Irish Watch – AFL Round Six Review

The festival of footy continued into round six of the 2019 AFL season, as just two days after Geelong and Hawthorn squared off in an Easter Monday classic, the Tigers and Demons met for the traditional ANZAC Day Eve clash.

This would of course be followed by the biggest day of the home and away season being Essendon’s traditional clash with Collingwood before the weekend arrived with another slate of mouthwatering games.

Lining up on the special day in the red and black would be Irish star Conor McKenna, who continues to improve with each and every game.

With 92,000 people watching on anxiously, the young Irishman certainly wasn’t blinded by the spotlight, with his run and dash off half back critical to the play of the Bombers all day.

In what was instantly revered as an ANZAC classic, it was a tail of two halves on Thursday afternoon as the Pies came out hot early to open up a significant five goal buffer towards half time.

An inspired Essendon team came out swinging after half time, with their attacking style of play almost seeing them pinch a famous victory off last year’s grand finalists.

McKenna would be crucial to Essendon’s second half fight back, with the dynamic defender going over the 20-disposal mark for the fifth straight week, with 21 touches to go along with five intercept possessions.

He also wasn’t afraid to take risks with the ball on football’s biggest stage, which is a testament to the composure of the man.

After a five week stint on the sidelines to begin the 2019 season, damaging Geelong defender Zach Tuohy finally made his return to the Cats AFL side in their big win over reigning premiers West Coast at GMHBA Stadium.

Tasked with reintegrating himself into the competitions best defence, Tuohy wouldn’t miss a beat on Sunday afternoon as he immediately came on and made an impact with his excellent reading of the play, silky skills and raw pace across half back.

Alongside the likes of Tom Stewart and Mark Blicavs, Tuohy played his role to perfection in the Cats big win collecting 18 disposals, five marks and two tackles at a solid 78% efficiency.

With the Cats already sitting pretty at the top of the ladder, you could still see Tuohy’s importance to the team, as he provided more spark from their back half and gave them another excellent ball user to rely on in critical periods.

As Tuohy returned to the Geelong side, fellow Irishmen Mark O’Connor further locked himself into the best 22 after having his best game for the season against West Coast.

As competition for spots intensifies at the Cattery, O’Connor certainly rose to the pressure as he stood tall in the Cats defence with 21 disposals, nine marks and two tackles while using the ball at an impressive 81%.

Marveled by the commentators all day for his composure with the ball and defensive tenacity, it was a perfect back pocket’s game from the Irishmen who was also central to stopping the Eagle’s dangerous small forward lineup of Liam Ryan, Jamie Cripps and Jack Petruccelle.

It was a big Saturday afternoon up on the Gold Coast as Pearce Hanley’s Gold Coast Suns looked to bounce back from their poor performance last week with a win over cross town rivals Brisbane in the Q Clash.

Although they brought the heat around the contest and intensity early, the young Suns would eventually fail to keep up with the class of the Lions, who bounced back from their recent troubles to secure a comfortable 49 point win.

After having a brilliant 150th game last week against the Crows, Hanley was again excellent for the Gold Coast as he led an inexperienced backline with 19 disposals at a remarkable 95% efficiency.

Relishing being able to finally enjoy strong games together at his second club, it seems as if Hanley has a new lease on life at the moment, with that trademark dash and boldness returning to his game on a more frequent basis.

It was also a big weekend around the state leagues over the ANZAC period with a number of solid performances from the Irish players.

Collingwood’s Anton Tohill was excellent up forward in the Magpies loss to the undefeated Bombers as he presented hard all day and ended up being rewarded with two goals.

Meanwhile in the NEAFL, young GWS forward Callum Brown showed signs of development in their 45 point loss to Sydney.

Constantly crashing packs and trying to get involved, the Giant’s coaches were buoyed by the competitiveness of the young key forward as he continues to try and develop the intricacies of Australian football.

With the festival of footy now completed, the AFL returns to normality for a big round seven this weekend, as teams look to build on their early season form and make a push for September action.

2019 ANZAC Cup Week Review

Another fantastic ANZAC Cup took place on Saturday afternoon thanks to Major Partner National Australia Bank. The 11th edition of the tournament saw two fast, contested matches highlight the quality of both sides and the connection between the two countries.

After arriving on Wednesday to be part of the ANZAC Day commemorations and spend time in Villers-Bretonneux, the Australian Spirit team played the French Gauloises in the women’s at 12 pm before the French Coqs battled the Australian Spirit in the men’s at 2 pm.

