Champions League Tournament Preview!

The 2016 Champion teams from across Europe converge on Amsterdam this weekend to decide which team is the best of the best in the 2017 installment of the AFL Europe Champions League.

For the 3rd year running AFL Netherlands will host what will be the largest tournament in its short history with 24 teams donning their team’s colours from 14 different countries.

Spark United Clubhouse and Sportspark De Eendracht will again be the venue with 5 pitches being used throughout the day and a total of 60 games being played making for a jam-packed day of Aussie Rules in the Dutch Capital.

The women’s draw features 5 teams with AFL London’s Wimbledon Hawks, firming as early favourites after an undefeated 2016 season. They’ll be buoyed by the recent AFLW season where they were fortunate enough to follow two of their ex-teammates, Lauren Spark and Kate Shierlaw, on the main stage.

The Paris Cockerelles have shown rapid improvement over the past 12 months and after having a strong preseason will be ones to watch. AFL Sweden’s Port Malmo Lynx and DAFL’s Odense Lionesses, are always tough opponents and had strong showings at last year’s Champions League and the bulk of their squads having great Euro Cup tournaments for their respective countries. Neither should be underestimated and wouldn’t surprise the masses if they came away as Champions.

The Mixed Team round out the women’s competition and are made up of Scottish players who were unable to field a team along with a host of Wimbledon Hawks extras will prove strong competition for the four club’s sides taking part.

The men’s draw consists of 19 teams broken up into 4 groups (three groups of 5 and one group of 4). Group A features the ARFLI’s Leeside Lions, DAFL’s Farum Cats, the Cardiff Panthers of the WARFL, Norway’s Oslo Crows, and AFL Italia’s North West Eagles. Their will be pressure for the Lions to be there at the pointy end of the competition but with a group as strong as they’ve been drawn they won’t have an easy game.

Group B consists of two-time Champions League winners, the West London Wildcats. They’ll again be the team to beat this year but won’t do it easily with a red-hot Paris Cockatoos, Zaprude Giants from Croatia, Sussex Swans and Glasgow Sharks looking to knock them off their perch. The Cockatoos are nearly at the end of their 2016/17 domestic season so they’ll be match-fit and ready to take on the challenge.

Group C has last year’s runners-up, the Manchester Mozzies. The buzz coming out of the midlands is all positive with some handy recruits and key GB players suiting up for AFL CNE premiers. The Munich Kangaroos, Port Malmo Maulers, Bordeaux Bombers and Styrian DownunderDogs have very strong line-ups and will be flexing their muscle to claim the top spot in their group. Look for the mighty DownunderDogs to cause a few upsets after the bulk of their squads had great hit-outs at Euro Cup with Austria.

Group D consists of four teams, hosts, the Amsterdam Devils, the Norrtalje Dockers, Zagreb Dockers and Russia United. This could be the most evenly matched group of them all with any side a chance to finish on top. The Dockers of Norrtalje could really shake up the competition after they had a very strong season in the SAFF.

This year is set to be our most competitive Champions League tournament and one to follow closely.

It’ll be live streamed tournament all day by our regular streaming partners, Bar TV Sports. All Pitch 1 matches will be streamed lived with the links available on our website below:

Live Stream

For the full tournament fixtures see below:

Champions League Fixture (Final)

Best of luck to all teams taking part and be sure to follow our regular updates on our Facebook and social media pages.

 

 

 

anzuk Education join the AFL Europe Community

AFL Europe is thrilled to announce that we’ll be teaming up with anzuk Education who will become the Official Education Partners for 2017.

The partnership, which will support AFL Europe’s coaching, umpiring and game development programs, is certain to have a positive impact on the AFL Europe community. According to AFL Europe General Manager, Ryan Davey, this partnership couldn’t have started at a better time. “Game Development will be a major focus for AFL Europe in 2017. We are excited to provide better training and education to our coaches, umpires and club administrators over the next 12 months, and the fantastic team at anzuk Education are going to bring these plans to life.”

anzuk Education offer roles for teachers, teaching assistants and support staff from across the world in schools spanning the UK, Australia and New Zealand.  The Director of anzuk Education, Ben Goldsmith is thrilled with the new partnership confirming that they are, “always on the search for exceptional talent, therefore it was only natural that anzuk Education and AFL Europe formed a relationship. anzuk and AFL Europe are proud to be working together to create exceptional experiences in all settings from sports and schools.”

Whether you are looking for short-term or permanent work, anzuk Education are able to find the right role for you. Head over to their website at www.anzuk.education/uk and follow them on Facebook (@anzuk.uk), Twitter (@anzuk_UK) and Instagram (anzuk.Education).

 

Spark & Shierlaw on AFLW Season 2017!

Six weeks have been and gone since history was made in the inaugural AFL Women’s fixture between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park.

Tomorrow will see the culmination of the 2017 AFLW season when the undefeated Brisbane Lions take on the Adelaide Crows with the winner going down in history as the first AFLW Premiers.

On the eve of this momentous occasion AFL Europe caught up with two of their own stars of the AFLW, the Western Bulldogs’ Lauren Spark, and Carlton’s Kate Shierlaw, to hear their experiences on season one and all things women’s footy.

The pair were team mates in the Wimbledon Hawks’ undefeated 2016 AFL London season before making the move back to Melbourne when drafted to their respective AFL clubs late last year.

While growing up, Spark would’ve loved to play AFL but felt she could never dream of forging a professional career because there were no pathways for young girls and women into the AFL. When she was finally given the opportunity to chase her lifelong passion at the end of 2016, Spark dropped her life in London to return to Melbourne and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

“Walking into the Western Bulldogs home ground, I was thrown into all kinds of professionalism that I wasn’t expecting. The physios stretching all parts of my body, the doctors asking about my medical history and the strength and conditioning team testing me in order to create a personal program”, Spark recounted of her first weeks as an AFLW player.

She went onto say, “a group of girls with the same passion thrown together, some from the same amateur clubs, some normally rivalled opponents and some I’d not seen nor met before. But this was something we had to get used to, playing with and against our friends”.

A few months on, Spark made her AFLW debut as a ruck and key defender for the Western Bulldogs, and couldn’t be happier about the support she, her teammates, and her competition have received.

“AFLW has been bigger than I think anyone could’ve expected. The media attention, the attendance by spectators and the influx of young girls and women wanting to play shows that this is the long-lost missing piece of the AFL community puzzle.”

Kate Shierlaw, rookie forward for the Carlton Blues, agrees with her ex-teammate about the AFLW being inspirational for younger generations.

“Young girls are now growing up in a world where this is the norm and they can run around in the back yard pretending they are one of the AFLW stars. How cool is that?”

Shierlaw’s footy background is significantly different to Spark’s having only started playing with the oval footy last year in London. Despite not playing footy and growing up in Adelaide, Shierlaw was drafted to the club she grew up supporting, the Carlton Blues.

“The roller coaster since I signed as a rookie for Carlton has been incredible. To be selected to the club you have supported your whole life is something special and brings out a passion that’s very hard to find elsewhere”, Shierlaw said.

Wanting to try something new when moving to London from Adelaide in 2015, she joined the Wimbledon Hawks, and had immediate success with her athleticism and strong marking shining through.

Her AFLW Coach, Damien Keeping, credits Shierlaw’s success to her work ethic and her desire to perfect her football skills. It was these skills that helped her team come out on top when she found herself up against Spark and the Western Bulldogs in the two clubs round 5 encounter. The girls found themselves lining up on each other but didn’t let their friendship effect their performance on the field.

Shierlaw remembered the encounter that saw the Blues win by 6-points, saying, “It was a bizarre experience but once the game was underway, there is so much movement and concentration that it could have been anyone. We both respect each other as athletes and there was no smack talk out on the field. I was lucky enough to be on the winning side of a close, exciting match which was more important than any battle between two mates. It’s just one of so many great stories that has come out of this AFLW experience. Now we are both living out that dream that has never been a possibility.”

