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GB Bulldogs player’s profile: Luke Matias

By Michael McCormick

Great Britain Bulldog and adopted Australian, Luke Matias is a man who has embraced every opportunity that has arisen and epitomises the spirit of the International Cup. In this Q and A session, he reveals another side of the competition and the amazing impact that it has had on his life.

Q. What position do you play for GB?

A. Midfield, with rotations through the half-back line

Q. How long have you played for GB?

A. 10 years.  My first appearance for GB was in 2004, followed by Vice-Captaining the squad for the IC in 2005, IC’08 and IC’11.

Q. What’s your fondest memory of your time with the Bulldogs?

A. I love playing in the International Cups.  I remember back to my first IC in 2005, being in an environment during the ‘Country Round’ where I was listening to the Samoan team singing random Polynesian songs in perfect harmony, with the South African team and the Japanese team cheerleaders dancing around to it.  Never in my life would I have imagined the opportunity to see this!  The shear spectacle of seeing differing cultures at war on the field and then coming together off the field is something I will remember for my whole life.  I have made many friends from all corners of the world through the three IC’s I have been a part of, and this year I’m looking forward to making some more.

Q. What are your personal goals for the International Cup?

A. The 2011 IC was really injury-effected for me, so firstly I’m really looking at preparation/recovery to ensure I’m ready for the very hectic schedule as one of my personal goals.

Another is to show what opportunities Australia can present to internationals. I came to Australia in 2005 and had no plans to stay any longer than partying for a few months before heading back to the UK.  I don’t even remember the plan changing, all I remember is that more and more opportunities presented themselves and with a lot of hard work, Australia has provided me with the most wonderful of family, friends and lifestyle.  I will certainly ensure that everyone is aware of what a great place they are coming to visit.

But, without question the main goal for me is to provide a steady leadership and experienced mind to the rest of the squad from a football standpoint.  I know the emotional rollercoaster a lot of the boys will be on, so if I can help provide support for the squad, on and off the field, I know I will have accomplished plenty.

Q. What chance do GB have of taking the cup home?

A. Wow, taking the Cup home is a big ask.  GB has never finished higher than 6th, so talking suddenly about taking the Cup home is a bit disrespectful to the teams around us.  We do certainly have our strongest squad to date so I’d love to think we can have the best IC GB has ever partaken in.

#bulldogsweek #AFLIC14 #IC14

IC14 preview: GB Bulldogs

By Michael McCormick

The most improved team in Europe is also one of the most feared teams in the International Cup.

The Great Britain Bulldogs are shaping up as a smokey to take out the title having had their strongest season in 2013.

The 2013 European Championships Runners Up and 2013 Axios Euro Cup Premiers appear ready and eager to take on the world’s best and, according to AFL England President and Bulldogs Team Manager, Adam Bennett, will be giving their all to take home the cup.

“As the old adage says, you have to beat the best to be the best and we want to be the best,” stated Bennett.

Quite a few new faces have been introduced since the 2011 International Cup and with an injection of youth, the Bulldogs will be better placed to endure the intensity of the matches this year.

“We are seeing the next generation of footballers come through who have started their footy at a much younger age than previous Bulldogs squads and represent a very positive development for the sport in Britain.”

Stalwarts such as captain, Sean Walton and Anthony Trigg will be leading the young brigade as they aim to put Great Britain in the public eye and gain acknowledgement as a great footballing nation.

It hasn’t been an easy road however. The players from every club in Australia and Great Britain have dedicated years of hard work and thousands of pounds into developing their game in order to play in the International Cup.

“After all the hard work, it’s a shame that the funding available for footy in the UK is very limited, so players contribute a large proportion of their own costs for tours such as this,” said Bennett.

The time spent in Australia, also the first trip down under for many of the players, is not all about business. Bennett explained that the team will also have the opportunity to meet some of the game’s greats.

“The International Cup is also a great chance to meet the legends of the game, such as Ron Barrassi and Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico.”

Having secured a tour of the Western Bulldogs facilities and a meet and greet with the players in 2011, the Great Britain Bulldogs will be hoping for another opportunity of the like.

“With professional footy such a distant thing for most of the squad, the opportunity to meet and chat with any professional of this fantastic game is immense,” said Bennett.

Travelling with the team will be coach, Mark Pitura in his farewell event with the club after having served a very successful five year tenure.

He will be supported by a new Assistant Coach and Manager and the team physiotherapist, Claire Shapland, who put the squad through conditioning and fitness workshops in the months leading up to the event.

As well as these workshops, other training strategies were implemented such as allowing players from the 9’s competition in Britain to play in the London 18’s competition on weekends during the season.

