The 2nd annual AFL Europe Champions League will take place tomorrow in Amsterdam. Co-hosted by DAFA and the Amsterdam Devils, Champions League, is comprising of 13 men’s teams and 5 women’s teams. Battling it out for the Champion of Europe title.
The first team to receive an invite back were AFL London’s, West London Wildcats to defend their inaugural AFL Europe Champions League title. Despite their loss in the 2015 AFL London Grand Final, the Wildcats are strong favourites to go back to back with their strong team and ability to recruit ROW players.
The Amsterdam Devils are returning as both co-hosts and strong contenders after missing out on last years final to a last minute, extra time goal. A few new recruits and their consistent core players, along with a two month preseason have the Devils as hot contenders!
The Edinburgh Bloods have dominated the Scotish Australian Rules Football League (SARFL) for the past 7 seasons. Their first Champions League performance had them at 6 place but with a good mix of Aussies, Scots and Irish the Bloods are looking to move up the ranks in this years tournament.
This years German contender; the Hamburg Dockers, have replaced last year’s runner up, the Rhineland Lions. The Dockers fought hard in the AFL Germany (AFLG) Grand Final against the Munich Kangaroos and won by 40 points to claim their invite to this years Champions League.
With AFL Russia not making too many appearance in AFL Europe events over the last few years since joining in 2011, the inclusion of the Moscow Lazy Koalas has the anticipation mounting. Winning all of the last four AFL Russia tournaments and training through a tough Russian winter, we look forward to watching their performance.
The Manchester Mosquitoes copped their invite to the Champions League by winning the minor and major premierships in the Central-North England League in 2015. They are the first team from AFL CNE to claim back-to-back premierships. They were clinical in their grand final, easily accounting for the Sheffield Thunder. With some good Aussie recruits and a solid preseason training block the Mozzies have a strong chance to go all the way if they can get out of the pool of death on Saturday.
The North London Lions are our second AFL London contenders after beating the West London Wildcats by a single point in the 2015 Grand Final. A strong team with a huge amount of skill and experience, these guys will be tough to beat! After the big upset caused in the AFL London Grand Final, we’re sure you can expect some entertainment out of these guys.
This years Danish contenders, the Odense Lions, will bring a ton of enthusiasm and heart to the tournament. Even though they didn’t win the 2014 DAFL Premiership, the Lions are a strong team with a few Great Danes in the mix. Keep an eye on these Vikings as they may be the dark horse coming through the ranks.
Our French friends, the Paris Cockerals won both the minor Premiership in the 2014/15 season. They then went on and absolutely thrashed their opposition, the Motpellier Fire Sharks ,in the CNFL Grand Final by 116 points. With last years French contenders, the Toulouse Hawks coming 5th, the Cockerals will be looking to beat that in this years tournament.
The Sodermalm Blues booked their place for the 2016 Champions League in emphatic fashion. They dominated the Swedish league in 2015 clinching both the minor and major premierships. They ran out 152 point winners in the grand final against the Solna Axemen and continue to be the benchmark for Aussies Rules in Sweden. They’ve been drawn into the pool with four teams but could really give the competition a shake-up on Saturday. Don’t be surprised if Sodermalm go deep into the finals this Champions League.
Despite not claiming the Croatian League premiership, the Zagreb Hawks showed great consistency in season 2015 and claimed the coveted Central European AFL Premiership. They’ve been a top team throughout central Europe since their inception as a founding club in 2006. They’ll be hoping to improve in their 2nd Champions League appearance and could prove difficult for the opposition with their hard-at-it attack on the ball.
The Zagreb Dockers have been a mainstay at the top of the ladder in Croatia for years now. Despite being runners-up in the 2013 and 2014 seasons they booked a place at this year’s Champions League by clinching the Croatian Premiership in 2015 against cross-town rivals, the Zagreb Hawks. The Dockers would like to make an impression against Europe’s best when they make their Champions League debut this Saturday.
The South Dublin Swans will still be riding high following their incredibly victory in the ARFLI Grand Final in 2015. They won the premiership against all odds, snatching victory against reigning champions, the Belfast Redbacks by 2 points in a nail-biting affair. The Swans will be hoping to carry that winning feeling into the Champions League tournament this Saturday and have the potential to go all the way. The opposition will be hoping the boys from Ireland over indulged during St Patrick’s Day festivities because the Swans will be hard to stop in the 9-a-side format.
The GB Swans are debuting the new national team at this years Champions League. Established in January 2016 the GB Swans have been formed due to the success of the Men’s GB Bulldogs and they exponential growth of women’s football throughout the UK and Europe. The Swans will be ones to watch with the talent and great to see their first time playing together in an AFL Europe tournament.
The French representation come from the national team also, Les Gauloises. The girls are heading over after their third place finish in the 2015 Euro Cup. Reeling from missing out on the final, Les Gauloises will be aiming to make it up in this tournament.
The Odense Lionesses, one of the two teams invited due to their win in their league are representing the Womens Nordic AFL league which currently comprises of Sweden and Denmark. The girls here will be tough, experienced and hard to go past for the win in this one!
Representing Sweden this year is the national team, the Swedish Ravens. The Ravens are coming off a fifth place win in the 2015 Euro Cup and have been training and working hard to make a significant mark in this years Champions League. With this year being the first year for the women at Champions League it’s a hard pick but they’re most definitely going to be hard to beat!
Lastly, the Wandsworth Demons. The other of the two teams invited due to winning their league, being the Women’s AFL London league. The Demons took out the Wimbledon Hawks by 25 points in the 2015 Grand Final and are a consistently strong group of players.
This group is a tough one to pick a clear favourite. Stay tuned throughout the day to see how it unfolds!
AFL Europe will be keeping everyone up to date via Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you stay tuned to see who takes out the coveted 2016 AFL Europe Champions League!
Sarah Ongarello & Ben Durance