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 first round of team previews, we showcase two women’s sides including the highly acclaimed champions of the AFL London Women’s Premiership competition, the Wandsworth Demons, and the sole French women’s side the Bordeaux Bombers. 

We will also take a look at the reigning premiers of the Central European Australian Football League, the Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers from Croatia, the formidable Berlin Crocodiles from Germany and semi-finalists from the 2017 Champions League the Leeside Lions. 

 

Women’s Competition:

Wandsworth Demons

Mitch Skelly – Wandsworth Women’s Team Manager

Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League with a quick recap of your 2017 season…

2017 was a great year for our club. We were the first club in London to introduce a second women’s side and had the numbers to play 18 per side each week. Our women’s Premiership team played some awesome footy throughout the season, going through the year with just the one loss and keeping the opposition goalless most weeks. We lost some key players to the International Cup and European summer travels for the finals campaign, however this didn’t stop the “She-Dee’s” winning both finals comfortably in what was a truly amazing season. To cap things off our women’s conference side were also runners-up in their division, so we couldn’t have been happier with 2017.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?

With a side made up mostly of Australians the inevitable 2 year VISA cycle sees many new faces in our women’s side. Losing 2 time B&F winner Tessa “Tank” Hankinson will be the hardest felt loss, along with the likes of Gaby Duncan, Beth Nielson and Ri Coldebella to name a few.  On the plus side we’ve been fortunate to recruit some Aussies with footy experience in Elli Keatch and Prip Lodge who will sure up our backline for the coming season. Despite the long cold winter, Sunday trainings have been well attended and everyone is itching to get to Amsterdam and play some footy!

What does your side coming to Amsterdam want to achieve in 2018

Like everyone we’d love to win the Champions League! It looks like there will be some really competitive sides in the women’s draw, so it would be an honour to take home the cup. With the Demon’s men also in attendance, the weekend will also be about having fun and supporting each other, as well as getting to know some of our newer players. The Champions League kicks off a season in which we hope both men and women will go back to back with AFL London premierships.

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018.

Gretta Hankinson – Our biggest error in 2017 was playing “Pudge” in the backline until the final weeks of the season. Her contested marking and goal kicking are her strongest features, although she will have to adapt to life without her sister Tessa feeding her the ball!

Caitlyn Jeffress – “Trucker” is another who came into her own once released from her backline role late in 2017, her ability to pick up the footy at speed is a testament to her previous career in touch rugby.

Sophie Croft – Runner-up in our best and fairest count last year, “Crofty” will play in the ruck and look to give our midfield first use of the footy.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?

The Wandsworth Demons prides itself on being a family away from home, most of our members are new to London when they join and come from all over the world, of course they’re mostly Australian expats! 2017 was our most successful season to date, all 5 teams made their respective Grand Finals, with 3 cups coming back to our spiritual home, “The Alex”, down at Clapham Common. Our previous effort at the Champions League was a disaster, we didn’t have a full-size squad and most of our girls took the overnight bus from London the Amsterdam. They were barely able to keep their eyes open by the end of the day and were certainly not successful in their pursuit of glory!

The Wandsworth Demons will look to continue their good form from tournaments of the past by winning the title at the 2018 Champions League.

Bordeaux Bombers

Cam Portal – Bordeaux Team Manager

Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2017 season…

In France, there is still no female competition. This year, we won our place thanks to the good development of our women’s team.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?

We train hard with the men’s team to prepare the Champions League with skills, strategic exercises and mixed matches of course. We will also have some new girls in the team who will learn everything about this kind of competition in Amsterdam.

What does your side coming to Amsterdam want to achieve in 2018?

Of course, we want to gain as much experience as possible, but this year we really want to have a good result. Last year after finishing first of the pool games, we lost in the semi-final. This year, we want to do better!

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018.

Camille Portal and Coline Duquet would definitely be our players to watch. Camille was part of the team of the tournament at almost all the last European events, and Coline was named the captain of the last tournament and was part of the team of the tournament at the International Cup in Melbourne last August.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?

With all the rain we’ve had this winter we have learned water footy and some fins and gills might have grown.

 

From Paris to Bordeaux, this year’s Champions League competition will see last year’s player of the tournament Coline Duquet represent the Bombers.

Men’s Competition:

Ivan Molnar – Zagreb Team Manager

Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers

Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2017 season…

We qualified to 2018 Champions League by winning Central European Australian Football League in 2017. It is a league that is played by clubs from Italy, Austria, Czech Republic and Croatia. There were two very tough tournaments, one in Milan (Italy) and one in Graz (Austria). Our main rivals last season, both in CEAFL and in Croatian League, were Sesvete Doubleblues. We played some great and close matches against them and won the CEAFL but lost the Croatian Championship in the final.
What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?