Even though the Bulldogs are eager to play teams outside of Europe, they still have a point to prove.

“The Bulldogs would also relish another crack at International and European Champions Ireland, after a heart-breaking 1-point loss on the last kick of the 2013 European Championships,” said Bennett.

The Bulldogs have their sights firmly placed on a top four finish and with their recent form and developing youth, it appears a realistic expectation.

#bulldogsweek #IC14 #AFLIC14

GB3

Pictures by Derek Clarke

IC14 Pools and Fixture

The fixture for the IC14 Men’s competition has just been announced. The Men’s teams will be divided into three pools:

 

POOL A POOL B POOL C
IRELAND PNG NEW-ZEALAND
NAURU SOUTH AFRICA USA
GREAT BRITAIN TONGA CANADA
FIJI JAPAN SWEDEN
FRANCE INDIA CHINA
INDONESIA PAKISTAN FINLAND

 

Day 1 – Sunday 10 August – Royal Park, Parkville

POOL A 
Ireland – Fiji
Nauru – Indonesia
Great Britain – France
POOL B
PNG – Japan
South Africa – Pakistan
Tonga – India
POOL C
New Zealand – Sweden
USA – Finland
Canada – China

 

Day 2 – Wednesday 13 August – Royal Park, Parkville

POOL A
Ireland – France
Nauru – Great Britain
Fiji – Indonesia
POOL B
PNG – India
South Africa – Tonga
Japan – Pakistan
POOL C
New Zealand – China
USA – Canada
Sweden – Finland

 

Day 3 (Community Round) – Saturday 16 August – Venue TBC

POOL A
Ireland – Nauru
Great Britain – Fiji
France – Indonesia
POOL B
PNG – South Africa
Tonga – Japan
India – Pakistan
POOL C
New Zealand – USA
Canada – Sweden
China – Finland

 

Day 4 – Tuesday 19 August – Semi Finals and Division matches – Royal Park

Day 5 – Friday 22 August – Third place play off & Division matches – Royal Park

Day 6 – Saturday 23 August – Grand Final – MCG

 

(Fixtures can be subject to change) Women’s fixtures will be announced soon.

@AFLIC14 #AFLIC14

Irish Banshees players’ profiles

The Banshees have listed four IC’11 world team players who will return to play in their second tournament, these are: Emma Kelly, Gillian Behan, Louise Loughlin and Laura Corrigan.

Name: Cáitlín Ní Chíanáin

Caitlin

From: Cavan, Ireland

Team: Dublin Angels

Jersey number: 33

Position: Centre

Why and when I started playing: In 2010/2011 I came back from a year in Australia and fancied a go at the game having not tried it there.

Expectations for IC: To grow as a player and ideally bring home some silver wear.

Best footy memory: Beating Switzerland in Euro Cup in Belfast, 2011.

 

 

Name: Laura Corrigan

Laura Corrigan

From: Cavan Ireland/Greensborough Vic

Team: Diamond Creek

Jersey number: 1

Position: Ruck/ wing

Why and when I started playing: 2008 as I had always been told I was to rough in Gaelic so I thought Aussie Rules was the game for me.

Expectations for IC: To go back to back.

Best footy memory: Winning the last IC and being named in the top 3 players of the tournament.

 

 

Name: Regina Curtin

Regina

From: Cork and currently in Koroit, Victoria

Team: Milford Senior Camoige Club and Donoughmore Senior Ladies Football Club

Jersey number: 10

Position: Midfield, forward

Why and when I started playing: Love sport, love playing ball, love the team spirit and friendships you make

Expectations for IC: Be competitive, train hard, win matches

Best sporting memory: Winning the All Ireland club camogie Championship with Milford (Cork).

Regina is a multiple ‘All Ireland Senior Football championship’ holder 2005 – 2007 and also achieved an ‘All Ireland Camogie League title’ in 2012.

Irish Warriors players’ profiles

Name: Brendan Kelly

Brendan Kelly

 

Team: Belfast Redbacks

Jersey number: 3

Position: Defensive corner pocket

Why and when I started playing: Province of origin 2012. I started playing just as a form of training and quickly got interested with the competitiveness and chances to progress to a higher level within the sport.

Expectations for IC: My personal expectations are to achieve the best performance I can as this is my first International Cup. Expectations as a team would be to qualify for the finals and take it step at a time after that.

Best footy memory: Mark Leavy scoring the winning goal in the 2013 European championship final in the dying seconds.

Favourite footy team/player: Tom Hawkins, Geelong Cats

 

 

Name: Mark Leavy

Mark Leavy

Team: North Leinster Giants

Jersey Number: 4

Position: back pocket/wing back

Why and when I started playing: I started playing about ten years ago. I went to watch a match that my friend was playing in and ended up joining in and loving the game.