With the women’s game beginning proceedings, the French Gauloises got off to a fast start, leading the Australian Spirit 2.3.15 to 1.2.8 at half time.

Barry Carr, Head of Engagement and Delivery for National Australia Bank, with French & Australian Captains at the coin toss prior to the women’s match

Once the third quarter got underway, it was clear that the fitness of both teams was going to have an influence on who would win. The Australian Spirit started to gain control in the midfield and opened the game up as they managed to get back into the lead heading into the final stages of the match.

France wasn’t going to finish without a fight though, and two quick goals late in the final term meant there were a few nerves in the Australian camp. However, the Spirit held on in what was a great example of attacking and physical football to win by six points, 6.7.43 to 5.7.37.

Australia’s Best On Ground player, Heather Muir, said the team were very proud with the hard-fought win against an impressive French side.

“All of the events leading up to Saturday’s match, including the dawn service, memorial visits, and time spent with the locals, put into perspective the significance of the event. It was an exciting and moving experience to play our national game in France, in a place with such a remarkable history of mateship between the countries.  The French national side was very impressive, and we were very proud to come away with a narrow and hard-fought win,” she said.

In the men’s game, the French Coqs started off on the front foot like their female counterparts, kicking seven goals in the first half.

At half-time, the Coqs saw themselves in front by 40-points, 7.7.49 to the Australian Spirit 1.3.9.

The third and fourth quarters was more even, but the Australian Spirit couldn’t break through a strong French defence as both sides kicked three goals each for the remainder of the match. Despite their best efforts, the Australian side couldn’t get any momentum, with the French being more dominant with their ball movement around the ground.

Claire Hart, Second Secretary for the Australian Embassy of France, with both the French & Australia captains at the coin toss prior to the men’s match

Thanks largely to their fast start to the game, the French Coqs played a perfect style of football for the conditions as they won their first ANZAC Cup since 2013, winning by 42 points, 10.15.75 to the Australian Spirit 4.9.33.

French Coqs coach Andrew Unsworth was thrilled with how his side played on the big stage, and with a busy year ahead, this was an important statement made by the French.

“I’m really happy for our boys. They’ve been playing some great footy over the last two years or so without consistently hitting the scoreboard. It’s a great reward for our core group and for the young guys playing their first ANZAC Cup, who were all strong contributors,” he said.

“They were thrilled to beat a team of that calibre. The spirit team were highly skilled, tall and great in the contest, but we put them under intense pressure and were able to hurt them on the rebound. This gives us great confidence coming into a busy year with Euro Cup and Championship to come.”

With one win for each country, the presentations saw both teams come together to commemorate the occasion and remember the ANZAC’s involvement Villers-Bretonneux in World War One.

For all those playing, it was a great opportunity to represent their country, and French Coqs player Julien Dagois was one of them.

“It’s always a good experience to play in the ANZAC Cup, especially to win today. This is my fourth ANZAC game and it’s the first time we’ve won so I’m pretty happy about that. It’s exciting to play while you are representing your country especially against Australia because we know [ANZAC Day] is very important for Australians and New Zealanders,” said Dagois.

Before the football action took place, the two sides joined each other on Saturday morning for a march around Villers-Bretonneux to see the town and for the locals to see the two teams side-by-side.

Due to this year’s ANZAC schedule, the majority of the French squad travelled up on Saturday morning, but the Australian Squad arrived on Wednesday for the ANZAC Day Dawn Service on Thursday 25th April.

Up bright and early, the Australian Spirit were joined by family and AFL Europe staff for the Dawn Service at the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial for the ceremony to remember all those ANZAC’s who have served or are serving, including the 11,000 servicemen remembered on the memorial wall who have no known grave.

Katrina Stopinski was one of the umpires for the games on Saturday and also attended the Dawn Service as part of the Australian contingent. It was an incredible experience for Kat, especially with her family history as two of her great uncles fought on French soil over 100 years ago.

“Attending the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial was an incredible experience. The service beautifully told the story of many Australian soldiers who now lay to rest on French soil. I am very humbled to have been given the opportunity to attend and pay my respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” said Stopinski.

Later on Thursday, the Australian Spirit visited the Australian Corps Memorial in Le Hamel which tells the story of various battles on the Somme and has views to illustrate the layout of the land which the ANZAC’s would have had to deal with in extreme conditions.

Following that, the team held a training session at Stadium Timmerman before heading back to their host families for the night.

Friday was another day spent seeing the sites around Villers-Bretonneux, with the team going to the exhibition at the Sir John Monash Centre to gain an even more in-depth story of where and when the war took place, what happened and individual stories of who was involved.