Both went on to have solid seasons for their respective clubs with Spark playing every game in a ruck/defensive role and Shierlaw playing up forward in all bar one match after being elevated off the rookie list.

Tomorrow morning’s season decider between the Brisbane Lions and Adelaide Crows draws the curtain on the history making inaugural AFL Women’s season. The rise has been bigger than anyone could imagine and no doubt consolidates the fact that the women’s game is here to stay and is only going to get bigger and better.

Good luck to the 44 women playing donning the Lions and Crows jumper tomorrow and congratulations to everyone involved in AFLW’s historic season.

 

 

Champions League Fixtures

The Champions League 2017 Fixtures are out!

The men’s division will be battled out among 19 teams across four groups while the 5 women’s teams will be jostling for positions before heading into their final series.

The day commences at 9:30am with the women’s final scheduled for 5pm and the men’s final following immediately after at 5:30pm.

 

Champions League Fixture (Final)

Champions League Team Previews

In the lead-up to the 3rd annual AFL Europe Champions League, hosted by AFL Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday 1st April, we’ll be taking a quick look at the teams who’ve qualified for the premier club tournament held in Europe.

Next up we have the Oslo Crows, Port Malmo Maulers, French Cup Champions, the Bordeaux Bombers, AFL Italia’s, North West Eagles, and the Women’s Mixed Team.

Oslo Crows

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

The league is Norway is very small. The Oslo Crows club is split into two teams, Oslo West and Oslo East. Ås University field the final third team in the league. In previous years, Oslo West and Ås have dominated the league. For the 2016 season, thanks to a strong recruiting push, Oslo East pulled ahead early in the season and stayed there before winning the Grand Final against Oslo West.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

During the winter the Oslo Crows train indoors as our home pitch is covered in snow and ice. This year we were only able to get access to a school sports hall approximately the size of a basketball court. In other words, our short game has become fantastic! Watch out for short, sharp kicks and hand passes and plenty of sprinting!

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

We are highly ambitious and now with the team to back those ambitions, anything is possible! We’re going to play hard, fast footy and make Norway proud. Particularly against teams representing the countries our national team lost to in the Euro Cup!

Player to watch?

Watch out for our two flying Vs, new recruits Victor Scherman, who previously played for the Paris Cockatoos, and Vemund Solberg Rustad, who played for PINTS football club in Darwin. Both are strong in the ruck and hard to pin down.  The form a strong part of the core team strategy of keeping the ball constantly in motion.

Port Malmo Maulers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

We won the Swedish Cup in Norrtälje and knocked off a hard fought Södermalm in the finals.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

We have been training indoors during winter mainly focusing on skills and fitness.

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

We enter the Champions league as a dark horse. If we are playing good and have a bit of luck go our way we could defiantly be contenders, though in saying that making the finals will be a good goal for us.

Player to watch?

Two time best and fairest winner and captain Chris Mårtensson. He is a versatile player that can have a big impact anywhere on the field. He is big, strong and fast with great leadership qualities and he will lead the Maulers to victory.

Another one too look out for is DAFL’s leading goal scorer Ben Polmear. The goal scoring veteran will be will be a handful for defenders and he will be looking to kick a bag at this year’s tournament.

Bordeaux Bombers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

We qualified for the Champions League by winning the French Cup. The beginning of our 2016 season was difficult because many of our players were new and they lacked experience. By early September, our team was playing well – we are always in a race for the final half of the championship.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Our organisation for the trip to Amsterdam hasn’t seemed too difficult, and our players are motivated and excited to participate in the Champions League.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Our goal is to enjoy being on the field and win as many of our matches as possible.

North West Eagles

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

We won the only official game in Italy last year, in Pisa we defeated The ROMA Blues, and it was a sort of challenge round.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

We’ve been training since late January on regular basis, so everything is going well at the moment.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

We are newcomers so we only hope to add to our experience some important matches and give all we’ve got to give and have fun.