Expectations for IC: To play to the very best of my ability and enjoy the whole experience , while hopefully winning the IC.

Best footy memory: kicking the winning goal in the 2013 European championship final in Dublin.

Favourite team/player: Hawks/Buddy Franklin

 

 

Name: David McElhone

David McElhone

Team: Melville Rams

Jersey number: 6

Position: On Ball

Why and when I started playing: My brother got me into it about 6 years ago, he played for the Belfast Redbacks and was in the Ireland team at IC2005, it started out a second sport for me but  I loved the game and after only a few games I was hooked. I think the tackling, body contact and general skill of the game drew me in.

Expectations for IC: I expect the Irish Warriors to be taking centre stage again at the MCG again in the final, there are alot of good teams in the competition and we are by no means complacent, we will have to work twice as hard this year to retain the International Cup. However, I believe we have the players, management and structures in place to push on again and repeat the feats of IC2011.

Best footy memory: Best footy memory has to be winning the International Cup at the MCG in 2011. This is something we had been building towards since the European Championship in 2010 so to win it was a very special feeling. 

Favourite footy team/player: Favourite team is Collingwood and favourite player is Dane Swan.

Title defence’s no walk in the park – IC14

By Michael McCormick

Luck plays an insignificant role when it comes to the Irish and AFL talent. There are already several Irish nationals showing their class in the AFL and VFL ranks and the International Cup in 2014 is another chance for this skilful team to show the world that Ireland are an Australian Football powerhouse.

Having hosted and triumphed at the European Championships in August, 2013, the Irish will be taking plenty of confidence in their ability to win on the big stage to Melbourne.

Needless to say the Irish are not strangers to International Cup glory either, holding the title of reigning premiers for both the men’s and women’s competitions, further proving themselves as the best in the world.

Despite their success, they remain humble and grateful for their opportunities.

Past President and current treasurer of the Australian Rules Football League Of Ireland, Ciaran O’hara, contends that this is because of the fierce competition coming from the rest of the world and in particular those teams close to home.

“[Great Britain] have been getting closer and closer to us and with the strength they’ve now got in the squad they’ve announced, I expect them to be major contenders.”

O’Hara, who provides logistical support to the coaches and management of both the men’s and women’s national teams revealed that the Irish teams really fire up once they hit Australian soil.

“Our Australian based players play for clubs in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, so they don’t get opportunities for collective training so the hard training for us usually begins once we arrive in Australia”

While the trip to Melbourne is being mostly self funded, both the men’s and women’s teams have been fortunate in securing sponsorship to assist with expenses.

Blu Marine Ltd, an internationally renowned ship fitting company, are supporting the Irish Warriors and the Irish Banshees are sponsored by major aircraft leasing company, Avolon. In addition several players have their own individual sponsors.

Financial support aside, the Irish team’s success has stemmed from the great leadership from different coaches and captains throughout their history.

The recent retirement of Head Coach Shaun McElhone has seen David Stynes named as Playing Head Coach of the Irish Warriors for the 2014 International Cup. His assistant, Lachlan Buszard is returning from the same post at the International Cup in 2011.

With several Irish players already living and playing football in Australia, around half the team will consist of players who won’t need to make the long trip from Ireland.

There are also a lot of new faces, with the 14 players selected to make the trip from Ireland having never played in an International Cup competition.

Of those players who are embarking on the quest to retain the International Cup for Ireland, O’Hara believes that a couple could catch the eye of the AFL world.

“Muiris Bartley who has played for both the European Legion and the World XVIII could impress or perhaps Ronan Geraghty who is on an Aussie Rules Scholarship at Sydney University and plays in the NEAFL,” stated O’Hara.

Although both the Irish Warrior and the Irish Banshees would love to retain their titles as the world’s best AFL nations outside Australia, they know that there’s a long road ahead.

“It would be nice to retain the title, but we know that the IC will be hard won if we are to do that.”

#warriorsweek #bansheesweek #IC14

IC11-Womens-Canada-v-Ireland-2-640x360

Updates on French Footy and French Cup now announced

By Alban Schieber

The 2013/2014 season is now officially over in France. Here is a quick overview of the season:

It all started back in September when the Bordeaux Bombers organised with AFL Europe and the CNFA the 2013 Axios Euro Cup. During this tournament the French Coqs made history by reaching the Grand Final and beating Ireland for the first time (34-33). Unfortunately the players were a little short during the final against England Dragonslayers with the end result being 92-15.

