted.”
After a strong showing from the French women at the 2022 ANZAC Cup, expect them to be contenders this weekend.