In the afternoon, the Australian Spirit welcomed over 150 young students from the local Victoria School for an AusKick session, which involved learning how to kick, handball, mark and kicking at goal.

Having coached football at a junior level back in Australia, teaching skills is not a new concept to Emily McKie, and even with the language barrier, it was a successful session for all involved.

“It was great seeing the kids enjoy it, and even though we didn’t know the language, we were still able to run good, fun activities by demonstration with some dodgy google translate skills. It really reinforced the softer skills of coaching, such as demonstration, body language and attitude,” said McKie.

Following that, the players were presented with their green and gold Australia guernseys, another proud moment for many during this experience.

“It was an amazing honour and privilege to have Captained the Australian Spirit team against the French National side in commemoration of the ANZACs. An incredibly humbling experience and one I will cherish forever. Thank you to AFL Europe, the ABA Association and National Australia Bank for making this all possible!” said Australian Spirit Captain Ben Carter when asked about his time in Villers-Bretonneux.

The few days spent in Villers-Bretonneux was then rounded off on the game day with two fantastic games of football, highlighting the skills involved and demonstrating teamwork that was shown by the ANZAC’s on the battlefields over 100 years ago.

“Looking back my four days in Villers Bretonneux were a whirlwind, but such an amazing opportunity. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect ahead of the trip, but the hospitality we received from the local community, the way we gelled as a team and the impact the dawn service and memorials had on me far outweighed any expectations,” said Australian Captain Nicole Young.

Talking post-match on Saturday, Australian Spirit player Ki Currie summed up what many players felt during their time in Villers-Bretonneux.

“What an experience… To have the opportunity to represent my country and my family, I’m extremely blessed and it’s going to be an experience I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life. To share that with 26 other Australian’s, we are going to be mates for a long, long time,” said Currie.

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

By Angus Boyle – AFL Europe.

2019 ANZAC Cup Preview

For many Australians, ANZAC Day and the build-up is about honouring the brave diggers and doing this through a passion for Australian football.

The French national team will join the Australians in the small town of Villers-Bretonneux to celebrate ‘Australia Week’ and for the 11thconsecutive year, will be host to the ANZAC Cup matches at Stadium Timmerman.

After a close match last year in the men’s, with Australia winning by 17 points, this year is expected to be another tightly contested game as the French look to win their first match since 2013.

In the women’s, France will be ready to take on Australia and hope to turn their fortunes around from last year when the visitors won by 53 points thanks to a strong defensive performance. This is the fourth year of the women’s match, and this could well be the closest game yet.

With ANZAC Day falling on a Thursday this year, the Australian squad has been in Villers-Bretonneux since Wednesday to spend time visiting the memorials around the area, and train at the ground in preparation for the matches on Saturday 27thof April.

An Australia Spirit side will be up against the French National team in a men’s and women’s clash for the 2019 ANZAC Cup, in honour of the people who fought at war and a part of the celebrations, where Australian diggers retook the Villers-Bretonneux land from the Germans on the 24th April 1918.

The game so beloved to Australian’s is now rapidly growing across Europe, with 24 countries across the continent now playing the sport.

“The annual ANZAC game has evolved over the years and so has the French team. In recent years, we have seen a rapid improvement in the game style and therefore results from a French perspective,” said French coach Andrew Unsworth.

Much like the Essendon against Collingwood Anzac Day tradition in the AFL, this ANZAC Cup match takes that feel and has protocols in order to honour the diggers.

With the last post being played and both the Australian and French National Anthems, it provides great build up much like the match at the iconic MCG and is a great tradition of the armed forces and the Australian football community.

Over 70 applicants went for a spot in the Australian Spirit sides, however, teams were narrowed down to family and personal connections to the armed forces and more importantly, the connection to the battle that occurred in Villers-Bretonneux, rather than football experience.

Captain of the Australian Spirit men’s team, Ben Carter, has a great connection to the land that the team will be playing on, as his Uncle is buried in Villers-Bretonneux.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be named Captain of the ANZAC Cup Team. It is an incredible opportunity to reflect and remember the sacrifices many ANZACs made for our freedom, and for me personally to honour my Great Uncle who died in the Villers-Bretonneux battle 101 years ago, just 2 kilometres away from our playing field.”

The other Captain for the Australian Spirit women’s squad, Nicole Young,  is also looking forward to the occasion and was thrilled to be selected as a captain alongside Ben.

