Euro Cup 2022 Tournament Review

The 2022 Euro Cup saw 24 national teams journey to Edinburgh, Scotland for Europe’s biggest nine-a-side Aussie Rules competition. In extremely windy conditions, 60 matches took place across four pitches to crown the 2022 Euro Cup men’s and women’s champions.

With over 400 players, coaches, volunteers, umpires and fans present, Edinburgh Leisure and Edinburgh Academical Sports Ground were packed to the rafters, an incredible spectacle in the wake of the pandemic.

The tournament itself saw England competing in both the men’s and women’s Grand Finals. The Dragonslayers found themselves up against the German Eagles in the men’s and in the women’s, the Vixens faced off against the always formidable Irish Banshees.

In the women’s, despite an arm-wrestle of a first half the Banshees proved far too strong for the Vixens, winning in a dominant display and completing a Euro Cup three-peat. The Irish side ran away with it in the second half, winning by 33 points and conceding just one behind.

Over in the men’s, the England Dragonslayers managed to hold off an inspired German side whose celebrations and team spirit were commendable. As with the Irish in the women’s, the win marked a three-peat of Euro Cup wins for the Dragonslayers, who took out the Grand Final comfortably, winning 53 – 8.

Women’s Competition

Pool A:

In Pool A, the England Vixens were the team to beat from the start, defeating the Polish Angels in their Euro Cup debut match by 38 points. The Vixens then went on to defeat the French Gauloises and Netherland Women’s respectively, conceding just three behinds in the process and finishing the group stage as the top seed across the competition.

The French Gauloises won their other two matches, starting the day off strong with a win over the Dutch before falling to the Vixens. However, they got back on song with a strong performance against the Polish Angels to secure second in the group. While for the Dutch, despite defeating Poland, losses to both the Vixens and Gauloises saw them finish third in the Pool.

As for the tournament debutants, despite failing to win a pool game the Polish Angels effort and endeavour was unquestionable. The inexperienced side held their own against some of the tournaments strongest opposition and should be proud of their efforts, which bode well for an even better performance at Euro Cup next year.

In the playoffs, the Vixens managed to hold off the Scottish Sirens in a tough game before falling to the Banshees by five goals in the Grand Final and finishing runners-up. The French and the Dutch managed to match-up against each other once again, finishing as the sixth and seventh seeds respectively. However, on this occasion it was the team from the Netherlands who were victorious, putting them into the fifth-place playoff where they fell to the German Eagles. Despite losing to the Dutch, the French were able to rally and defeat the European Crusaders to finish seventh overall.

Finally, although the Angels didn’t win a group game, they managed to earn a debut victory against the Swiss Heidis in the playoffs and finish in tenth place.

Pool B:

Pool B was all about the Banshees, who managed to score at an alarming rate thanks to an incredibly diligent and well-structured forward line. Their backline was just as formidable however, and the Irish managed to win all three pool games while holding two of their opponents, the European Crusaders and Swiss Heidis, scoreless.

This meant there was a fierce battle for second place among the Heidis, Crusaders and German Eagles. Despite valiant efforts from the newly formed European Crusaders, the Eagles proved to be the pick of the bunch – defeating both the Heidis and Crusaders and even managing to score a goal against the Banshees – the only team to do this all day. The Crusaders missed out on second place due to a narrow two-point loss against the Eagles but can go home with their heads held high after besting the Swiss by 20 points.

As for the Heidis, despite the results not going their way, the team fought hard all day long and never quit, displaying a winning attitude that the team should take great pride in.

In the playoffs, the Banshees went on to win it all, defeating the English and once again proving they are one of Europe’s most consistent and diligent Aussie Rules outfits. As for the Crusaders and the Swiss, the Crusaders finished in eighth place after going down to the French and the Swiss earned 11th position after a narrow loss to the Polish Angels.

The German Eagles rounded out the playoffs by finishing in fifth place after back-to-back wins against Crusaders and the Dutch.

Pool C:

Pool C was one of the most hard-fought groups across the entire competition, with a winner emerging in the dying minutes of the final game. The home-town Scottish Sirens kicked things off with a big win against the Swedish Ravens, but after the Welsh Wyverns held the Ravens to just three behinds, the Sirens were shaking in their boots ahead of their match-up with the Welsh.