Player to watch?

Niccolò De Giorgi and Filippo Alloisio have both played games in European Selections taking on the Australian Academy Side in London and Copenhagen, but Filippo had a bad injury that forced him on the sidelines for the whole 2016 season.

Women’s Mixed Team

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

Due to the invited SARFL Representative team being unable to field a full squad, the team spot has been transitioned to a Rogue Women’s team with an open invitation to players across the continent. The team has therefore been formed with girls of 5 different nationalities with many hoping to get in as much game time as they can in their run up to the International Cup in August.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Due to the team’s inability to qualify for the final, our aim will be to provide some strong competition for the other teams in the tournament through leadership from GB Swans Caroline Sellar.

Player to watch?

A player to watch will be newcomer to the sport, Alex Peill, who has was selected for the GB Swans after only playing 2 games so she will be keen to put her training in to practice. Though we are a team built from a variety of players with a mix of experience, we will still be looking to put out a strong contest, displaying some good footy!

 

O’Neills & AFL Europe Renew Successful Partnership

AFL Europe is pleased to announce that for a second year, O’Neill’s Irish International Sports Company Ltd. will be our official apparel partner for 2017. Both O’Neill’s and AFL Europe are excited to be joining forces once again, as together they aim to strengthen and grow the game of Australia Rules Football throughout Europe.

AFL Europe General Manager, Ryan Davey, stated that, “we couldn’t be happier to be working alongside Kieran, Orla and the entire team at O’Neill’s once again. This year is going to be a fantastic year for everyone within our AFL Europe community and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have such a great apparel partner on board who can provide quality products, and superior service, to our entire community.”

Australia Rules Football is played across over 20 countries in Europe. O’Neills will supply quality bespoke playing kit and leisurewear for key tournaments such as the Anzac Cup, the Champions League & Euro Cup.

Commenting on the renewal of the partnership, Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director said, “O’Neills are delighted to extend our partnership with AFL Europe. We are looking forward to providing quality playing kit and team wear such as the 2017 Champions League Team of the Tournament guernsey  and working with the AFL Europe team”.

For information on how your club can develop their own unique identity please contact Orla Ward at oward@oneills.comalternatively clubs can design their own kit on http://icreate.oneills.com/australian-menu-2-stripe.html  

About O’Neill’s

O’Neill’s Irish International Sports Company is proud to be the largest and leading sportswear manufacturer on the island of Ireland, employing more than 700 staff. Established in 1918, O’Neills specialise in the design, manufacture, personalisation, and supply of performance multi-sportswear globally. The brand is synonymous with quality, combining cutting edge leading sportswear design and customer service excellence, with unbeatable delivery times. The brand is the Choice of Champions across rugby, soccer, netball, hockey, boxing, cricket, athletics, cycling, boxing and Australian rules.

 

 

Win a Watch AFL Subscription!

The 2017 AFL Season is due to kick off this weekend and to celebrate we have a Watch AFL subscription to give away to one of our lucky Instagram followers!

To enter;

  1. Share a photo of yourself wearing an Aussie Rules Football jumper or any paraphernalia and holding your device (smartphone, tablet or laptop) to prove you would Watch AFL anywhere in Europe. Whether wearing your favourite AFL team’s jumper whilst nursing your laptop on a gondola ride in Venice or wearing your club’s beanie and scarf while holding your smart phone as you walk through the beer halls in Munich; you have a chance to win!
  2. Be following @afl_europe on Instagram, tag us, use the hashtag #WatchAFLinEurope. Share the post on as many platforms as your like!
  3. The winner will be chosen based on the contestant’s imagination and creativity – so get creative!

The competition is now open and closes at 11.59pm BST on 5 April 2017.

