2022 Euro Cup Team Previews: Part Three

It’s less than a month 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 third edition of our team previews, we take a look at the German Eagles men’s and women’s sides, as well as the Irish Warriors from the men’s competition and reigning women’s champs, the Irish Banshees.

Men’s Competition

German Eagles

Returning for what will be their fifth Euro Cup appearance, the German Eagles are keen to throw themselves back into international competition for the first time since 2019, where they finished an impressive third place.

Team President, Manuell Gauding, said the time off allowed the squad to focus on improving their weaknesses and maintaining their strengths in order to better compete with the top end of the competition.

“We have had the time to focus on our fitness levels so we can better keep up with teams such as Ireland and England, who outlasted us in 2019,” he said.

“These are the teams we are targeting and who we want to beat.”

This year, the Eagles squad’s greatest strength is its mix of youth and experience.

“We have a lot of young players who with the right mixture of experienced players bring together a very strong national team. We know the competition will be challenging but we are looking forward to the challenge of reaching the finals.”

Manuell reiterated the positivity the team feels about returning to international competition but said the Covid restrictions currently still in force in Germany have been difficult for the team to navigate in tandem with its tournament preparation.

He said, “For us, COVID restrictions are still quite present in Germany, with many rules and regulations in force. Of course, we are happy to be able to travel to tournaments again, but we are still experiencing how players test positive and have to stay in quarantine for the minimum of five days.”

“Trying to keep players motivated to keep going in their preparations has been difficult with tournaments being postponed.

“With that said, in 2019 both our national teams came home with the bronze medal – we  hope to achieve that goal again.”

Irish Warriors

A mainstay of the business end of the tournament, the Irish Warriors are always in the mix at the death. However, it’s been ten years since they last took home the trophy – way back in Edinburgh in 2012. But with a new coach and management team at the helm and an array of fresh talent injected into the side, senior coach Eoin O’Sullivan has high expectations for Euro Cup 2022.

“Trials were held around the country, and upwards of 50 players put their hands up for selection. The Warriors hope that the selected squad – a mix of experience and fresh, enthusiastic players – will meet the required standard to compete with the best in Europe,” O’Sullivan said.

“It’s a big date in our calendar each year, and one that every player looks forward to. Euro Cup experiences and memories are ones that last a lifetime.

“It has been a long, long break without International Footy, and this is a welcome return to competition. A lot has changed over the last few years; players, coaches, new teams, but getting back to the consistency of AFL Europe competitions is what everyone has been looking forward to.

For players and management, it provides the opportunity to test yourself against the best in Europe and see where the standard is. The pride of representing your country at Euro Cup is unrivalled, the respect among teams is huge, the games are intense and tough and the fun off the field thereafter is what brings it all together – it’s the pinnacle of playing AFL in Europe.

“To be selected to represent your country is both an amazing achievement and humbling experience. You can be sure that whoever you meet on the field, they are brimming with pride too, and will give their all a every contest all day. The one-day competition, the shortened games, the 9s format – they are all challenges in themselves, and it’s what makes the Euro Cup special.”

Women’s Competition

Irish Banshees

Perhaps the strongest international Aussie Rules outfit Europe has ever seen, certainly the most successful, the Irish Banshees are back and hungry to pull off a belated three-peat after winning the Euro Cup in 2018 and 2019.

Since joining the competition in 2010, the Banshees have won the tournament seven times and have established themselves as the team to beat each year.

Team member Shane said the squad is not intimidated by anyone’s expectations and knows his team will rise to the occasion, despite plenty of personnel turnover occurring in 2021.

“This competition in the past has been an outstanding tournament for us,” he said.

“At the start of 2021, new management took the reins of the Irish Banshees and since then, a lot of work has been put in to reach our goals and marking off our objectives.

“This management has been keeping a close eye on all women interested in wearing the green jersey and has selected the best for this tournament – I trust that we’ll come back with a triumph for ourselves and for our country.”

The prestige of representing such a successful team is not lost on any of Ireland’s team members. With so much internal competition for spots, it’s difficult to imagine anyone arriving at the tournament with an outfit hungrier than the Banshees.