The Axios Euro Cup was also a big event for French Women’s footy with the first ever French national team competing for the European Crown against girls coming from all over Europe in the Crusaders team.

Once AFL Europe and all the other teams had left Bordeaux and its wineries, the CNFA went back to work and the clubs as well. When the championship started, the Aix Marseille Dockers were unable to join anymore and were replaced by the ALFA Lions (Lyon).

Here is a summary of the whole championship won by the Toulouse Hawks (see story about the CNFA Grand Final here).

Resultats_CNFA

(Click on picture to enlarge)

In February the Hawks organised another competition, the annual South Cup. Running on the same format as most European Cups, all the teams competed in a seeding round in the morning before playing the finals in the afternoon. This year 6 teams competed including the Toulouse Hawks 1 & 2, Bordeaux Bombers, Montpellier Firesharks, ALFA Lions and the returning Perpignan Tigers. The Bordeaux Bombers won the 2014 South Cup defeating the Montpellier Firesharks in the Grand Final.

In April, France also had the chance to host the annual Topdeck ANZAC Cup held in Villers-Bretonneux where AFL Europe were involved. This year the Aussies came back with the strongest team so far and defeated the French Coqs. We can for sure say that all the boys who played had an unforgettable experience.

Unfortunately, this season didn’t see any French Cup as the CNFA decided that the French Cup will be played in september. “We want the French Cup to become the big start of all our coming seasons. It will be a good opportunity to meet the new clubs and new players and give everyone a chance to show that they can compete in the Championship. This will also allow the national coach to see all the players before every Axios Euro Cup and help him to make his final decision on the team!” said Thomas Urban, CNFA President.

CNFA is also proud to announce that the 2014 French Cup will be held in Bordeaux on September 21st.

1. The possible inclusion of  the Nancy Bobcats and the Pau Bears (new clubs in the process of formation)

2. The Perpignan Tigers will return before joining the 2014/2015 season

3. The ALFA Lions, Paris Cockerels, Strasbourg Kangaroos, Montpellier Firesharks, Toulouse Hawks, Cergy-Pontoise Coyotes and Bordeaux Bombers will once again be there to ensure one of the biggest French Cups.

French clubs

Last but not least, CNFA worked with a communication agency called Bleue Com Une Orange which was in charge of developing our sponsors programs and our social media. This also helped us to reorganise new processes and give a better picture of our sport in France.

Now we are focusing on the IC14 where we hope to offer a good image of our footy and show the world our improvement.

#coqsweek #IC14 #gofooty

The 2014 Swedish Cup is upon us!

2014 SWEDISH CUP

By Michael McCormick

AFL Sweden is set for a big day of football that will separate the men from the boys and determine which team will be crowned the Swedish champion for season 2014.

In further preparation for their International Cup campaign, all of the Swedish Elks players will be taking the field tomorrow for their respective local clubs.

Coined the festival of footy in Sweden, the Swedish Cup brings together teams from all over the country to compete on one big stage

The lakeside city, Jönköping in the South of Sweden will play host to the seven teams who will be competing.

As well as six teams from Sweden including the Årsta Swans, Norrtälje Dockers, Helsingborg Saints/ Malmö Maulers, Göteborg Berserkers/ Karlstad Eagles, and the Bromma Vikings/Solna Axemen/Södermalm Blues, the Oslo Crows from Norway will be making a special appearance at the Cup.

“The Bersekers and the Eagles who don’t play regular competition are putting together a team and it is great to have Oslo along again this year, we love to have them here enjoying the fun,” said AFL Sweden President, Jörg Pareigis.

The round robin tournament will see each team face off against each other in a condensed game format. Teams will play two halves of eight minutes which has been shortened from the traditional four quarters of twenty minutes,

“It is a real tough day of footy with such a jam-packed schedule, but that is what makes it so unique to regular weekly footy,” stated Pareigis.

The Swedish Cup will kick off bright and early tomorrow morning and by the end of the day a new king of AFL in Sweden will be crowned.

 

#elksweek #IC14 #AFLSwedishCup2014 #WhoIsStrongest

Check out the Swedish Elks facebook page to keep up to date!!

Swedish Cup Draw source: Swedish Elks facebook page

Swedish Cup Draw                                                 source: Swedish Elks facebook page

 

Swedish Elks Player – Hampus Olsson

By Jeremy Darke

Five years ago, Australia Rules Football was unknown to Hampus Olsson, just like it still is for most Swedish people.  But after his first touch of that unusual oval-shaped ball, just after the 2009 season, he was then hooked for life.