“It is an absolute honour and while I am not going to lie, I am a little nervous – I am also excited to be able to lead a team of inspiring Australian women. Not just as we run out onto the field, but throughout the week of commemorations as we represent our country and our ancestors.”

 

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

By Liam McAllion and Angus Boyle – AFL Europe.

ANZAC Cup – French National Team Preview

The annual ANZAC Cup in Villers-Bretonneux sees the Australian Spirit take on France in a unique Australian Football match to commemorate those who have fought for the two nations in World War One.

It’s a big occasion for all involved, and the hosts certainly gain just as much from the experience as their opponents, with coach Andrew Unsworth saying, “as an overall experience, it is undoubtedly the most important”.

While many players from the Australian squad travel from all over the world, the French team is made up of players from around the country’s different leagues. For many of them, it’s one of, if not their most important match of the year and Captain of the men’s team, Sylvain Maylie, agrees with that sentiment.

“We don’t have many games during the year as a French team, so all games are important for us, but this one is different. It’s Australia against France. We want to show the Australians that we know how to play Australian Football and that we can beat them,” Sylvain said.

Naturally, the visiting side brings a strong line-up but in recent years, the French have certainly been able to match their opposition, just falling short at the final hurdle.

This year could be the chance for France to win their first ever women’s game, or potentially their first men’s game since 2013.

“The annual ANZAC Cup game has evolved over the years and so has the French team. In recent years, we have seen a rapid improvement in the game style and therefore game results from a French perspective,” said Andrew. “We can expect this improvement to continue and a more attacking brand of footy from the local team. Having said that, the Australian profiles look particularly dangerous so we will need to limit their time and space.”

There is plenty of experience in the French squad, as a number of the men’s players return this year, including previous winners of the Player of the Tournament in Thibaut Picard, Herve Desjardin, Pierre Leschales and Vincent Monnier.

In last year’s men’s game, the French side challenged the Australian’s deep into the final quarter before a couple of late bursts saw Australia come out on top by 17 points. In the women’s, the Australian’s were a bit more dominant, winning by 53 points on the back of some strong defence. However, with a strong lead up to the game, the French women are confident of their chances at recording their first ANZAC Cup win.

“Unfortunately, our players will not be able to pay their respects at the dawn service this year due to the timing. But it is still a great opportunity to interact with the fantastic VB community as well as recognise those who fought to defend France and reflect on the sacrifices that they made for us,” Andrew said.

This 11thedition of the ANZAC Cup is set to be another memorable event to remember those who sacrificed so much during World War One.

“It’s not just a game. What is more important to me is that by participating, we are supporting Australians and commemorate ANZAC Day. French people should remember that Australian soldiers were here for us during the First World War. We must have lasting gratitude for them”, said Sylvian. “Each year, it’s an emotional walk, an emotional game, an emotional day together in Villers-Bretonneux… I invite all French people to participate in the ceremonies taking place.”

For anyone visiting Villers-Bretonneux over the next few days, it will be an experience that will stay with them forever and for those pulling on the French and Australian guernseys, an unforgettable occasion as they represent their countries in a game of Australian Football.

2019 ANZAC Cup Player Profiles – Ben Carter

Growing up in North Adelaide, Ben Carter was in the heart of South Australia’s capital – an area thriving with footy fanatics.

A passionate Port Adelaide supporter, Ben grew up playing Australian Football at a high level for the St Peter’s Old Collegians Football Club in the South Australian Amateur Football League.

With his passion for the sport of Australian Football having a big impact on the person Ben is today, Ben is a perfect fit to join 26 deserving Australians in this 11th edition of the annual ANZAC Cup.

Ben has been selected as the men’s Captain for this match, where he will lead the Australian Spirit team in the 2019 ANZAC Cup against the French National side on the 27thof April.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be named Captain of the ANZAC Cup team. It is an incredible opportunity to reflect and remember the sacrifices many ANZACs made for our freedom. For me personally, to honour my Great-great Uncle who died in the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux 101 years ago, just two kilometres away from our playing field, is something that is going to be very special for me.”

Ben has a whole lot to play for this ANZAC Day and with his family history so strongly connected to the armed services he is looking forward to making his family proud over the weekend. The historic town of Villers-Bretonneux means so much for Australian families as they remember the sacrifices that were made to protect the town and for the Carter family – this is no exception.

After serving in Gallipoli and then the Western Front, Ben’s Great-great Uncle David Allen was buried in the Adelaide Cemetery in Villers-Bretonneux and was awarded a Military Medal for his noble services.