With the Swedes dropping games to both the Scottish and the Welsh, the battle for first place all came down to the final match-up – the Sirens vs the Wyverns. The game was a see-sawing affair, with both sides leading at different points but ultimately, it was the Wyverns who managed to eek out the victory by just two points, putting them on top spot.

In the finals, the Ravens went on to finish ninth overall, ending the day with consecutive victories over the Swiss Heidis and Polish Angels, while the Scottish and the Welsh found themselves matched-up against one another in a third-place playoff after losing their preliminary finals against the English and Irish respectively. The battle for third was just as even as the two sides pool game – level at half-time. However, on this occasion the Sirens finished the strongest and managed to defeat the Wyverns by two goals and secure some silverware in front of the home fans.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – JUNE 18: AFL Euro Cup 2022 at Inverleith Park on June 18, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Hans van der Valk/Orange Pictures)

Men’s Competition

Pool A:

In Pool A of the men’s the England Dragonslayers were imperious, winning all three games despite a brief scare against a determined Israeli outfit. The Israeli Beasts proved to be the surprise of the tournament, fighting the Dragonslayers all the way and defeating both the Scottish Clansmen and Netherland Flying Dutch to finish second in the pool. The Clansmen did manage a victory in front of the home fans, defeating the Dutch and earning themselves a match-up with the French Coqs in the finals. As for the Dutch, it simply wasn’t their day and the team struggled to convert its opportunities in the windy conditions.

In the finals, the English managed to hold on in their preliminary final against the Croatians, winning by only a goal, before defeating the Germans in convincing fashion in the Grand Final and displaying some of the best skills of the day.

The Israeli Beasts faltered against both the Welsh and the French in finals, which saw them finish in eighth place. However, their strong pool form shows they will be a team to contend with for years to come. In the playoffs, the Flying Dutch finally managed to earn themselves a win, defeating the Polish Devils and securing themselves an 11th place finish.

The feel-good story of this pool was the Scottish Clansmen, who despite only winning one pool game managed to turn it on in the finals and upset the French before falling to the Welsh in the fifth-place playoff and finishing sixth overall – a strong result considering their start to the day.

Pool B:

The men’s mega-pool was full of drama, with no side willing to give an inch, however, the Irish Warriors looked to be the pick of the bunch and this proved to be true through the pool games. The lads went undefeated and earned themselves the top seed heading into finals.

The French Coqs were also in good form throughout the pool games, only losing to the Warriors but defeating each of the Welsh Red Dragons, Swiss Wolves and Polish Devils. The Welsh were the best of the rest, splitting their games after wins against the Wolves and Devils.

At the other end of the table, it was the Polish side that managed to avoid going winless, defeating the Swiss Wolves by nine points in a hotly contested affair.

In the finals however, it was a different story. Both the Irish and French faltered in their respective matchups, causing some major disappointment. In a shock upset, the Warriors were bested by the German Eagles, meaning the Irish had to settle for a spot in the third-place playoff where they held their nerve and defeated the Croatians to prevent going home empty handed. As for the French, surprisingly, they fell to the Scottish Clansmen in the battle for a fifth-place playoff berth and found themselves up against the Israeli Beasts in a match-up for seventh place. Fortunately for the French they steadied and managed to tame the Beasts and finish seventh overall.

It was the Red Dragons who put on the best finals display from this pool, finishing the day with consecutive victories, first against Israel and then against the Scottish Clansmen, ultimately finishing a very respectable fifth place.

Both the Polish Devils and the Swiss Wolves were unable to win any of their finals and finished in 12th and 13th respectively.

Pool C:

Pool C was the most difficult to pick heading into the days play and it didn’t disappoint. It was the Croatian Knights who were the pick of the lot, winning all three games including an eight-point victory against the German Eagles in what was likely the game of the day. The Eagles managed to win both of their other math-up against the Swedish Elks and Austrian Avalanche convincingly, meaning they finished the pool match-ups seeded in the top four despite the loss to the Croatians.

The Avalanche and Elks were both desperate to avoid going winless through the group stage and this was evident by the ferocity of their play. In their match-up against one another, just four points separated the two sides with the Austrians emerging the eventual winners.

The finals saw the Croatians almost pull off a five-goal comeback against the English, falling short by only six points before then losing in the third-place playoff against the Irish Warriors to finish fourth.