Example Entry:

‘Missed another train watching the AFL 360 replay on WatchAFL – totally worth it! #WatchAFLinEurope’

Location: Golders Green, London

To view the full terms and conditions, Click HERE

Champions League Team Previews

In the lead-up to the 3rd annual AFL Europe Champions League, hosted by AFL Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday 1st April, we’ll be taking a quick look at the teams who’ve qualified for the premier club tournament held in Europe.

Next up we have the Port Malmo Lynx, CEAFL Champions, the Zaprudje Dockers, AFL Scotland’s, Glasgow Sharks, the Norrtalje Dockers and Welsh powerhouse, the Cardiff Panthers.

Port Malmo Lynx

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

The Port Malmö Lynx had a reasonably quiet 2016 match wise but trained hard and qualified for Champions League by winning the AFL Sweden 9 a side cup.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Training has been going well leading up to CL 2017. There’s always a lack of matches for us at this time of year but there will be a pre-season hit out this weekend against the Lund Giants. In general, I’m happy with our preparations so far.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League? 

Questions about expectations are always hard to answer but as a coach I expect to see big improvements in areas that we have been lacking in. The players are always keen to go one step better at each tournament so I expect them to lay everything on the line for this one.

Player to watch?

Hmm player to watch, always keep an eye on My Almkvist, she got player of the tournament at Euro cup 2016 but we have a few more that will be keen to impress so keep your eyes open.

Zaprudje Giants

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

KAN Zaprudje Giants qualified for Champion League by winning the Central European Australian Football League (CEAFL). The league had three tournaments in Zagreb, Graz and Prague, and we won all three.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The preparation for Champion League are going pretty well so far.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Team expectation is to end in Top 6.

Player to watch?

Players to watch are surely Zvonimir Murkovic, one of the best players in Croatia through last five years and three-time European Legion player, and Igor Galez, strong full-back who was selected for tournament squad in Euro Cup in Lisbon.

Glasgow Sharks

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

We qualified for the tournament by becoming the SARFL 2016 Premiers. We had a great season, winning the national league for the first time in the clubs history. We beat our close rivals and then current premiers the Edinburgh Bloods in a tough semi final which bolstered the club with the belief to go on and win in the Grand Final.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The playing group have been hitting training hard and even getting together out with normal training sessions for extra running and fitness work. The club as a whole have been very excited for this chance and no one is going to let this chance skip by them

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Our aim is always to walk away from any competition as champions. We are relishing the chance to play against quality side from all over Europe and measure where we sit in the footy landscape.

Player to watch?

Club captain Adam Jack missed playing in the clubs first Grand Final win and is looking hit 2017 with few bags of goals.

Norrtalje Dockers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

The Norrtälje Dockers won the Stockholm Australian Football Federation Premiership on the back of a club record year. Winning 7 of 8 games during the regular season and then qualifying to the finals series for the first time in the clubs short 5 year history. A solid 5 goal Semi Final win led the Dockers to the big dance where 2015 premiers Södermalm Blues were beaten by 6 goals. The Dockers capped a stellar year by taking out all 3 major awards at the league presentation night. Matthew Schulte winning best Australian whilst also taking out the goalkickers trophy with 31 goals and Buster Sund claiming the prize for best Swede.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Pre-season training kicked off indoors two weeks before christmas and has continued once a week through the start of 2017. The Dockers hailing from Sweden have to contend with blistering cold and snow in pre season outdoor training but we feel it is what makes us stronger!

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

We will be looking to notch up a few wins over the day and test our skills and structure against teams from around Europe. The biggest and most exciting part for us is getting away as a team and meeting other footy teams from the continent!

Player to watch?

Fredrik Lenard will be making his Australian football debut at Champions league so the team will be right behind him on game day. Keep also a close eye on Goldilocks running from the back!

Cardiff Panthers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

We tussled through the WARFL league with some close results against Bristol Dockers, Chippenham Redbacks and Swansea Magpies however we came through the league champions giving us the advantage of home turf for the Grannie.  The Grannie was played in Cardiff and the conditions were great for a running game which suits our style.  We had the legs on the Redbacks in the last quarter and managed to come through victors.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Our coach, Joshua Davey, rounded up the boys in January to do some indoor late night training sessions.  So far the prep has gone just as planned with some skill work and the all dreaded fitness!  However we are all prepped for the the tournament.