“I am very excited and honoured to be able to represent my country at Villers-Bretonneux in the ANZAC Cup and the significance it has on my family and Australia’s history. It was a pivotal battle in the war, and it means a lot to me to be able to visit and pay my respects where my Great-great Uncle David fought and died for his country.”

Ben’s Great-great Uncle was seen as a hero by many and was awarded a Military Medal for his efforts during the War. History documents recorded that “Allen displayed great gallantry during heavy bombardment… he immediately commenced to dig out his men and bandage and carry wounded men out of the line. Whenever casualties were occurring, he would be found, cheering up and holding his platoon together by his own personal courage.”

Ben’s connection to the armed services would not rest with his Great-great Uncle. The family once again returned to the Armed Forces during World War II. Ben fondly recalls growing up hearing the stories of his Great Uncle Percy, his Great Grandfather, and both Grandfathers who all served in the Armed Forces during either World War I and World War II.

Ben’s father, Bruce Carter, is especially proud of their family’s long line of service and is the current Chairman of the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC), following in the footsteps of his past generations.

“My father will be attending the ceremony and coming to watch me play. It is of equal importance to him as it is to me. Having such involvement with the Australian forces in his role as Chair of ASC, he is proud his son is able to represent our country on such an important day and in particular in Villers-Bretonneux. We look forward to being able to visit our Great-great Uncles grave together to pay our respects and to be able to set foot on the battlefield in which he fought so bravely. This is a truly unique experience for both of us and something I consider myself lucky to be able to share not only with my father but with the entire Australian Spirit team.”

With his team first attitude and incredible connection to Villers-Bretonneux, Ben will be a great captain and leader for the Australian Spirit men’s side on Saturday when the players pull on their Green and Gold playing jumpers to take on the French National side.

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

By Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

Irish Watch – Round Five Review

It was a festival of football over the Easter break, as a special round five extended from Thursday to Monday and brought with it some incredible highlights.

Whether it be another Easter Monday classic between the Cats and Hawks, Eddie turning it on his 300thor the Blues serving up their first win of the year, footy fans across the nation were truly blessed throughout the holiday period.

For the Irish contingent, it was another big round of action at all levels, with the same four players from the previous two weeks flying the Irish flag in the AFL this past weekend.

It was a big Sunday afternoon for Gold Coast veteran Pearce Hanley, who brought up his 150thAFL game in a crucial clash with the Crows.

Coming into the game with a 3-1 record, expectations were high as the Suns looked to continue their strong run of form against an out of sorts Adelaide outfit.

However, in their toughest test of the year, the Suns youngsters ran out of gas at the Adelaide Oval as an inspired Crows side belted the inexperienced Gold Coast from pillar to post.

Serving as a key piece in a solid Suns defence over the past month of the season, Hanley had his best game for the year in the side’s 73-point defeat, as he constantly repelled Adelaide attacks and tried to spark the Suns ball movement.

Winding back the clock in his milestone game, Hanley would end up with 29 disposals, six marks and four tackles while using the ball at 70%, in what was a dominant performance off the half-back flank.

It was a very Good Friday for Conor McKenna’s Bombers as they tore apart a lacklustre North Melbourne side under the roof at Marvel Stadium.

After a slow start to the season, Essendon has really begun to hit their straps over the past three weeks, as three big wins have seen a number of key players come into form and their style of play move from strength to strength.

Renowned as one of the competitions most exciting and attacking sides, much of their ability to move the ball with frenetic pace comes from their defence, with young McKenna a particular driver off half back.

Reaching the 20-disposal mark for the fourth consecutive week, McKenna was again excellent on Friday afternoon as he ended up with 26 disposals and four inside 50’s with an excellent efficiency of 77%.

Very bold and forward thinking in the way he approaches his footy, the excitement of McKenna was on display for all to see against the Kangaroos, as he was never afraid to take the risky option and take on the opposition with his run and dash.

The famous Easter Monday clash between Geelong and Hawthorn would also see two Irish players go head to head, with Mark O’Connor and Conor Nash given the opportunity to compete on one of football’s biggest days.

In a tight tussle, the class of the Cats would just prevail as they held off a fast-finishing Hawthorn outfit to run out 23-point victors.

O’Connor would have perhaps his best game in the blue and white hoops, as he again played a pivotal role as a small defender in a tight Geelong back six.

Matched up against dangerous small forwards such as Chad Wingard and Luke Breust, the Irishmen more than held his own having 15 disposals and five marks whilst using the ball at an extremely impressive 87%.

Both Breust and Wingard would also fail to record a major, showing the tenacity and hunger of his defensive efforts on two of the game’s most skilful players.

