The AFL England National University League kicks off this weekend as Birmingham and Oxford attempt to upset favourites Cambridge in the inaugural season of the competition.
With men’s and womens fixtures, the tournament will be a first for Australian Football in Europe as the game attempts to spread around colleges and universities across the continent.
Co-captain of the Cambridge women’s side Heather Muir told afleurope.org that her side are buzzing in the lead-up to the competition.
“We’ve got our boots, and our uniforms, and we’re both looking and feeling ready,” said Heather.
“There’s a real buzz amongst the team heading into what will be the first AFL game for many of our women’s players.”
With steady growth in 2018, Heather said her team is looking forward to showcasing their improvement this Saturday.
“From the ground level I’d say the team is proving fit, and our basic skills are improving week to week with thanks to head coach Dave, and our consistently excellent turn out to Sunday trainings,” said Heather.
“It (the competition) definitely gives us more of a chance to convince mates in Cambridge to come watch us play!”
“Standing on the side-lines in cold English weather, watching a fairly foreign game you tried to pitch as ‘kind of like rugby’, requires either very supportive friends, or a very enticing and exciting league.”
“Let’s hope for both!
Men’s skipper Reece Digance is also optimistic about his side leading into the weekend’s encounters.
“The players are really looking forward to the new format,” said Reece.
“We have a lot of new players who are new to the game and improving at each session.”
“This new league gives them an opportunity to play more games which is great.”
After going through a 5-week training program in Newnham College, Reece said his team will embrace the competitive fixtures on Saturday.
“Traditionally we have a big on field rivalry with Oxford and I dare say this will continue on the weekend,” said Reece.
“It’s hard to say a favourite for the cup because the teams change a bit year on year.”
“Although, from what I saw last year Birmingham will be tough to beat.”
With the league set to drive interest in Australian Football throughout universities and colleges across the continent, Cambridge Vice-President Mitch Baker said the new format will bring institutions more exposure and relevance among the university sports market moving forward.
“The start of a National League is a big positive,” Mitch said.
“We know university students wish to compete against other Universities in a more structured style.”
“This Tournament and League delivers just that, I think we’ll see this league develop quickly from this.”
“We look forward to getting members and their friends down to see the game live and generate the interest moving forward.”
For more information on the first round of action, visit the official event page here.
Saturday 10th of November
Women’s Division: Cambridge vs Birmingham
Men’s Division: Cambridge vs Oxford
Women’s Division: Birmingham vs Oxford
Men’s Division: Birmingham vs Oxford
Women’s Division: Cambridge vs Oxford
Men’s Division: Cambridge vs Birmingham