“I think the moment when you are named on a national squad and receive your jersey for the tournaments is when you realize that all the hard work you’ve put into earning that jersey has paid off – and the feeling of pride is bigger than ever,” Shane said.

“However, the job is never over! Not only do you need to work hard on a personal level, but you also need to be working extra hard with your teammates on and off the pitch as that is the only way to achieve great things. We all need to be on the same page.

“Overall, we are all looking forward to this tournament and grateful we are a part of it.”

German Eagles

Much like their male counterparts, the German Eagle’s female outfit finished third in 2019’s Euro Cup, which was their second time at the tournament. Returning for their third attempt at glory, the German side has high expectations.

Team President, Manuell Gauding, said, “The women’s team expecting this year’s European cup to be a battle of both physical and mental strength after a two-year hiatus.”

“We are expecting the games to be fast paced, physically demanding and completely exhilarating. This year the team brings together the experience from the veterans with the talent and eagerness of the debutantes for a well-rounded line up.”

Gauding spoke of AFL Germany’s feeling of pride towards this year’s edition of tournament, being the first time both national teams will wear the official German eagles of the republic of Germany.

He said, “The German eagles is the federal coat of arms. Both our teams will represent the eagle with proudness and will fight for glory with the eagle on their chests.”

“All our players are proud to represent their country in the colours black, red and gold.”

2022 Euro Cup Team Previews: Part Two

It’s less than a month 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 second edition of our team previews, we take a brief look at the Polish Devils and Israeli Beasts in the men’s competition and in the women’s competition, we preview tournament hosts, the Scottish Sirens, and the Swedish Ravens.

Men’s competition

Polish Devils

Returning to the Euro Cup for just the second time after making their debut in 2019, the Polish Devils can only improve after finishing 16th in their tournament debut. Team member Phil Forbes said the break between Euro Cups has afforded the squad plenty of opportunity for internal growth and development.

“Only two players on the team will be making their 2nd Euro Cup appearance, but every other player has spent the last two years playing every game that AFL Poland has presented them, both domestically and with our friends elsewhere in other parts of Europe,” he said.

“We expect that the Polish team will repeat the efforts and ferocity they brought in 2019, but this year having it backed up by skill, discipline and strategy – something we lacked in 2019 and something we’ve made a conscious effort to address since then.

“In terms of results, we’re hoping to make significant inroads and move up the table, but we’re also aware that we’re in a pool with some incredibly talented teams and that every other team has had the same amount of time to prep for this as we have. Nothing will be easy, but we’ve got a lot on our side that we didn’t have last time.

“The team that played in 2019 made history, now we’re out to make a statement. The Polish Devils will also be spurred on by the Polish Angels, the women’s team who are making their debut.”

As an emerging team, Phil spoke on the excitement to be returning to Euro Cup competition with both a men’s and women’s team.

“The Euro Cup is the biggest date on our calendar. It’s a date that shows off the results of our efforts to grow domestic teams, create a league, foster the growth and development of our players and build the community within Poland.”

“It’s a chance to show our players that they’re genuinely part of something so much bigger, both on the field and off the field.”

Israeli Beasts

Israel’s Tel Aviv based outfit will be playing in its third Euro Cup this year and expectations are higher than ever. Finishing 13th in 2019, the squad has set a high bar for success in 2022, expecting nothing less than a top eight finish.

Team member Shir said the squad has been starved of opportunity, being the only active team in Israel which currently has no domestic Aussie Rules league.

“Euro cup is the big event we’re waiting for each year, and this time around it’s been a long wait,” Shir said.

“Obviously it means a lot to play for our country and represent it in Europe. Having previously represented Israel in the Euro Cup with a team based in Jerusalem, our Tel Aviv squad has been proud to carry on their legacy these past couple of tournaments.

“To be putting on our country’s colours on the biggest Aussie Rules stage in Europe is huge and we’re so excited to finally be back in business.”

Fired up and tired of waiting around, Israel clearly can’t wait to unleash the Beasts – let’s hope the rest of the competition is ready.

