The 2014 Easter Series in Harrow has now come to an end. After a huge week of intense training, football education and personal development the European Legion were fired up to take on the AIS/AFL Academy in what shaped as the tightest contest yet.
First off the bat in the curtain raiser the GB Bulldogs took on the Aussie Expats (new concept). The crowd were on the edge of their seats as both teams attacked the ball fiercely and put on a great exhibition of Australian Football. This also provided the GB Bulldogs with one of their last major hit-outs as a squad before competing in IC14. The Bulldogs were slightly undermanned with a number of their stars in the Legion squad, and a few already out in Australia. Despite this they fought hard against the rapidly assembled Expats but couldn’t quite match their skill level. Eventually they fell away with the final scores Expats 10.13.73 – GB Bulldogs 5.7.37. AFL England President Adam Bennett couldn’t help himself and pulled on the Bulldogs jumper once again.
In the main game at 2pm the AIS/AFL Academy side jumped the home team early and dominated the first term. The Legion looked shellshocked and had nowhere to hide in what looked an ominous start to a long afternoon. In a 7 goal to nil term including three 50m penalties against the Legion it certainly looked grim.
Tadhg Kennelly regrouped the squad at 1/4 and asked the team to slow down, breathe and start to play their own brand of football. Whatever else he said certainly had an impact as the Legion held their own for the next 2 quarters. The link up play by hand and foot showed skills beyond their experience (8 players had never played a full match before) and the score board also started to tick over. The Flynn brothers combined for one of the goals of the day while Shehroz Akram and Zvonomir Murkovich kicked superb crumbing goals.
With Sam Willatt holding potential No.1 pick Peter Wright to 2 goals at full back anything looked possible if not for the slow start.
In the last term the Australians showed why they are the best players in their age group with some stunning play and continued hard running and spread really testing the game knowledge of the European’s. Lamb (highly noticeable with his blonde locks) seemed to be everywhere and Weller had huge numbers of disposals to keep pumping the Australian’s forward. To Europe’s credit they got 3 goals of their own in the last and walked off with head’s held high.
With a crowd of AFL Club recruiters, family and friends of the players from many nations and AFL Europe officials, the match was the highlight of a week-long development program for the two squads. The European Legion team was led out by Port Adelaide’s Irish recruit Daniel Flynn who led by example kicking a goal and running hard all day.
“This is the prefect opportunity for our European community to show its talent development over the past 12 months. It’s a real indicator of the hard work being done by our volunteers amongst the AFL Europe members to nurture and expose the best young footballers to this elite level competition. We get closer every year and have real belief that a victory is not all that far away” Chris Dow, Chairman, AFL Europe said.
The final score:
AIS-AFL Academy 7.2 10.8 14.11 21.11 (137)
European Legion 0.3 2.4 3.5 6.6 (42)
AIS-AFL Academy: Lamb 5, Goddard 4, Petracca 3, Wright 2, Smith, Weller, Walsh, Heeney, Brayshaw, Bower, McLaren
European Legion: Akram, Murkovic, O’Riordan, Campion, L.Flynn, D.Flynn
AIS-AFL Academy: Lamb, Weller, Heeney, Goddard, Petracca, Walsh, Smith
European Legion: Willatt, McKenna, Habljak, D.Flynn, Hurley, Brophy
“The way both teams have applied themselves throughout the week and during the match is a real credit to the coaches that have prepared them to this point. It has been great to see the European team evolve and grow into what now forms solid opposition for our touring AIS/AFL Academy. The Australian boys certainly know they were in a contest today and will learn a lot from the whole experience” Kevin Sheehan, AFL National/International Talent Manager, said.
The 2014 European Legion players are:
- Croatia – Filip Lenic, Josip Habljak , Zvonimir Murkovic;
- Demark – Aksel Bang, Chris Campion, Mathias Biron, Mikkel Kjoege, Nathan Campion, William Anderson;
- England – Cameron Cope, Ollie Dilieto, Sam Willatt, Sean Walton;
- Germany – Jakob Jung;
- Ireland – Ciaron O’Hanlon, Colin O’Riordan, Conor McKenna, Daniel Flynn, Luke Flynn, Paddy Brophy, Padraig Lucey, Peter Cooke, Sean Hurley, Shehroz Akram, Stephen Coen; and
- Sweden – Hampus Olsson.
The 26 players from across Europe will return to their home Clubs, armed with sharper skills and an insight into the level of commitment and professionalism required to make it at a higher level in Australian football. Over the course of the week, they have been exposed to new training drills by experienced AFL coaches and been observed by AFL Recruiters looking out for the next young AFL star.
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