Our preparations started in January. We have been training mostly indoors due to the very cold weather. Hopefully winter will end before Champions League tournament.

What does your side coming to Amsterdam want to achieve in 2018?

Last year we came to Amsterdam with a strong and experienced team looking for a result and we finished in fifth place, which is a great result if you consider that we had no Australian players in our team. This year we lost some important players but we recruited new young ones. With this young team our main goal is to gather experience and to develop our team for the future.

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018?

Our new players are yet to prove themselves. We will leave it to the spectators to decide after the tournament who will be the next star in our team. The talent is surely there. The rookie of the year of Croatian League in 2017 was from our club, Viktor Kolčić.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?

There are funny stories and moments from almost every trip we make so it is hard to pick one. The funny fact might be that we are all Lord of the Rings fans. So if someone wants to join the club, one of the conditions is that you must at least know the basics about the Middle-earth.

After finishing in fifth place last year, the Dockers will take a young team to Amsterdam in April.

Berlin Crocodiles

Chris Woods – Berlin Team Manager

Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2017 season…

For us 2017 was a year of firsts. We had been making steady progress over the previous years – finally making the finals in 2015, after years of absences – and competing in the Grand Final in 2016, where we were thumped by Munich. However, with what has been touted in Berlin as the “Super Draft” in 2016, some handy additions in 2017 and the development of some of our german and international players, we were able to enter 2017 with a very strong squad. We played 35 players across three 9-aside tournaments and five 16-aside matches, and went through the season undefeated, before getting our revenge on Munich to win our first AFLG premiership. It was a great culmination of determination and hard work by many players across many eras of our club. Our club has provided a home for countless footy fans in Berlin over the years, so we were very proud to bring home the silverware for everyone who has been a part of our journey over the years.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?

The weather has been very cold in the last month, but it hasn’t stopped us getting out on the track in sub-degree temperatures. We have lost a couple of key players from our premiership side last year in Rhys Ironmonger (BOG in the Grand Final) and speedy Steele Sexton, but there are some likely additions that have hit the track with us early this year and we are looking forward to rolling them out during the season.

What does your side coming to Amsterdam want to achieve in 2018?

We are looking forward to testing ourselves against Europe’s best and of course the after party. Our lads love a good away trip and could not think of a better place to go then Amsterdam.

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018?

The “Twin Towers” Josh “Bolly” Bollmeyer and Rowan “Horse” Miegel are our spearheads up forward. Josh came to the club in 2017 and took out the Club, and League, best and fairest – a very handy addition to our premiership team – while Rowan has been around the traps for us for a number of years and is getting better with age.

Felix “Puss” Grob has developed into an agile running half back and represented Germany in last years international cup in Australia. He is just as agile out on the town and gets up to mischief on a regular basis.

Bart “The Flying Dutchman” Rijckaert is our team captain and stalwart in defence. Originally from a small farm in the Netherlands, he says he has never been to Amsterdam, so he has to win a premiership to see what the big smoke is like.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?

Half the team had to get new boots this year, after their old boots grew mould over the winter break from all the celebratory shoeys that were performed after the premiership success. A valuable life lesson was learned.

 

 

It was a big year for the Berlin Crocodiles in 2017. Now they’re a serious threat to win this year’s edition of the Champions League.

Leeside Lions

Chris O’Brien – Leeside Coach

Tell us a bit about your pathway to qualifying for the 2018 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2017 season…

Our path to this year’s Champions League started with us retaining our AFL Ireland title. Having gone undefeated in 2016, 2017 we were a marked target with teams gunning for us. Belfast finally got our number in round 6, but we steadied the ship to top the league and seal another Home final against the South Dublin Swans, in which Ian O’Sullivan rolled back the clock to produce a BOG display.

What has your preparation for this year’s tournament been like?

With a youngish squad most our lads have been training away with the UCC Bombers and CIT Saints over the winter. The old lads have rested up the legs for a few months since the Grand Final but have been hitting the pitch hard since the New Year.

What does your side coming to Amsterdam want to achieve in 2018?

Having reached the semi-finals last year we have earmarked improving on that. Needless to say, having made the semi-final only on the narrowest of percentage margins over the Farum Cats we are well aware of the quality of the opposition across Europe and are not taking anything for granted.

Describe some players in your team that fans should keep an eye on at Champions League 2018?

Having Colin Lordan, Oisin Collins, Paudie O’Connell, Paul Murphy, Dom Joyce and Shane O’Sullivan who were all members of the Irish Warriors IC squad last year, we will be looking to them for experience.

What would you like the world to know about your football club? Are there any funny stories from last season or previous tournaments?

We are currently Irelands most successful club with 6 titles. Our Kangaroo Court sessions are the stuff of legend. So much so that half the lads didn’t come back this year.

The Leeside Lions will be looking to improve on their semi-final performance from last year’s Champions League.