2017 AFL International Cup
Great Britain Bulldogs
6th Place – Men’s Division 1
BY ANGUS BOYLE
The Great Britain Bulldogs have finished their 2017 AFL International Cup campaign in sixth position after they were defeated by Nauru in the fifth-position playoff on Friday 18th of August. This is the equal-highest finish for the Great Britain Bulldogs side at an International Cup, as they also finished sixth in 2002 and 2005.
Bulldogs coach Dean Thomas felt that the final result was not a fair reflection on his side, and he did not doubt their application or effort. After the final game, he praised Nauru for their quick style of play as the Nauru side played some fantastic football to defeat the Bulldogs. It was not the way the Great Britain side wanted to finish the tournament, and their pre-tournament expectations in terms of win-loss ratio were not met. Yet, when talking post tournament, Thomas said, “with the aid of hindsight, we were probably one of the youngest and most inexperienced groups in the top division. To lose games by no more than three goals, and a couple of convincing wins, showed we were not far off the top sides.”
Out of the 29-man squad that the Bulldogs had, 21 of them had not had any previous experience in an International Cup and the emergence of those young players gives the Bulldogs a bright future ahead. There was a feeling within the group after their final game that they had underperformed and those young players who are aiming to be playing for Great Britain in the next International Cup will use that disappointment to motivate them next time around.
One of the standout players for the Bulldogs was key forward Andrew Walkden who kicked 15 goals for the tournament. Walkden started off by kicking five goals in the Bulldogs opening game, which they won against South Africa by 37 points at Royal Park to get their tournament off to a perfect start.
Unfortunately, they then lost to Canada Northwind who caused a major upset by winning by 15 points in tough, windy conditions in Round 2, a result that Thomas said, “will burn for a long time.”
It was always going to be hard from there for the Bulldogs to make the Grand Final, but if they could beat Ireland in Round 3, they would still have a chance. However, the Warriors were too slick and a dominant third quarter meant the Bulldogs couldn’t get close enough as their European rivals won by 15 points in one of the best matches of the tournament.
Up next for Great Britain was Fiji, back at Royal Park. The Bulldogs controlled most of the game and got back onto the winners list with a comfortable 29-point win over the Fijians.
In their final match of the tournament, playing for fifth place, the Bulldogs played the Nauru Chiefs at Royal Park. A back and forth match saw the game in the balance at three quarter time, but the skill and speed from the Chiefs was too much for the Bulldogs as Nauru claimed fifth place by securing a 21-point victory. In the last game, the Bulldogs struggled up front as they could only manage five goals, all through five different players, an uncommon sight in today’s game.
Throughout the tournament, Walkden was well supported in attack by fellow forwards David Hastie and Ryan Floyd who kicked five and four goals respectively. Jack Coughlan contributed with three, while Andrew Cochran and Seyonne Kidnapillai kicked two for the tournament. Marc Cashman also chipped in with one goal, but it was Walkden who dominated in the forward line for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs generally played quality football, except for their unexpected defeat against Canada, but as a whole weren’t quite good enough. A few numerous key moments in games against Ireland and Nauru cost them a chance to record their best ever finish at an International Cup.
The next tournament, to be held in 2020 seems like a long time away, but most of the players will already be setting their sights on bigger and better things for the next International Cup. Thomas said after the tournament, “I wouldn’t bet against this group getting a lot better over the next 3 years.” So, next time the International Cup is on, everyone will need to keep an eye on the Bulldogs as they will be back with plenty of bite, and ready to roar.
Andrew Walkden lead the Bulldog’s Forwards pack with his consistency in impacting the scoreboard, forward tackling pressure and his ability to turn half chances into goal conversions. Special mention to David Hastie, who recovered from a slow start in the competition to have a meaningful impact in the mid to later stages.
Through his sheer weight of possession, use of the ball, and physical presence in contested situations, Luke Booth was the best midfielder of the tournament. Luke Matias deserves a mention, as do Luke Murchie and Andy Cochran who recovered from injury to have a hugely positive impact. George Dibble was also very impressive and one to keep an eye on, and Alex Watson was a stellar ruckman.
Ross Denton and Myles Hudson were both exceptional in their intercept marks and rebound possessions.
Round 1 – GB Bulldogs 9.11.(65) defeated South Africa 4.4.(28)
Round 2 – GB Bulldogs 2.6.(18) defeated by Canada 5.3.(33)
Round 3 – GB Bulldogs 8.7.(55) defeated by Ireland 9.16.(70)
Round 4 – GB Bulldogs 8.8.(56) defeated Fiji 3.9.(27)
Round 5 – GB Bulldogs 5.2.(32) defeated by Nauru 8.5.(53)
Andrew Walkden, David Hastie, Ryan Floyd, Jack Coughlan, Andrew Cochran, Seyonne Kidnapillai, and Marc Cashman.
Best on Ground for IC17:
Andrew Walkden, Luke Booth, Ross Denton, Alexander Watson, and Myles Hudson.
World Team Selection:
Andrew Walkden (Forward Pocket)