The German Eagles however, pulled off the upset of the tournament in their preliminary final by defeating the highly touted Irish Warriors by three goals. They followed it up with a valiant effort in the Grand Final but were ultimately outclassed by the English. Despite finishing runners-up, the Germans boisterous celebrations and team spirit stole the show.

After both winning their initial playoff games, the Elks and Avalanche found themselves matched-up again in the 9th place final and as was the tale of the day, no team was able to beat another twice. The Swedes managed to turn their pool form around and defeat the Austrians in yet another nail-biting affair. At days end, the Elks finished ninth while the Avalanche settled for tenth.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – JUNE 18: AFL Euro Cup 2022 at Inverleith Park on June 18, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Hans van der Valk/Orange Pictures)

Final Standings

Women’s Competition:

  1. Ireland
  2. England
  3. Scotland
  4. Wales
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. France
  8. European Crusaders
  9. Sweden
  10. Poland
  11. Switzerland

Men’s Competition

  1. England
  2. Germany
  3. Ireland
  4. Croatia
  5. Wales
  6. Scotland
  7. France
  8. Israel
  9. Sweden
  10. Austria
  11. Netherlands
  12. Poland
  13. Switzerland

Golden Whistle – Walter Gibilaro

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – JUNE 18: AFL Euro Cup 2022 at Inverleith Park on June 18, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Hans van der Valk/Orange Pictures)

Women’s Team of the Tournament

England Vixens – Rania Turner-Ramadan

European Crusaders – Nina Lovengreen

French Gauloises – Myriam Allali

German Eagles – Theresa Kresse

Irish Banshees – Maria Quirke

Netherland Flying Dutch – Merel Van Ooijen

Polish Angels – Emilia Pruszkowski/Agnieska Bezraczko

Scottish Sirens – Orfhlaith McCaughey

Swedish Ravens – Stephanie Judge

Swiss Heidis – Claira Lea

Welsh Wyverns – Mary Pickard

Player of the Tournament – Swedish Ravens – Stephanie Judge

Men’s Team of the Tournament

Austrian Avalanche – Oliver Krajacic

Croatian Knights – Tomislav Cvetko

England Dragonslayers – Andrew Bernard Cochran

French Coqs – Anthony Boubet

German Eagles – Phillip Evermann

Irish Warriors – Conor Dunne

Israeli Beasts – Shir Maran

Netherland Flying Dutch – Yasin Alkan

Polish Devils – Piotr Pilichiewicz

Scottish Clansmen – Angus Mackintosh

Swedish Elks – Buster Sund

Swiss Wolves – Benoit Vittori

Welsh Red Dragons – Oliver Rees

Player of the Tournament – Polish Devils – Piotr Pilichiewicz

A huge thankyou to everyone who helped out with the tournament’s preparation and ensured the day ran smoothly. From our pitch managers and other volunteers to the players and coaches, your support made for a memorable return to Euro Cup action after a long hiatus and we couldn’t have done it without you.

A special shoutout to our umpires for volunteering their time to cover 60 games and (in some cases) run over 20 miles. Additionally, a big thankyou to AFL Scotland for all their hard work setting up the tournament in partnership with Edinburgh Leisure and Edinburgh Academical, ensuring we had somewhere to play and managing the event.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge Cllr Hal Osler of the Liberal Democratic’s Inverleith Ward for her support and for handing out the silverware on the day.

Well done to all for playing in such good spirits and representing their nations with pride – we look forward to seeing you all again in 2023.

  • Joseph Arthur, AFL Europe 

2022 Euro Cup Tournament Preview

The 2022 Euro Cup will take place tomorrow, Saturday June 18th in Edinburgh, Scotland. Across both the men’s and women’s competitions, 25 teams will be competing, an amazing result considering the challenges posed to many countries’ footy teams during the Covid-induced hiatus.

As always, the tournament will be 9-a-side, with squads battling it out to earn bragging rights as the best international team in Europe. Games are set to get underway at 9am local time, with the final match set for 6:45pm before presentations commence at 7:30pm.

The return of the Euro Cup has been a long time coming and with over 400 players, coaches, volunteers and fans in attendance, it’s poised to be one of the best editions of the tournament yet.

So, with one of the biggest events on the AFL Europe calendar almost upon us, here is how the respective competitions are shaping up.

