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Women Want Footy

In 2014, Australian Rules football celebrated 25 years of a sporting competition in the country of England. In 2015, Women’s Australian Rules football officially took off with an AFL London Women’s league comprising of four already established men’s clubs each becoming host to a Women’s team. Those founding clubs being: Wimbledon Hawks, Wandsworth Demons, North London Lions and the South East London Giants.

In previous years, only exhibition games had been held for females on AFL London Grand Final day or training sessions for those interested. The development of a women’s league in London only confirms the continual development and interest in the game away from Australia. Even more so with the recent implementation of Women’s AFL matches being played since 2013 between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons.

Lauren Sparks, a current player for the Wimbledon Hawks, had previous experience playing Aussie Rules football back in Melbourne – 3 years for Melbourne University, representative football for Victoria at the National Championships and Vic Metro. Lauren was also a member of the first two Women’s AFL sanctioned exhibition matches, playing for the Western Bulldogs against the Melbourne Demons. When asked about her knowledge of the league (men or women’s); “before coming over here I didn’t know much at all about the league…I found out they were introducing the first women’s league and that 4 teams would be involved”. As most antipodeans tend to do when moving abroad, a sporting club or organisation is a safe house as a social network. Lauren attributes the Wimbledon Hawks as an accessible way to meet new people, especially with the correlation between the men’s and women’s teams at the club.

Coming from a different Australian Rules football background, Jessie Hayes was part of the Junior Development Program at the Fremantle Dockers and had grown up around the sport. Having minimal knowledge of the Women’s AFL London league before arriving in London, Jessie knew that she would eventually be drawn to a club in one way or another. “Before I came over I had an inkling I would get involved in a club in some way”. She thanks peer pressure from her friend, a North London Lions player, to ‘[encourage] me to get on the other side of the boundary line for once”.

Both players strongly condone the sport as a great way to socialise with other people, and not only at their specific club, but over all the clubs. Many clubs hold joint social occasions to encourage camaraderie between each other – North London Lions and the West London Wildcats jointly host a Thames River Cruise as part of the Wildcat’s Ladies’ Day celebrations. Ladies’ Day is quickly becoming more and more important for the AFL London clubs’ to ascertain their stance as a genuine supporter of further developing and creating awareness of women’s involvement in Australian Rules football.

Without a doubt, the social aspect of the league is a part that everyone enjoys – “It is brilliant to have found such a great family like the Lions. London life wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without the club” Jessie states. As most expats in London can agree, playing Aussie Rules football assists in avoiding a dosage of the ‘Heathrow Injection’ (the sudden weight gain from lack of physical activity when arriving into London).

But where to next for the Women’s AFL London league? The current teams participating in the league are looking to grow their participation numbers and clubs that have yet to field a team would ideally be looking at staking their presences in the league.

“It’s definitely got room to grow, the amount of foreigners that are exposed to it, never seen it before, and then are hooked the minute they try the game, it intrigues people” says Lauren in regards to further expansion of the women’s league. Women’s team are both represented at the Axios Euro Cup as well as the International Cup (World Cup for Aussie Rules football), however there is always the desire to continually expand the participation level for both genders in Europe.

For more information regarding the Women’s AFL London league or any local competitions please head to the Women’s AFL London website.

 

 

James Gottschalk

The Great Dane

Mikkel Kjoege was 8 years old, when he first heard of Australian Rules football. It was from a family friend, Preben Mandal, who supports and is a big influence on the Farum Cats Football Club. Mikkel ended up going to his first practice and making some really good friends which really helped to keep him playing and developing. It was Mikkel’s namesake, his mum’s cousin, Mikkel Norlander, who kept him training and improving. His nickname is “The Danish Lance Franklin” – he was one of the junior coaches at the Farum Cats at the time.

At the age of 12 Mikkel says he had already tried pretty much every other sport, “but nothing compared to Australian Rules.”