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

We spoke with the Dutch team during the Euro’s in Lisbon and they persuaded us that the event had a great vibe and expressed what was great about AFL in Europe so no pressure!  It sounds like a fun and enjoyable tournament and we will go to compete but have a good time while doing it.  Other than that we’ll take each game as it comes.

Player to watch?

Mike Palmer: as he may kick the ball in your face…by accident…honest!

Champions League Team Previews

In the lead-up to the 3rd annual AFL Europe Champions League, hosted by AFL Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday 1st April, we’ll be taking a quick look at the teams who’ve qualified for the premier club tournament held in Europe.

Next up we have the undefeated 2016 AFL London women’s premiers, the Wimbledon Hawkettes, the Paris Cockatoos, the Zagreb Dockers, the Sussex Swans & the ARFLI Champions, the Leeside Lions.

Wimbledon Hawkettes

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

The Wimbledon Hawkettes were undefeated in the London league in 2016, winning the Grand Final against the North London Lions​. We were consistent on the field throughout the season, using our midfield pressure to push the ball forward, and shutting down the opposition when they came into our end. We also had the honour of being the only London team to have two of our forward line players drafted into the AFLW this season (Don’t worry, they won’t be kicking goals for us in this tournament!).

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

We recently started our pre-season training and many of the girls are looking fast after a productive off-season! We train with our men’s team so have been getting plenty of experience going up against rough opponents, and fighting for every contested footy. The weather in England has been all over the place as well, so we will be ready to play in whatever the Amsterdam skies want to throw at us.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 Ideally to take home the flag, as with any competition the Hawkettes always step onto the field wanting to win! Off the field though, I think the ladies will be looking to have fun and make footy contacts across Europe. We are bringing a big team to Amsterdam as this tournament is also our pre-season tour, and I think we’d like to share how we are growing the sport in London. Tournaments are a great place to recruit new players who come down to watch, and the surest way to keep that going is by putting on an exciting competition and ​following it up with a memorable afterparty.

Player to watch?

Midfielder Chloe Ong​ – Recruited from the sidelines, Chloe spends the Aussie Rules off-season playing football (soccer) in London. She has a great mix of speed and stamina which means she puts a formidable amount of pressure onto her opponents and keeps the footy moving into the forward line.

Paris Cockatoos

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

The Cockatoos are the newest team in the Paris Cocks franchise. The team was created for the 2016 season as we had too much players for just one men’s team. The team did amazingly well last season only losing two games in the regular season. They beat the Cockerels in the semi-finals (very tough and emotional game cause both team are from the club). In the Grand Final they beat the Coyotes in the last quarter. This was by far the toughest game of the season with all the Cockerelles and Cockerels cheering like crazy when they brought the trophy back to Paris!

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The French Championship is running from September to end of April so the Cockatoos are training twice a week and playing a game pretty much every two weeks. We are definitely ready for the Champions League!

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 We basically approach every game with the expectation of winning so we definitely have our eyes on making the final four. As a team we’re hitting some really good formats we’re bringing a lot of depth so there’s no reason why we can’t challenge the really good teams.

Player to watch?

A couple of our local products are worth looking out for. Julian Dagois and Clement Dony have had really consistent seasons are playing great footy. Jacob Raiwalui is a really exciting talent so it will be fun to cut the big boy loose against quality opposition. Also a couple of our old blokes have wound the clock back this season which has been fun to watch.