Men’s Competition

Pool A:

In Pool A of the men’s draw is reigning champs, the England Dragonslayers, tournament hosts, the Scottish Clansmen, as well as the Flying Dutch and Israeli Beasts. The Dragonslayers will be the team to beat after winning it all in 2019 but expect some fierce competition. The Clansmen will be a big challenge for anyone on home soil, desperate to earn some silverware as tournament hosts. Moreover, both the Flying Dutch and Israeli Beasts won’t go down without a fight – especially after such a long wait between tournaments. The two perennial midtable teams have a great opportunity to knock-off some of Europe’s strongest sides early in the day and set themselves up for a deep finals run.

Pool B:

This year’s mega-pool is Pool B, made up of five teams including the Irish Warriors, French Coqs, Welsh Red Dragons, Swiss Wolves and Polish Devils. Form suggests that 2019 runners up, Ireland, and fourth placed France will be among the stronger sides, but with so much time between tournaments it’s risky putting too much stake into previous performances. However, the Coqs put on a strong display in April’s ANZAC Cup which has them making a strong case to be among the top two when the pool games are complete. The Red Dragons are a dark horse after a strong showing from its university sides in Cardiff earlier this year and as always, the Swiss Wolves will be the hunters and not the hunted. Although it’s just Poland’s second Euro Cup, the growth the country has seen in Aussie Rules since 2019 has been immense and suggests this year’s side will be far superior to 2019s. It’s anyone’s game.

Pool C:

Over in Pool C, the German Eagles, Croatian Knights, Swedish Elks and Austrian Avalanche will clash. This pool is perhaps the most exciting of the bunch, seemingly the most even on paper. Germany, Sweden and Croatia have been tournament stalwarts for quite some time and will know what to expect from their respective opposition. All three of those sides have also consistently finished in the top half of the tournament, meaning someone will leave the group stages immensely disappointed, nonetheless, the evenness of this group has created a great opportunity for these teams to do well. Austria will be back for just the third time at a Euro Cup tournament, however, don’t sleep on the Avalanche as they have been working extremely hard over these past couple of years to put up a good fight in this year’s edition of the tournament and improve upon their 15th place finish in 2019.

Women’s Competition

Pool A:

On to the women’s pools. Pool A is made up of the England Vixens, French Gauloises, Netherland Women and Polish Angels. The Vixens will be hungry to go one better this year after finishing as runner-up in Sweden. However, returning to their winning ways won’t be easy. The French Gauloises recently had a competitive match-up against the Australia Spirit in Villers-Bretonneux, France, where they put on a good show against a tough opposition. Then come the two unknowns’, the Dutch didn’t bring a women’s side to the Euro Cup in 2019 and Poland only just recently hosted its first ever women’s game on home soil. So, what can be expected from both of these sides? We have absolutely no idea, which is a scary proposition for their opposition. Expect fans to flock to this group’s matches and watch them with keen eyes.

Pool B:

Some enticing storylines exist in in Pool B, which is made up of the reigning champs, Irish Banshees, the German Eagles, Swiss Heidis and European Crusaders. The Banshees are obviously the team to beat here. Yes, 2019 was a long time ago but the Irish side is always extremely competitive at the Euro Cup and rarely misses out on a Grand Final birth. Attempting to slow them down will be the German Eagles, who are endeavouring to win silverware for a second tournament running. For the Swiss, its focus will be on improving upon its seventh place finish in Sweden, which will require the Heidis to go up a gear in terms of their play – something this team is more than capable of. Finally, the European Crusaders could finish in any position and it wouldn’t be a surprise. As with any team made up of players from different countries, how quick they can come together and form some strong bonds will be pivotal to their success on the day – let’s see how it pans out.

Pool C:

The only three-team pool in this tournament, the hosting Scottish Sirens will be joined by the Swedish Ravens and Welsh Wyverns. Scotland missed out on the women’s edition of the Euro Cup in 2019, so will be chomping at the bit to return and playing on home soil will only serve to strengthen their resolve to put on a good show for the local fans. Sweden narrowly missed out on silverware last time out, losing the third-place playoff in a nail-biter. Can the Ravens go one better in 2022? Only time will tell but they’re certainly a good chance of topping this pool and setting themselves up for success late in the day. Finally, the Welsh Wyverns could surprise a few, particularly considering their strong 2022 form. The squad is fresh off the end of their domestic season and put on a terrific show at this year’s Clover Cup. There’s nothing to stop any of these teams going undefeated through the pool games, it will simply be a matter of who wants it more on the day.