Hampus has proven to be the biggest up-and-coming talent within Sweden, impressing so much when in the limelight that he was awarded a position in the European Legion in their recent contest with the Australian Institute of Sport AFL School Boys, in London in April.

At the age of just 21, Olsson has now become one of the key figures in the Swedish Elks team heading into the International Cup 2014, the young footy gun stepping up his game off the field to move into a leadership role with the team.

Olsson has come a long way since the first offseason between the 2009 and 2010 season, where he spent hours upon hours, watching Auskick videos on YouTube to learn correct technique in anticipation of taking the field for his debut.

After that nerve-wracking day he has never looked back, but it wasn’t just the hard-hitting physicality of AFL that he fell in-love with, it was the Aussie mateship and camaraderie that the sport embezzles within its roots.

“AFL is fast, hard and skilful, but what really made me continue was the sportsmanship between players, as well as the fans,” said Hampus Olsson. “It is the toughest sport on the field but everyone can shake hands, smile and have a chat afterwards.”

“In my first match, even though I was new, I was given chance after chance, my teammates really wanted me to have a crack while I was playing my first game, giving me a lot of easy goals.

“That particular day also scared me in a good way and made me fall in-love with the sport, making me want to do whatever it took to get better.

And got better he certainly did, working so hard in his early development years that he made the Swedish Elks squad that travelled to Australia for the International Cup in 2011, in just his second full season of AFL footy.

The International Cup 2011 experience only made the bond stronger between Olsson and the sport of Aussie Rules, the European Legion representative saying that it was his best footy experience yet.

“The two weeks we had in Sydney, living across the street from Manly beach in apartments with a view of the lot, and getting to play footy at the same time was the best ever.”

Three years on, the Swedish Elks and Hampus Olsson are now preparing for another International Cup, although this time the bustling midfielder will have more than just his own game on his mind as he takes the step up into the leadership group within the team.

Elks Coach Dan McClaer has recognised and developed the potential of Hampus Olsson whilst in the national team and now believes that the time is right to move him into a leadership role, an honour that doesn’t faze the mature, young gun.

“My on-field game will stay the same as always. It shouldn’t change for any given reason, because you should always play at your top level every game,” explained Olsson.

When asked how he will lead his team and guide his players, Olsson said he will just try to set the example for all of the younger players in the Elks.

“Talk, show and listen. Lead by example and have fun no matter what we are doing, it is easier to learn more if you have fun while you are learning.”

The Elks will be looking to improve on their 11th placing in IC11, when they head to Australia in August for IC14, but the important thing for the Swedish team will be to take in the whole experience and make sure that they all give it a good Aussie crack.

“My goals and expectations for the IC and the Elks are pretty high. We’re a good team coming down.”

“But the most important part for me and the team is that we all have a real crack at it.

“So when we all come home we can talk about our trip to Australia, and all the fun we had, for the next three years, as I still do about my last trip three years ago.”

#elksweek #IC14

AFL Europe Easter Series

Swedish Elks ready to take on the world’s best

by Michael McCormick

One of the premier sides in Europe, the Swedish Elks, are preparing to test out a new look team in the upcoming International Cup in August.

The Elks will blood several young players after having gone through a year of transition. More than half the team made their representative debut in a friendly match against Denmark in March this year.

“We will be looking to use the International Cup to build our group and give experience to the up and coming AFL players of Sweden,” stated Swedish Elks Team Manager, Jeremy Darke.

Darke, a 27 year old Australian expat who also coaches local team the Norrtälje Dockers, revealed that although playing non-European teams is a draw card for the tournament, old rivalries die young.

“To go up against teams that we have never faced before is the excitement of the International Cup,” said Darke. “Although we would love to beat Finland on the world stage.”

Having finished in eleventh place in 2011, the Elks are striving for a top ten placing in this year’s competition.

“With a spread of players from all over the country and domestic competitions it has been difficult to have stand-alone training sessions.

To prepare we have scheduled 2 friendly matches against Denmark and the Stockholm Dynamites.”

Although it will be the first trip down under for most of the younger players, Darke expects them to step up and catch the eye of AFL fans the world over.

“Hampus Ollson, Jacob Nilsson, Buster Sund are all young, solid players with a lot of passion for the game,” revealed Darke. “I’d expect them to be among our best performers for the tournament.”

The Elks have been fortunate in securing sponsorship to lessen the financial burden associated with making the trip to Melbourne.

“We have be able to acquire 6 bronze sponsors, but fundraising is still coming along slowly.”

The challenges faced to get there will be outweighed by the rewards, and not just in the form of competing.

“It would be a dream to go and watch the Gold Coast play in Melbourne and watch Ablett Jr. work his magic.”

#elksweek #IC14

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