All in readiness for Game One in Dutch decider series
It’s a big weekend for Australian Football in the Netherlands as the Delft Blues and Amsterdam Devils face off on Saturday in game one of their three-match series that will decide the national champions.
The new kids on the block from Delft will be out to shock their seasoned Northern neighbours at the Sportpark Brasserskade, with the ultimate carrot of a place at the 2019 Champions League on the line.
It will be no easy feat though, with the Devils themselves having featured in the previous two Champions League finals and only narrowly missing out on claiming the 2018 title in the decider against the four-time champion West London Wildcats.
The two sides have met recently in their inaugural friendly clashes which have seen Amsterdam claim the honours on both occasions, but with the final margin under five goals each time, a very healthy rivalry is already developing between the two clubs.
Head Coach of the Nederland Flying Dutchmen and AFL Netherlands representative, Neil Cooke, says that the formation of the Blues is a great step forward for the development of the game in Holland, with the added competition for the Devils only a positive despite adding a significant obstacle to their route to Champions League qualification.
“The Blues started training in a local park at the back end of last season, starting with just a few players but have already established a good core, both Australian and Dutch, leading in to season 2018, before they officially became a club and part of the AFL Netherlands structure in 2018 and found their home at DVC Delft Football Club” Cooke said.
“The Blues are going from strength to strength as they attract players from Delft, The Hague and Rotterdam areas of South Holland. With a number of universities in the area, they are hoping to recruit some young talent who will develop their game in the Netherlands over the coming years.”
Cooke says that while the Delft boys can smell a victory against Amsterdam at their third and most important attempt, the final result is ultimately not the be all and end all for either club as the good of the game takes priority.
“Whilst getting the wins are important, especially for Champions League qualification, the biggest priority for both clubs is bringing in new players to the sport and developing their skills, and with experienced Australians at both clubs, we have no doubt that once new players come down, their skills will develop very quickly,” he said.
“The growth of the game in the Netherlands is of the utmost importance to AFL Netherlands and the clubs as we look to establish a consistent league in the coming years.”
Along with the introduction of the Blues to the AFL Netherlands landscape, a development side, the Waterland Eagles, has been formed in the city of Purmerend as a way to introduce local Dutch players to the game with the incentive of a unique fitness opportunity during the rugby off-season.
Saturday’s match is set to be the first of many competitive hit-outs between the two clubs going forward, with early bragging rights eagerly sought after ahead of game two next Saturday at Amsterdam’s Sportpark de Eendracht.
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe