In the lead-up to the 4th annual AFL Europe Champions League hosted by AFL Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday 7th April, afleurope.org will be taking a quick look at the teams who have qualified for the continents’ premier club tournament. 

In our fourth round of team previews, we feature the Oslo Crows, who have been making big waves in Melbourne media pre-tournament, Switzerland’s Winterthur Lions, London powerhouse the Wandsworth Demon’s and their northern compatriots the Manchester Mosquitoes.

Men’s Competition:

OSLO CROWS

Sebastian Muller – Oslo President
Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League…
The Norway league is still quite small, composed of 3 fairly well-matched teams. That being said, with Scottie Arcus, who hung up his boots after one too many concussions, as the new coach of the Oslo Crows we rose to the top.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?
In the run-up to the tournament, our training has emphasised timing our plays and both trusting and protecting our team mates. With the worst winter Norway has experienced in decades it’s all been indoors. Which means we’ve done a ton of pushups as punishment for hitting the ceiling!

What does your side want to achieve coming to Amsterdam in 2018?
We want to improve on last year’s performance and in particular work on our communication and coordination. Both on the grounds and in the bar!

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018.
Keep an eye out for Oscar Chandler, number 11. He’s been on fire at training. He reads the ball and uses his body fantastically to his advantage to consistently win competitions.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?
We just elected in a completely new board. We have high expectations for them and the club as a whole this season and are looking to step up our game on and off the grounds. To that end, we’ve started building a following in Australia off the back off a couple of interviews on SEN.

Hear Seb chatting to AFL legend Kevin Bartlett and Doctor Turf on SEN here.

MANCHESTER MOSQUITOES

Glenn Murphy – Manchester President
Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League with a quick recap of your 2017 season…
We were Premiers of the AFLCNE making it an incredible 4-peat. Finishing just clear on top of the ladder we met with Nottingham Scorpions Grand Final day and it was a great hard fought game and anyone’s at 3/4 time. Fortunately, we prevailed and celebrated accordingly.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?
As with some of the other teams in the Champions League, our preparation started with our annual Movember Cup charity tournament. From there we have had solid training sessions and intra-club matches. Having lost a few key players mid last year it was great to pick up a few capable players including Patrick Statham to bolster our ruck stocks freeing up Ben Sweetman to work towards his goal of equalling Tom Mitchell’s 54 touches.

What does your side want to achieve coming to Amsterdam in 2018?
Every year we strive to go deeper into the tournament than the previous occasion and for us this year means making it to the final. It won’t be easy but we feel have the squad that could achieve this. Off-field, it’s always great to catch up with all the other players and enjoy the day and night.

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018.
We have a really strong non-Australian squad and we expect them to be in the mix for the team of the tournament. In particularly a pair of our GB representatives in Andy Walkden, who is all class up forward, and Andrew Cochran who can play anywhere and has the ability to turn a game. Expect to see plenty of dash from player/coach Alex Pietrus who provides a lot of drive and then there’s Keegan Best,  who has been likened to Dustin Martin by the player group and has said nothing to downplay this tag.

Any additional information you would like the world to know about your football club as a whole?
One of our clubs medium-term goals is to get a women’s team up and running and we are continually working toward that. We think this should be something all teams should strive for as it will only strengthen the clubs, leagues AFL Europe. Anyone interested should contact our club.

WINTERTHUR LIONS

Stefan Burgener – President of Winterthur and AFL Switzerland
Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League with a quick recap of your 2017 season…
We received a wildcard qualification due to being the only team in Switzerland. Opposition teams are welcome to join!

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?
We started pre-season training at the beginning of March with one session every Sunday. We are seeing a lot of improvement in skills and team play. Our biggest recruit would have to be Johannes Orlowski from the Rheinland Lions, a ruck/forward who brings a lot of experience, and currently plays for the German National Team.

What does your side want to achieve coming to Amsterdam in 2018?
We are in it for the experience and overall development of our game, but we also want to get at least one win on the board!

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018.
As mentioned above, Johannes Orlowski (no. 15) is one to watch, along with lars Mathis (no. 5), who is a fast-paced midfielder who has taken on the new game seamlessly. Matt Burgener (no. 3) is another to keep an eye on as a dangerous small forward.

WANDSWORTH DEMONS

Xavier Holland – Wandsworth President 
Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League with a quick recap of your 2017 season…
For the first time since 2010, we managed to win the Men’s Premiership, winning against the North London Lions by 3 points in what was a thrilling game of footy. It was a wild day out there on our home turf at Clapham Common with the final 3 minutes played out like a ping pong match. Some match winning marks by Sam Bowler and Nick Noblett were some of the final highlights on the day, hoping they can both turn it back on for the Champions League competition. Not only is a great to get a flag after 7 years but the chance to play in the Champions League is something we are very excited for. It’s something we’ve watched from the wings for the last 3 years so to be able to take on the best of Europe will be a great test for our club.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?
Our preseason has been fairly volatile with freezing temps and snow hampering a lot of our training sessions on Clapham Common, even as recent as a week ago we were training in the snow and our girls played 3 interclub matches. With the elements aside however, we have had plenty of fresh faces grace the Common and join our ranks for our 2018 campaign. We were very active in recruiting and we are looking forward to seeing some of these guys put on the red and blue for the first-time next weekend. We lost half of our winning Premiership side to visas expiring, a constant threat living in London, so replacing some of those experienced players was high on the agenda for us to maintain our momentum from last season.

What does your side coming to Amsterdam want to achieve in 2018
We want to win the tournament. To pit ourselves against the best in Europe is something we are hungry to be challenged by. As it’s our first time having the opportunity to face off against completely new opposition, our focus would be on playing our brand of footy, with a keen eye on developing our Rest of the World players in a competitive tournament. ROW players are crucial to any team in London’s chances at success, so watching our more experienced ROWs and our new recruits battle it out will be something we are eager to see.

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018.
We have put together a really strong squad which includes a healthy mix of 9 Premiership players from last season along with 7 new players who have recently joined the Club. Everyone who has been selected has the ability to be a matchwinner which is an exciting position to be in. Joe Lloyd from England is into his 2nd season of AFL and we are super excited to see his development. Declan Bevan is a mobile big man who has joined us fresh from Queensland. He’ll play forward and we hope to see him jag plenty for the day. The last player to keep an eye on is big Dave Morrison from New Zealand, who has only joined us in the last few weeks. A tall, tap ruckman with a few years’ experience behind him, he will be used to chop out in the ruck all day so looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the club.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?
For all our funny stories you’ll just have to come along to our fine sessions after training in London! There you’ll hear everyone’s dirty laundry aired out in public, and as all fines are true it’s more like a historical documentation of the club as well. We are bringing about 40 supporters across with us to Amsterdam, so you’ll be sure to see the bright red polos of the Demons floating around on the day. Come find us, get to know us and maybe you might even get a mention come the next fine session…if you’re lucky!

SEE PART ONE OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TEAM PREVIEWS HERE
SEE OUT PART ONE OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TEAM PREVIEWS HERE
SEE OUT PART THREE OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TEAM PREVIEWS HERE