Zagreb Dockers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

We qualified for the 2017 Champions League by becoming champions of Croatia in 2016. The Croatian league of Australian football includes 6 clubs and it lasts from April till October. We were favorites to win the title being the reigning champions from 2015. Also, our squad is very strong and experienced. In the regular part of the competition we finished second but in playoffs we won all games and managed to defend the title, becoming champions for two years in a row.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The preparation for the Champions League started two months ago. It was very cold in Zagreb so we were training indoors. We will play in the Croatian Cup, so we will have a few matches before coming to Amsterdam.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Our expectations for the Champions League are to be better than last year when we finished in 9th place. This year we are coming with a full squad and we hope to be at least second in a group. There are no Australians in our team so this is a great opportunity for our players to grow and learn.

Player to watch?

Player to watch is definitely the Captain of Croatian national team, Tomislav Cvetko. He was elected as Best and Fairest of Croatian League in 2016. Tomislav is soon to leave for Australia to play footy there. No doubt he is a star but our team is a compact unit with a lot of talented players and some of them will hopefully be a pleasant surprise at 2017 Champions League.

Sussex Swans

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

Under the leadership of Will Mclean, Sussex Swans grew their numbers significantly in 2016, with most non-Australian first time players. Going into their first game of the Southern England Australian Football League, the Swans suffered a loss against Southampton Titans – fortunately, this would be their last loss of the season. The final game of the season was played against Surrey Stags at the Swans’ home ground in Brighton. The passion and energy of the 2016 new recruits provided Will with enough confidence to put out a rookie team against the much more experienced Stags. The Swans took their eleventh win and the title of 2016 SEAFL Premiers.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Having committed to the 2017 Champions League in December of last year, the Sussex Swans returned back to skills-training on the first Saturday of January and every subsequent week since, training through rain, sleet and snow. The weather isn’t the only brutal elements the Swans have faced, with a new mid-week HIIT training session leaving the 2017 players fitter, stronger and faster than ever before. Word has spread about the Swans’ hard training and dedication with a strong increase in membership – the Swan’s even welcomed their first ladies players to training in March.

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 The Sussex Swans haven’t trained all through winter with the expectation that winning is not a possibility. This may be the Sussex Swans’ first challenge at the Champions League title, but that doesn’t mean that they are a team to be taken lightly. Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is!

Player to watch?

Boo. One to both watch and hear.

 

 Leeside Lions

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

Having not won the flag since 2007 and not appearing in a grand final since 2011, the Leeside Lions were perennial underachievers in recent times. 2016 saw a great mix of youth and experience in the Lions ranks as there was great numbers crossed over for the summer period from our sister Uni club, the UCC Bombers. There was a great buzz at trainings and games and we knew 2016 had the potential to be our year. The ARFLI season is played on a carnival basis with each team playing two league games on the same day. The Leeside Lions won the 2016 ARFLI flag on the back of an unprecedented unbeaten season winning 9 from 9 culminating with the defeat of the highly-experienced Belfast Redbacks by double scores, 104-52 on home soil.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Preparations have been going well, the Lions are training with the UCC Bombers at the moment, recent Fitzpatrick Cup winners. This allows us to challenge ourselves against quality opposition on a weekly basis with great playing numbers. We were also delighted to host the North London Lions for a pre-season game on Saturday 11th March, this was a tough and fair contest but it certainly was very beneficial to both teams with our North London counterparts preparing for their AFL London season and us for the AFL Europe Champions league with the final score as follows:

Leeside Lions 10.8 (68) North London Lions 6.9 (45).

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 The Champions League is unknown territory to us but its something we’re very excited about. There is no point entering a tournament unless you want to win it and I think that’s our mantra for Amsterdam. We’re going to go, enjoy the experience, play as good footy as we can and hopefully that will take us to the latter stages of the comp.

Player to watch?

This is a difficult one as we have guys with plenty of international 9s experience as well as some older club stalwarts and the influx of youth from the UCC Bombers. Players like Paul Murphy and Padraic O’Connell will certainly be players to watch as they are part of the Irish Warriors squad for the upcoming IC17. You have experience with the likes of Eoin O’Sullivan and Cian Quigley who have literary won everything there is to win in the game. For 9s you are looking for the team to perform as a cohesive unit and that’s our aim, no individual players, just one team.