Women’s competition

Scottish Sirens

The Scottish Sirens are set to return to the Euro Cup for the first time since 2018. It will be the fifth appearance for the Scotland women’s squad and head coach Sian Furniss said she is excited to lead the team into its first major tournament since the pandemic, particularly because the competition is taking place on home soil.

Furniss said, “With the continued growth of women’s footy in Scotland, the team is looking to be competitive and showcase some of the new and exciting talent coming through.”

“It is fantastic to have competitive footy back in our lives. We are really excited that the 2022 edition of the Euro Cup is being hosted in Scotland. It has been 3 years in the making with the postponement of the Euro Cup in 2020 and 2021.

“We are hoping everyone has a great day of footy and enjoys visiting ‘the best small Country in the world’.

Squad member Stacey Baker-Hughes had this to say about the upcoming tournament: “It is always a great honour to be able to represent my country. I have so many great memories from Euro Cups over the years.”

“I have played in five Euro Cups, firstly for the European Crusaders in 2012 before the Sirens were formed – that tournament was also hosted in Edinburgh.

“It is so nice to be back at the Euro Cup in our capital city and this time being able to pull on the Scottish jersey. Playing for Scotland will always be special and it is a great feeling welcoming the footy community in Europe to Edinburgh for what promises to be a great day.”

Swedish Ravens

Following a mid-table finish while hosting the tournament in 2019, the Swedish Ravens are returning to the Euro Cup with more important things than results on their mind. Head coach, Daphny Bergqvist said, “After two years of covid restrictions taking their toll on players, what we are most looking forward to about this year’s Euro Cup is not the results, but getting together the Ravens again and playing footy against the best players in Europe.”

However, despite the modest expectations, Bergqvist admitted the Ravens competitive fire means they can’t help but be on the hunt for victories – especially after narrowly missing out on a top three finish in 2019, losing the third-place playoff match against Germany.

“Of course, we want to win some games as well! Our goal is to reach the finals and take home a medal, which we missed out on at our home tournament last Euro Cup in 2019.”

After making their debut in Croatia in 2015, this will be the Ravens fifth Euro Cup. Bergqvist said the thrill of representing your country never gets old and the team is excited to once again be donning on the blue and yellow on the international stage.

She said, “It’s always an honour to represent Sweden as part of the Ravens. The players are very excited to go travelling again with the best the country has to offer and see how we stack up against the rest of Europe.”

2022 Euro Cup Team Previews: Part One

It’s less than a month 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 first edition of our team previews, we take a brief look at the Croatian Knights and Austrian Avalanche in the men’s competition and in the women’s competition we preview the Polish Angels and England Vixens.

Men’s Competition:

Croatian Knights

Having not missed a Euro Cup since first joining in 2008, the Croatian Knights have high expectations for this year’s edition of the tournament after finishing sixth in 2019. Team member Josip Kravar spoke to AFL Europe, “we always have the same expectations for ourselves each year, to play and win. Our results depend on which team are we able to assemble and in the last couple of Euro Cups we were a shadow of our former selves.”

“This year however, after the pause caused by the pandemic, we are back on track with our full squad and are going for the flag. We rejoice in very hard, tough, and competitive play which is what will get us over the line.”

The Knights have been extremely competitive in former Euro Cups, winning the competiton twice and finishing runner-up on three occasions, so expect their “full squad” to be a formidable outfit.

“We are excited to be able to play in this tournament. It is a long tradition for us and we would not miss it. It is great to have this number of European nations in one place, playing, and after that, all enjoying and celebrating. Experiencing so much diversity and unity in one place is a great experience.

“Additionally, playing for your national team is another level compared to playing for your club. In Europe, there is so many nations and sports competitions, forming pride in taking a national jumper, no matter the sport, is easy. For us, playing for our national team, even in marginal sports like footy, is something that is taken very seriously and something of which we are very proud.”

Austrian Avalanche 

A tournament stalwart, Austria has played at every men’s Euro Cup so far, featuring in all 14 editions of the event. After finishing 15th out of 16 teams in 2019, the squad has set itself the benchmark of a top ten finish in this year’s tournament. Team member Martin spoke to AFL Europe, outlining exactly how his team plans to achieve this feat.