In 2011, Mikkel heard about the European Legion squad, which was to play the touring AIS AFL Academy team in April 2012. The try outs were in London where he was put through a week long training camp and skill testing Combine, in conjunction with video of him playing being sent through to AFL Europe. A few months later Mikkel was informed that he had been selected to participate in the Easter Series with European Legion – “this was the first moment where playing Aussie Rules internationally felt possible,” says Mikkel.

During the try out combine they tested players with agility drills, jumping, running and so on. AFL Europe were happy with Mikkel’s results and decided to also send them through to the World 18 Team that were to play in Sydney, Australia in August 2012. Not only did Mikkel end up being chosen but he was the only European player to join the world team.

This was a huge step for Mikkel, as he was able to start seeing an opportunity for possibly playing Australian Rules at professional level someday. It was with this that Mikkel decided to really go for it, “I was always told that I could do anything I want to, and I really wanted this.”

Coming from the Farum Cats in Denmark, Mikkel barracks for the Geelong Cats in the AFL. Professional AFL players are such a huge inspiration for him, in particular Joel Selwood. Mikkel says he admires his “fearlessness, courage and he is just so incredibly talented – he makes me want to push even harder to make it in the AFL.”

With some amazing coaches along the way that inspired Mikkel to strive to make it in the AFL; “my first junior coach, Morten Merhøj, he taught me all the basic skills and has become a really good friend of mine.” Mikkel’s most recent European coaches, Morten Engsbye and Troels Ottesen, have had huge influence upon him through the last couple of years – getting the Farum Cats to 4 premierships in a row. Morten Engsbye also coached the Danish Vikings in the European Championships and took home an award for best European coach in 2014 when he coached Denmark to victory in European 9-a-side Championships.

Throughout the years of playing in European Legion and The World Team, Mikkel has been lucky enough coached by big names such as Tadhg Kennelly and Brad Ottens, watching them and learning from them was an incredible opportunity and experience for him.

Mikkel was chosen to participate in the 2014 AFL Europe Draft Combine and with good results was noticed by a few AFL Clubs who were keen to see him play more. AFL Europe was able to facilitate the move to Melbourne, Australia where Mikkel is now playing for the Old Xaverians, in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA), for a season with the hope of partaking in the 2015 AFL Draft in October.

 

Mikkel’s Australian Adventure – Part 2

 

Training is great! I’m starting to feel more confident; it does take a while to get in to a new club, with new players and coaches. I played my first practice match with the reserves, and another with the firsts. I can feel myself getting better by challenging myself with such a good team.

I played round one with the Thirds – Under 23’s, and I feel pretty good about the way I played. I was happy with the match review:

’’The Under 23s are defending their premiership in the Premier B Thirds and started the year in impressive fashion with a big win over Old Trinity at Stradbroke Park. The coach released debutant Mikkel Kjoege from defence and onto the ball after half time and the Great Dane had a real impact with his hard running and long, accurate kicking.’’

I kicked my first goal, and I got mentioned in the top 3 best players of my first match. It was such a great feeling!

In Round 2 I had some trouble with a bruised heel, so didn’t play last week but I was ready to get back into it for Round 3. I was playing with the U23’s until coach, Murray Browne, felt I was ready to move up, I felt ready straight away – but I trusted his judgement!

I’ve been talking quite a bit with my family, friends and my old team mates in the last couple of weeks and they’re all very supportive which motivates me to keep pushing, I’m really grateful for them and their support!

My family is coming to visit me in a few months which I can’t wait for, and I’m keeping in contact with a few friends who play AFL and VFL whom I met in my time at Geelong College and through playing for the World and European teams.

Round 3 I got to debut for the Reserves being “unleashed” by Coach Browne at quarter time. I was pretty happy with the match review for round 3 also:

“Reserves debutant Mikkel “The Great Dane” Kjoege was held back until quarter time before being unleashed by Coach Browne. He proved lively up forward.”

Round 4 I felt I started to feel great! I kicked 3 goals and was named in the best and I was able to following up in both Rounds 5 and 6 with 2 goals in each!