On the other hand, it would be a day to forget for Nash inside Hawthorn’s forward 50, as the athletic Irishmen failed to have any major impact, only recording two disposals and two tackles for the afternoon.

At state level, it was exciting to see Zach Tuohy return to competitive football in the Cats nail-biting three-point win over Werribee in the VFL.

Playing across half-back, Tuohy showed his class throughout his limited game time, managing 14 disposals at a very efficient rate.

Meanwhile, in the NEAFL, fringe Sydney defender Colin O’Riordan was a stand-out in the Swans reserves victory over Redland.

Playing both in defence and up forward, O’Riordan was brilliant all day amassing 26 disposals and eight marks, as well as a clutch last quarter goal to see his side to a nail-biting victory.

With the ANZAC round now upon us, expect plenty more action from the AFL with a number of Irish players finding their feet at AFL level.

By Zac Standish.

2019 ANZAC Cup Player Profiles – Nicole Young

From playing for Oxford in the grand final of the inaugural Australian Football National Universities League to playing in the 2nd Women’s Varsity Cup, Nicole Young has had a couple of busy months playing football.

It doesn’t stop there though; her list of achievements is about to grow even longer when she is set to lead out the Australian Spirit women’s team as Captain playing against a French national side in the 2019 ANZAC Cup at Villers-Bretonneux on the 27th of April.

“I was surprised and absolutely thrilled to receive the news that I had been selected as Captain… It is an absolute honour and while I am a little nervous – I am also excited to be able to lead a team of inspiring Australian women. Not just as we run out onto the field, but throughout the week of commemorations as we represent our country and ancestors,” Nicole said.

Nicole’s connection with the ANZAC’s goes all the way back to World War One, while she has also seen some close friends commit to the armed forces serving Australia.

Her Great-Great Grandmother’s two brothers, James L Partington and Preston P Partington, fought in World War One but tragically only Preston returned home. Nicole’s Great Grandfather Ernest P McShane also served as a member with the 40th Battalion during the first World War and he also fought during World War Two.

Visiting Villers-Bretonneux will be a sobering experience for Nicole, as Ernest fought there during WW1 and it’s also where James sadly lost his life fighting for his country.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Villers-Bretonneux or any other memorials yet, so this trip will be my first. I have no doubt that it will be both sobering and inspiring,” Nicole said.

Another family connection was her Great-great Aunt, Phyllis McShane, who married Malcolm Campbell, who was the brother of Alexander Campbell, the last known survivor from the Gallipoli campaign. More recently, two of Nicole’s friends have served with the Australian army in the peace-making attempts in Afghanistan.

“I know that such a large part of the Australia I know and love today, is due to the sacrifices made by many before me and the ongoing commitment by our current forces,” she said.

Because of her family history, Nicole sees this opportunity as a chance to represent her country in her own unique way, by playing a sport she grew up following as an avid fan.

Unfortunately, growing up in rural Tasmania meant there was no local women’s league, but she would still follow her brother and father, who both represented Tasmania, from the sidelines and took any opportunity to get a kick, be it in the backyard or at halftime.

Her playing career finally started to pick up in 2017, playing the AFL 7’s format in Melbourne. After moving to Oxford, England, in May 2018 she joined the Oxford University women’s team and has been a key member of that side, playing in the ruck where she is enjoying developing her skills and versatility.

However, the concept of the ANZAC Cup was one she only found out about recently.

“Soon after moving to the UK, I found out about the tournament and since then it was definitely something that I hoped I would be lucky enough to participate in,” she said.

To add even more personal connection with playing in the ANZAC Cup, Nicole’s parents are visiting from Australia for this occasion and will be in Villers-Bretonneux to watch the match.

This whole experience will be a special one for Nicole, like those who have played in previous years, and she knows what the occasion is all about.

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to pay respect to those who have lost their lives and represent my country in a different light. By playing not only a game that I love but one that requires the determination, teamwork and endurance that is integral to the ANZAC spirit,” she said.

“I feel lucky to have the opportunity to represent my country, my ancestors and all past and present members of the armed forces.”

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

By Angus Boyle – AFL Europe

2019 ANZAC Cup Player Profiles – Angi Crispe

34-year-old Angi Crispe is exactly the type of person you’d want in your team or club. 

Showing commitment through immersion in her local club, Angi has shown over the years how she can help a community of people perform at their best. 

Currently living in Ireland, Angi is a player, coach, committee member and overall supporter of the Cuala Gaelic Club. Helping her club to recently win the best sporting club in Ireland award, this level of dedication to a club is exactly what typifies being a part of the Australian Spirit team.  