2022 Team Previews

Part one: Croatian Knights, Austrian Avalanche, Polish Angels and England Vixens

Part two: Polish Devils, Israeli Beasts, Scottish Sirens and Swedish Ravens

Part three: German Eagles, Irish Warriors, Irish Banshees and German Eagles womens

Part four: Swedish Elks, England Dragonslayers, Scottish Clansmen and French Gauloises

Part five: Welsh Red Dragons, French Coqs, Welsh Wyverns and European Crusaders

2022 French Championship Match Report

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!

2022 Euro Cup Previews: Part Five

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.

Men’s Competition

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!”

French Coqs

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.”

Women’s Competition

Welsh Wyverns

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.”

European Crusaders

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.”

2022 Euro Cup Previews: Part Four

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.

Men’s Competition

Swedish Elks

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!”

England Dragonslayers

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.”

Scottish Clansmen  

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.”

Women’s Competition

French Gauloises

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.

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.”

2022 Nysa Cup Review

Last weekend, the Berlin Crocs were crowned victors of the second annual Nysa Cup after an undefeated run. The tournament saw dozens of footy players from Vienna, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland descend on the small southwestern Polish city.

Polish teams Warsaw Bisons, Wrocław Lions, Fort Nysa as well as international guests Prague Dragons, Berlin Crocs and Crusaders – made up largely of Silesia Miners and Vienna Galahs – enjoyed a hot spring Saturday playing a massive 11 games on the municipal stadium – the first in Poland to be outfitted with footy posts.

Polish teams – made up almost exclusively of Polish nationals, put on  a solid performance but were no match for the numerous Aussie-born players from the Berlin Crocs.

“The way they controlled the ball and the field allowed them to get away from us early, and we struggled to slow them down,” said Robbie Turner, who stepped up on the day to coach the Warsaw Bisons.

“While the Warsaw team did not have the result we wanted, it was still a positive day, and a good lesson in things requiring improvement to ensure we keep developing as a team,” he added.

Turner applauded Big Piotr and Dancing Mateusz, Warsaw players who successfully got two goals past the Crocs. He acknowledged notable contributions from defenders Damian Stalis and Marcin Skibinskl and ruckmen Przemek Król and Mateusz Bartkiewicz against the Wrocław Lions and named Piotr Bieniek best on ground in the Bison’s only victory against the Crusaders, which secured the team 5th place.

The Wrocław Lions had a successful tournament, finishing 4th after a narrow loss to Fort Nysa in the 3rd place playoff, said Lions coach Jeremy Coombe.

“Daniel Michalak was a strong contributor for the Lions, rucking for most of the day and providing an imposing physical presence until a hamstring injury ended his day prematurely, while Stefan Bogdan was dangerous in all the matches, using his speed and skill to set up attacks, and also kicking goals himself.”

Other strong performers for the Lions on the day included Jakub Świerczyński, Grzegorz Pluzinski, Anas Djeffal and Radek Szałański.

Prague Dragons coach Paul Breidis said: “It was a pretty good effort by the Prague Dragons who, with only seven players able to make the trip, came away with second place at the Nysa Cup in Poland”.

Despite the Dragons requiring top up players throughout the day to remain competitive “our team showed strong character and work rate to win every game except the big dance in the final against Berlin Crocs”.

“Our team was very well served by Cathal Doherty, Ash Lenihan and our captain Jan Novak in the midfield who not only worked tirelessly but created genuine strong passages of play through their skills and football smarts.

Our full-forward, Ronan Wordsworth, provided strong options all day and with the unusual habit of closing his eyes to mark the ball, managed to kick a good bag of goals across all games.”

The Nysa Cup also saw the first ever women’s match to take place on Polish soil, with a rag-tag team of players from Warsaw, Silesia and Prague conquering Fort Nysa’s AFLW team.

Turner called this a “brilliant achievement” for AFL Poland while spectators were surprised at the ferocity demonstrated by the women and largely agreed it was the most enjoyable game to watch.

Thanks were extended to Australia’s ambassador to Poland, Czech Republic and Lithuania Lloyd Brodrick who inaugurated the event with a ceremonial handball.

  • Victoria Bieniek, AFL Poland

2022 ANZAC Cup Weekend Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lest We Forget.