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Follow Mikkel’s journey on #MikkelDownUnder and @AFL_Europe

For more go to our previous article on Mikkel

 

Sarah Ongarello

The Slater + Gordon ANZAC Cup 2015

This weekend will see the 7th annual ANZAC Cup take place in Villers-Bretonneux in France, this Saturday 25th April at 12pm at Stade Timmerman.

The Australian team, coming from all around Europe as well as Australia, will take on the French team led by Andrew Unsworth and Stevo Ryan. Both teams will attend the Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, followed by a march, undertaken by both teams, through Villers-Bretonneux to Stade Timmerman, making the event even more special.

AFL Europe CEO, Ben MacCormack has, “personally found extra significance in the event this year, listening to the boys stories over the past two years it has prompted me to research my own family history. This has led to discoveries that my great uncle and also my wife’s great grandfather are buried, in a similar vicinity, only 30km north of VB. We will visit their graves on this trip, which has added an emotion for us personally, and all of our extended families. This to me is the meaning of the event.”

With players for the Australian team being chosen by their personal connection and interest in the history that surrounds the ANZACs the two teams promise to deliver a memorable match for both the players and the spectators.

Assistant Coach of the French team, Stevo Ryan, on behalf of the French Team says, “We are all really excited about the match on Saturday.  To be in Villers Bretonneaux 100 years to the day, from when our ANZACS put our country onto the world stage in WW1 with the landings at Gallipoli, making this an emotionally charged event.  It’s fitting that in the spirit of the ANZACS, a game of AFL unites our two nations.”

Not only will an event like this unify our two nations but Stevo Ryan also believes, “that a lot of exciting things can and will happen here in France.  We’ve seen the interest for this game grow exponentially at our domestic club this year back in Paris. Saturday’s game represents an opportunity for many of our French players to gauge where they are in this game and hopefully to where they want to go in the future.”

Most French clubs will be represented in the French team:

ALFA Lions (Lyon): Thomas DEPONDT, Thibault PICARD

Bordeaux Bombers: Cyril DEBET

Bristol Dockers: Pierre-etienne DANDALEIX

Coyotes de Cergy-Pontoise: Herve DESJARDIN

Montpellier Firesharks: Jerome CANONICI

Paris Cokerels: Yvan BARBARIA, Pierre BOSCART, Julien DAGOIS, Baudoin GERMOND, Francois DANIEL, Thomas HEDLEY

Toulouse Hawks: Julien GIL, Simon MONDIN, Fabien FLOCH

As for the Australian team, they will come from England, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Australia, all sharing a connection to Villers-Bretonneux and/or the ANZACs:

Craig, BANKES, Trent GEORGIOUS, James GOTTSCHALK, Dale HOUSDEN, Ruory KIRKBY, Matthias KLUSEMANN, Paul MCKECHNIE, Stuart NEWMAN, Troy NEWMAN, Tom PETERS, Tom RISCHBIETH, Gareth SMITH and Rob YOUNG.

The match will commence at 12pm at Stade Timmerman and will be followed by a women’s match at 2.30pm. Entry is free and food and drink are available at the ground.

Map of Stadium Timmerman

 

Sarah Ongarello

The Axios Euro Cup will be held in…

 Umag!

It’s with great enthusiasm that AFL Europe, with the help of the Croatian Australian Football League (SANH), are thrilled to announce the location for 2015 Axios Euro Cup is the beautiful town of Umag!

The Axios Euro Cup is being held on the 10th October 2015 in Umag, which is located in Istra, the coastal region of Croatia. Taking place in the resort that also plays host to the annual ATP Croatia Tournament, the Cup promises a well organised, cheap and warm weekend. With special Euro Cup accommodation and being accessible from three airports under an hour and a half drive and the alternate option of hiring a car and driving from Italy or Slovenia, the 2015 Axios Euro Cup will be affordable for all.

Further information will be supplied in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

 

 

Sarah Ongarello