The AFL International Cup is nearly upon us. It has been a huge few months for the teams finalising their preparations for the two week tournament held in Melbourne. In the lead up to the tournament kicking off on Sunday 6th August we’ll be taking a look at the eight European teams making the journey and competing for the title of IC Champions. In the last of our tournament previews we’ll take a look at last year’s European Champions, the Great Britain Bulldogs.
History of the Bulldogs
The Bulldogs formed in the early 1990s to compete in the Atlantic Alliance Cup against the likes of Denmark, Ireland and the USA. They have competed in all International Cups and European Championships since the tournaments inception.
The Bulldogs have played the most competitive 18-a-side matches of any side competing at this year’s IC with 59 matches. Their best International Cup resulted in a 6th place finish in both 2002 and 2005.
Last IC and European Championships
The Bulldogs entered IC14 as the 7th seeds and were optimistic to push for their first semi-final berth. They started their campaign with 83-point victory to European counterparts, France, but were beaten in a lower scoring hit-out against Nauru in the second-round game. Their third-round encounter was a make or break match against Fiji but it was the Fijians who ran out 16-point victors.
Following the opening rounds, the Bulldogs were coming from a long way back in 10th place and were scheduled for a rematch against Nauru. They didn’t get their revenge and were again beaten by just 16-points putting them into a 9th place playoff against another team they had played before in Fiji. They prevailed in that rematch in a low scoring 37 to 19-point final game.
The 2016 European Championships held in London pitted the Bulldogs against arch-rivals Ireland, Germany and Sweden. After dropping their group match against the Irish, they returned in the final to control the game from start to finish and claimed their first European Championships with a resounding 51 to 29-point win.
The confidence taken from this tournament has driven them over the past 12 months. They’ll be in the best shape of any GB side that has been out to an IC and big things will be expected both internally and externally.
Round 1: vs South Africa
Round 2: vs Canada
Round 3: vs Ireland
Round 4: vs Fiji
Grand Finals: vs TBC
Player to Watch
The high-leading forward is the leading goal-kicker for Bulldogs with 17 goals from his 7 games. The North London Lion and University of Birmingham product will be a difficult match-up for most sides and should extend his tally out in Australia.
If Coughlan can get the ball in his hands he’ll win games for GB. With some big key position players getting the attention from the opposition he should be able to work his man over and get on the end of a few.
IC17 Crystal Ball
The Bulldogs will be disappointed with anything less than a top 4 finish and rightly so after claiming their first European Championships crown in 2016. Some solid Australian-based Brit inclusions will only strengthen their chances and coupled with the high-pressure game plan instilled by coach Dean Thomas they should be the big movers come August.
The result of their round 1 match against South Africa will be their biggest match to date. If they win it signals that the Bulldogs are the real deal. Lose, and it could be a long two weeks knowing they’re up against the odds.
A physical Canadian outfit meets them in round 2 before they reignite their fierce rivalry with Ireland. They finish off the rounds with a game they will expect to win against Fiji. They won and lost against the Fijians in 2014 so the Bulldogs will be wanting to put the ledger in their favour.
IC17 is the chance for the GB Bulldogs to make a real impact in world footy. They are a fit, young squad who’ll be supremely well drilled. We’re expecting big things from the Brits!