Growing up in the small town of Riverton, South Australia, Angi was first in contact with Australian football when playing for the Riverton Hawks. This being her main Australian football background means this ANZAC Cup trip will be on another level. Compared to a junior local footy experience this is an amazing opportunity to proudly represent her home country on such an important weekend.  

Angi will join the Australian Spirit football team on the 27th of April for the 11th consecutive ANZAC Cup. 

Held in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Angi will be looking to inspire and make her family proud, representing Australia against the French National Australian football team. 

“I am very proud to grow up in a family who values their history and past and have a lot of relatives who have worked hard to share photos and stories of our generations gone by.” 

This ANZAC Cup event, being part of a big Australia Week in Villers-Bretonneux, is to honour diggers and their sacrifices made to reclaim land against the German Forces on April 24th, 1918. 

With many of her family closely attached or a part of this World War, strong ties to the area and event are present, giving Angi a whole lot to play for. She will be representing her family proudly along with 26 other, well deserving Australians. 

The old war stories be they of battle or loss, living in Australia during war times and family life back then are all so precious and something I will always try to preserve for future generations of my family. 

Being so close to her Great Grandfather, Kenneth Elliot Crispe, Angi would hear stories about how proud her ‘Pa Crispe’ was about fighting in World War Two and created many great early memories with him. 

“Pa Crispe sparked my love of our family history at a very young age.” 

Angi’s family history is rich with men who gave it all for their country, including Kenneth Elliot Crispe’s two Uncles in World War One. Walter, who was a Private in the 10th battalion, was captured and killed by the Germans, while Hubert was a driver for an Army Service Corps train. 

With so much war representation on one side of her family, the added amount on the Haskett and Mills sides of her family is astonishing. 

Edmund Haskett was a man who fought in World War One and Two, alongside Angi’s Great Grandmothers brother, Samuel and cousin George who both served in World War Two. 

With the Mills part of her family adding eight more brave soldiers, who fought in World War One and Two respectively, it shows the amount of deep history Angi is playing for and how proud her family will be of her going on this trip. 

This immensely long list of family representatives at war, show something that Angi and her family will hold dearly forever. Angi will be able to create even more memories in Villers-Bretonneux that will help inspire her beautiful eight-year-old daughter, to carry on the honoured traditions of storytelling throughout her life as well. 

“She is of an age now where she is beginning to learn about history in school and make connections that will last. I always try to teach her the importance of remembrance… I was of a similar age when my Pa began teaching us, his great grand kids, about our family history and I would love her to see how memories can be carried from generation to generation.” 

 

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

ANZAC Cup returns to Villers-Bretonneux

AFL Europe are pleased to announce that their partnership with National Australia Bank will extend into 2019, making it a two-year consecutive partnership to date.

National Australia Bank is returning as the major partner for the 2019 ANZAC Cup. Held in the small town of Villers-Bretonneux in northern France, the match will showcase the Australian Spirit and the French National sides in both the men and women’s competitions, as each side attempts to claim victory in the 11th instalment of this special event.

Action from the 2018 ANZAC Cup women’s match

The match will take place on Saturday the 27thof April, although there will be a constant Australian presence in the town from earlier in the week – starting with the ANZAC Day Dawn Service held at the Villers-Bretonneux Australian National Memorial on Thursday the 25thof April. The build-up to the match will also include the players spending time with their host families, delivering AFL clinics to students, visiting memorials and marching through the centre of town prior to the match. This is guaranteed to be a special week for all of the players, umpires and officials as they honour the Diggers and the sacrifices made over 100 years ago. Players putting on the Australian Spirit jumper have been selected for this match by their connection to World War I, the Western Front and particularly, the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux – not their playing ability.

In 1918 the town of Villers-Bretonneux was captured by German forces, however, overnight Australian troops rallied together and reclaimed the town on the 25thof April 1918. This moment in history has never been forgotten by the people of Villers-Bretonneux and each year they open their homes to Australian players as both nationalities reflect on what transpired over 100 years ago.

Action from the 2018 ANZAC Cup men’s match

AFL Europe General Manager, Ryan Davey, was delighted to be extending the partnership: “We are thrilled to once again be partnering with National Australia Bank. This is an organisation that is extremely well connected with the AFL in Australia through their support of the NAB Auskick program, the NAB AFLW competition and the NAB Rising Stars Pathways. Each of these programs have played a massive part in assisting with the growth of the game in Australia, and through their partnership in AFL Europe – primarily as the Major Partner for our ANZAC Cup – they will also assist us with growing the game of Australian Football throughout Europe. We were so pleased that some of the team from the London office of National Australia Bank could join us in Villers-Bretonneux last year and we look forward to hosting them again in 2019.”

