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!
Follow Mikkel’s journey on #MikkelDownUnder and @AFL_Europe
For more go to our previous article on Mikkel