“First and foremost, we’re happy the Euro Cup is finally returning and we can meet and match-up with all the other nations.”

“I think our squad’s greatest strength is its experience. We have two players set to lace ‘em up for their 13th Euro Cup and four players in total with at least ten Euro Cup appearances – so many of us know exactly what to expect.”

Martin spoke of his side’s excitement to expand their horizons and match-up against some different opponents.

“There are just two teams in Austria and besides some additional friendly’s against teams from Croatia and the Czech Republic, there is not too much variety in terms of our opponents. So, it’s great to see different teams and different games styles and it’s exciting to find out how we can adapt to it.”

“The Euro Cup is what we train for every year – the two years without this goal in mind were hard. For us, this is a bis step back to some normality.”

Women’s Competition

Polish Angels

This year, Poland will be sending a women’s team to the Euro Cup for the first time. It will also be the first time the Polish Angels squad assembles for a competitive match. The team’s presence at the tournament is undoubtedly a mark of AFL Poland’s hard work to grow the game and head coach, Roger Scott, spoke on the importance of and effort behind his team’s impending Euro Cup debut.

He said, “Most of our squad has been training for six months in the lead-up to the Euro Cup. Getting a squad to the Euro Cup is already a great achievement and the Angels could understandably be satisfied just with participation alone. However, our expectations are much higher than this.”

“Captained by our two leaders – Magdalena Maroszek & Victoria Bieniek – we have built a fiery and ferocious team of women from different clubs and sporting backgrounds. Do not let the “Angels” moniker fool you – we plan to come out and shock the competition with relentless pressure, drive and aggression. Win or lose – the Polish Angels will not take a step back, and we will make Poland proud.”

Unphased by being tournament debutants, Roger said his team is resolute in their aspirations and have done the necessary preparation to compete at the highest level.

“We’ve been competing regularly in international tournaments set up and run by us, and our mates in neighbouring countries such as Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. Covid gave us an opportunity to get busy internally too – building current clubs and creating new ones. Most importantly, we’ve been bolstering female participation.”

“Traditionally we’ve always had one female player – Victoria – playing for the Warsaw Bison’s men’s team. But recently, the team from Fort Nysa, headed by Magdalena Maroszek, embarked on a female recruitment drive which has produced a full women’s team in Nysa. Word spread, and we also recruited several very capable women from Silesia, Lublin and more from Warsaw.

“The biggest motivation the Angels have for the Euro Cup is that they are representing their country. The main aim of our participation in the Euro Cup is to make Poland proud. We are a young footy association and a young team, but our Polish spirit means we will never stop fighting and trying. At the end of the tournament, we will hold our heads high.”

England Vixens

England has participated in the Euro Cup since the women’s side of the competition was first introduced in 2014. Of those six tournaments, the Vixens have won twice – most recently in Bordeaux in 2017. Having been runners up in the other four tournament appearances, the Vixens are sure be on the hunt for victory.

Team member Vicky Jones spoke about the team’s expectations and plans to restore its winning ways at Euro Cup 2022.

She said, “Having had two years away from the tournament, due to covid, we are hungrier than ever to compete internationally again. The Vixen’s last run out was in The Clover Cup hosted by AFL Ireland in 2021.”

“With regards to the pandemic, we have to take the positives – there is a new thirst for the game, and we have attracted players from all different sporting backgrounds, which brings new talent, perspective, and skills to the game.

“In addition to this, we have a new management and coaching team that have emerged over the last year. Head Coach Andrew Lambropoulos and Assistant Coach Dominic McInerney have come in and solidified our strong foundations, allowing us to bring a new brand of footy to the tournament.”

Vicky said she expects to see a higher level of competition at this year’s tournament and is ecstatic to see new teams joining and continued growth.

“The competition is getting more and more fierce and that is what the European AFL needs to keep it fresh, exciting, and attractive to more and more players.”

“It means everything to be back playing in the Euro Cup. You can’t beat that feeling of hearing your national anthem and singing it proudly as you represent your country. There are over 14 competitive women’s teams in England and making the squad is a huge achievement. Our team has a wealth of experience, fresh legs, a willingness to learn and we are ready to put it all to battle.”