2018 Australian Spirit Captain’s present His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, with a special present ahead of his 70th Birthday following the dawn service in Villers-Bretonneux.

John McClusky, Head of National Australia Bank in London said he felt proud that their London Branch continues to support AFL Europe.

“As a proud supporter of the AFL in Australia, we’re pleased to have extended this relationship to the UK and Europe. AFL Europe’s ANZAC Cup in Villers-Bretonneux is a terrific event in a community that holds a special place in Australia’s heart.”

Anyone interested in attending the 2019 ANZAC Cup at Villers-Bretonneux on Saturday the 27th of April should contact admin@afleurope.org. 

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe

Irish Watch – AFL Round 4 Review

Irish Watch: AFL Round 4 Review  

It was a big weekend of action in the AFL, with a number of close encounters and standout performances highlighting a nail-biting round four.   

This weekend would see the same four Irish players from round three retain their spots, with Conor Nash, Conor McKenna, Mark O’Connor and Pearce Hanley being rewarded for solid starts to their seasons.  

We would also see more Irish athletes compete in state leagues around the country, as AFL club’s look to develop these Gaelic footballers into solid AFL players.  

With his side bouncing back after a lacklustre start to the year, McKenna was superb off halfback on Saturday afternoon as the Bombers destroyed the in-form Lions.  

Using his trademark run and dash from defence, McKenna was pivotal in setting up Essendon’s attack all afternoon as he constantly took on the Lions forwards and made bold decisions with his ball use.  

Having 20 disposals for the third straight week, McKenna would also end up with three marks and two inside 50’s while using the ball at an incredibly efficient 85%.  

A critical clog in Essendon’s rapid turn around in the last two weeks, McKenna is continuing to develop his game in the Bomber’s back six as he looks to become one of the league’s most damaging defenders.  

Hawthorn’s Conor Nash had some important moments in the Hawks narrow loss to St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.  

Playing as a pressure forward, Nash would use his size and speed on a number of occasions to get into dangerous positions and damage the Saints defenders.  

Despite leaving the field for a significant period of time in the second quarter due to a hamstring injury, Nash would still manage nine disposals, seven contested possessions and a goal in what was a brave performance.  

Special comments commentator Luke Hodge would sing Nash’s praises on a number of occasions throughout the afternoon, as he made a number of winning plays and used his natural athletic strengths to great effect.  

This would be on display through his goal, as he managed to get out the back of the St Kilda defence and take an easy mark in the goal square to set the Hawks alight in the first term.  

Pearce Hanley’s Gold Coast Suns continued their remarkable start to the season with another close win over Carlton at Metricon Stadium. 

One of the few experienced heads in the Suns team, Hanley was again crucial in the dying stages of the match as he constantly made the right decisions and guided his young teammates to a famous win.  

Although it wasn’t his most prolific performance from a statistics point of view, 14 disposals, three marks and three tackles, he certainly made all his touches count going at 79% whilst also providing that trademark dash off the half-back line.  

With the Sun’s young players continuing to develop, Hanley’s presence will be critical to the overall success of this team as he leads their extremely young back six.  

Mark O’Connor would experience his first loss of the 2019 season as the Cats went down in a thriller to the Giants at GMHBA Stadium.  

Playing as a small defender, O’Connor was as solid as ever in a relatively successful Cat’s back six as they constantly repelled the pressure being placed on them by the success of the GWS midfield.  

Despite only having 13 touches, O’Connor used the ball brilliantly at an impressive 92% efficiency as he was excellent in kick-starting the Cats offensively from the defensive 50.  

His work as a defender was also excellent as he rarely lost a one on one contest and kept the dangerous Giants small forwards under control.  

Although going down on Saturday, the Cats look set for a deep finals run in 2019 with Mark O’Connor a key pillar to their league-best defensive structures.  

In the state leagues, Collingwood youngster Mark Keane was the standout for this round as a solid performance all day would see him earn a spot in the Magpies best players.  

Conor Glass was also very impressive for Hawthorn’s VFL affiliate Box Hill on Sunday at Marvel Stadium, as he claimed 23 disposals in three quarters before a leg injury prematurely ended his afternoon.  

With the season now a month old, the Irish influence continues to grow as a number of players push for AFL selection in the coming weeks. 

By Zac Standish.