It will be a very familiar looking Austrian line-up that lands on Irish shores for Euro Cup 2018 this October, with the men of the Avalanches determined to match or improve on last year’s eighth-place finish when they take the field in Cork.
The Avalanches have maintained the core of their lineup that has represented the country in recent Euro Cup competitions, and according to vice-captain Andreas Jauk, will hope to take full advantage of their tournament experience.
“The core of our team is basically the same as at the last Euro Cups, but we also have a couple of new players that I really look forward to seeing play at the cup,” said Jauk.
“Personally, the last two Euro Cups were really good, I was in good shape and able to play decent games, so my personal goal is to play good footy, but I really want to enjoy a fantastic day of footy and finish top eight with our team.
“Of course England as the current champion [are a threat], but I am really looking forward to seeing Denmark again at the cup. I really like their style of play and they have fantastic skills. And of course, the Irish as the home team.
“Our goal is certainly top-eight again… because our core is the same as recent years, we have an advantage. We can play really hard and we are definitely a unit on the field, with a lot of experienced players who have played in a lot of cups.
Two men that are part of that core and who have featured in all ten Euro-Cup competitions to date are Martin Schittegg & Richard Claasseen, with both set to take the field again in 2018 and keep their streak alive.
Casting his eye back to that very first appearance back in 2008, Schittegg says his Euro Cup experience was almost over before it began, as both he and Richard missed Austria’s opening fixture in Prague due to traffic jams and had set out to “enjoy the day and say goodbye to footy after that tournament.”
While the early years were difficult on and off the field for the Avalanches, Schittegg says the atmosphere at Euro Cup always managed to make the efforts worthwhile.
“In 2008, we thought that would be our last trip to a footy match or tournament because things were not running well in Graz,” he explains.
“We started late with our training sessions and we never had a training with more than five players throughout the year. As far as I can remember, I was alone at least half of the planned sessions.
“We lost all of our matches and finished in last place, but the atmosphere at that tournament was so inspiring and we had so much fun playing that we got a new motivation to continue our way and increase our footy team in Graz.”
Results did not fall the Austrians way either at Zagreb 2009, Milan 2010 or Edinburgh 20112 as they finished in last place, but the side secured their first win at the 2011 tournament by beating Catalonia in Belfast and became more familiar with the winning feeling at Bordeaux 2013.
“When playing in Prague [in 2008], most of us didn’t know all footy rules and we didn’t have a clue about tactics and match plans at all. Since our team in Graz was built only by Austrians, and we had support from Aussies just occasionally, it took us a while to understand and learn the basics of the game.
“2013 in Bordeaux was a magic tournament for us because we were able to win a very close match against Norway, and after that against the Crusaders, so we were in ninth place and took home the Plate.
“We learned how to win a footy match in that year and since then we have finished inside the top ten every year.”
Schittegg may describe the side as “slow, heavy and old,” but says that the Avalanches always give their all and, “more often than not, find ways to win a match.”
And on the possibility of him heading to a twelfth Euro Cup in Nortalje in 2019?
“Actually, my fitness at the moment is much better than ten years ago, so anything is possible!”
Austria Euro Cup History
8th (2017), 10th (2016), 7th (2015), 10th (2014)
Euro Cup 2018
CIT Cork, Ireland
Saturday, October 13th