By Michael McCormick
The most improved team in Europe is also one of the most feared teams in the International Cup.
The Great Britain Bulldogs are shaping up as a smokey to take out the title having had their strongest season in 2013.
The 2013 European Championships Runners Up and 2013 Axios Euro Cup Premiers appear ready and eager to take on the world’s best and, according to AFL England President and Bulldogs Team Manager, Adam Bennett, will be giving their all to take home the cup.
“As the old adage says, you have to beat the best to be the best and we want to be the best,” stated Bennett.
Quite a few new faces have been introduced since the 2011 International Cup and with an injection of youth, the Bulldogs will be better placed to endure the intensity of the matches this year.
“We are seeing the next generation of footballers come through who have started their footy at a much younger age than previous Bulldogs squads and represent a very positive development for the sport in Britain.”
Stalwarts such as captain, Sean Walton and Anthony Trigg will be leading the young brigade as they aim to put Great Britain in the public eye and gain acknowledgement as a great footballing nation.
It hasn’t been an easy road however. The players from every club in Australia and Great Britain have dedicated years of hard work and thousands of pounds into developing their game in order to play in the International Cup.
“After all the hard work, it’s a shame that the funding available for footy in the UK is very limited, so players contribute a large proportion of their own costs for tours such as this,” said Bennett.
The time spent in Australia, also the first trip down under for many of the players, is not all about business. Bennett explained that the team will also have the opportunity to meet some of the game’s greats.
“The International Cup is also a great chance to meet the legends of the game, such as Ron Barrassi and Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico.”
Having secured a tour of the Western Bulldogs facilities and a meet and greet with the players in 2011, the Great Britain Bulldogs will be hoping for another opportunity of the like.
“With professional footy such a distant thing for most of the squad, the opportunity to meet and chat with any professional of this fantastic game is immense,” said Bennett.
Travelling with the team will be coach, Mark Pitura in his farewell event with the club after having served a very successful five year tenure.
He will be supported by a new Assistant Coach and Manager and the team physiotherapist, Claire Shapland, who put the squad through conditioning and fitness workshops in the months leading up to the event.
As well as these workshops, other training strategies were implemented such as allowing players from the 9’s competition in Britain to play in the London 18’s competition on weekends during the season.
Even though the Bulldogs are eager to play teams outside of Europe, they still have a point to prove.
“The Bulldogs would also relish another crack at International and European Champions Ireland, after a heart-breaking 1-point loss on the last kick of the 2013 European Championships,” said Bennett.
The Bulldogs have their sights firmly placed on a top four finish and with their recent form and developing youth, it appears a realistic expectation.
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Pictures by Derek Clarke