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 second round of team previews, we showcase a new women’s side the Hamburg Dockers, who will become the first German women’s club to play in the Champions League, as well as the Odense Lionesses from Denmark before taking a look at three men’s teams in the West London Wildcats, the Lyon Lions and Croatian champions, the Sesvete Double Blues. 

Women’s Competition:

Hamburg Dockers

Lisa Wilson – Hamburg Women’s Coordinator

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

The Hamburg Dockers don’t have your usual story for qualifying for a competition. Though the men’s team and the AFLG men’s league have been around for years, only a handful of girls have attended training with no opportunity for games. This year, a campaign has been created to launch women’s football in Germany with the Champions League competition being a focal point for growth with the Hamburg Dockers being granted a spot. As women’s footy is so new here the team will be made up of females from the Clubs across the whole country including the Berlin Crocodiles, Munich Kangaroos, Frankfurt Redbacks and Württemburg Giants, with the only player currently not located in Germany a German native who plays for the Wandsworth Demons in London.

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

Preparations have been solely based around promotion of the sport and the building of the team as this will be the first ever German women’s Australian Football team to play in AFL Europe history. Therefore our aims will be to promote the name of Germany Women’s Australian Football, inspire other German girls and girls in Germany to try the game and also to give game experience to the girls who have been training with the men but haven’t had the opportunity to play a game.

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

Being a brand new team and name in the European Footy world we want to give an opportunity for all our players to shine at the competition. We will have a great mix of experienced players both Australian and German nationals and complete beginners who it will be their first game and will be looking to learn from our experienced players. We are also lucky to have Hamburg Dockers Vice President and Captain of the German Eagles Men’s Team, Florian Naumann as Head Coach of the team, he is working hard to grow the sport for women in his home country and will be looking to inspire all the girls at the tournament.

What would you like the world to know about your football club?

An unknown entity in the competition we are excited to represent Germany, play some football and get the ball rolling for Germany Women’s Footy in 2018. Hopefully, the Champions League competition will be the start of something great!

It will be a first for AFL in Germany when the Hamburg Dockers become the inaugural German women’s club to play at the Champions League.

Odense Lionesses

Amanda Teglhus – Team Manager

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

Our 2017 season came in continuation of our dwindling numbers of 2016. Despite that, our efforts were centred on helping in the development of Denmark’s second women’s team, Farum Wildcats. In this, Port Malmö Lynx was vital in providing good opposition, lending players out, game rescheduling… Our victories of that season came therefor off the back of a core of players, now amongst the most experienced in our region, our own guest players, and the young Wildcats players.

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

At the end of the season, we refocused our efforts inwards, and a couple successful recruiting events have almost brought our numbers back up to 9 a side standards. The harsh winter this year will result in us bringing a high number of first-gamers to the competition, but our indoors trainings intensity should show promising results nonetheless.

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

Such a high number of new players coming into the team at once, and changes in the club’s coaching structure, will take a toll on our team play; and teamplay is exactly were Head Coach Morten Merhøj has his focus in this 2018 pre-season. Champions League will be the occasion for us to observe what came out of the off-season and pre-season, as well as try out different positions for both new and experienced players. But don’t expect us at the bottom of the ladder crunching numbers all nerd-like, we’ll see each other in the finals!

What would you like the world to know about your football club?

For those who know us, there will be some known faces in our squad; like our cow-wrestler, our tireless panda-ruck and our German tackle-machine. Our new players also come in a variety of playstyles: power players with strength and courage not unlike our captain herself, speedsters like we’ve missed in the last couple of years and even a couple of tall girls hopefully boosting our marking game.

Men’s Competition:

West London Wildcats

Chad Sellenger – West London President

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

Our journey here started with the 2017 AFL Europe Champions League. It was a tough group stage last year and we managed to get our way into the final coming up a resilient and disciplined Amsterdam Devils side, but we managed to come away with a hard-fought win to leave as Champions and be able to come back to defend our title in 2018.

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

Being in London there is always a high turnover over players coming and going so we have lost a fair amount but also gained some really important players that will drive our team forward in 2018. Training has been cold and wet so far, hopefully, we can get some dry conditions on the day! We are always looking for ways to improve our game, coming back again we always know we need to go up another 50% if we want to win.

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

Coming over to Amsterdam is a big highlight for our players each year, it’s a chance to enjoy a really great city and play against some really tough competition from around Europe. We are hoping – like everyone – to come away as Champions in 2018 once again.

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

No doubt we will be relying on all 16 players to make a valuable contribution throughout the day to have a good chance at coming out on top so it’s hard to single anyone out. You can miss big Wazza out on the ground so you can keep an eye on him easily enough and there should be plenty of good craic floating about from our Irish contingency, so keep an ear out for those lads.

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

Plenty of good stories that come from this trip including 4 missed flights home in 2015 and one lad self-saturating himself 3 times but none better than one involving Matty Ferg Bro. During a pitch move he had misplaced his Cons and was unable to locate them come the end the day, rather than stay at the hostel or buy a new pair he soldiered on with football boots on throughout Saturday night celebrations. With no Cons in sight the next day he was left with no choice but to fly back to London still wearing his football boots and socks on, much to the confusion of EasyJet stewards! Even better that his Cons turned up in the kit bag under a few jumpers.

Lyon Lions

Charles Bernigaud – Lyon President

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

After a difficult 2015/2016 season (2win and 6 Loss),  we get back to work with intentions to make much better. After the first win of the 2016/2017 season, we knew that we had something to work with. And we did, finishing as champions without losing any games in the season. It was just incredible, we feared no one and felt like we were indestructible.

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

No special preparation as we are actually playing the championship (French season is from October to may approximatively). So we are ready to play. We try to improve on how to use the ball the most efficiency. That’s very important to be sure to make the right choice every time you got the ball.

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

It is very new for us, of course, we are here to gain experience by facing the best teams in Europe, but we also here for the competition. Saying we got a winning chance will be foolish but I’m sure that we can compete with most of the team. I can just tell that my boys are really excited about playing in Amsterdam.

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

All my players deserve a look, but if I have to select 3 I would say Thibaut Picard, who is our captain for 2 seasons now and led the team to the title last season. He is a very clever and experienced midfielder and understands the game really well.

The second one is Pierre Napolean who played in the last International Cup in Melbourne after just his first season as a footy player and gained a lot with this experience. He’s a small forward who can also play in the middle when we need it, is a remarkable goal scorer on his day, we hope the 7th of April will be one of those days.

And the third one is Emmanuel Bessenay, he could look lazy on the field and is not the most devoted to the training, but he’s a strong pillar of the Lions, it’s his fourth season of footy and he’s improving a lot again. Strong defender who always makes the right choice, he can also make the projection on the field to score a goal from far.

But the sixteen lad’s will be playing at the Champions League deserve a look. We are a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team!

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

I can say that we love shining on the field, but the most important for us is to shine even more in the 5th quarter. I think that’s one of the keys of our last season premiership!

The French champions are looking to announce themselves on the European stage – on and off-field

Sesvete Double Blues

Dejan Pavkovic – Sesvete Team Manager

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

Five clubs had been participating in Croatian league last season, with all 5 clubs really good teams and all of them had same starting position and possibility to win the league. So, at the start of the season we told ourselves that we’ll take one game at the time and then we’ll see where will that lead us. As we finished second in regular part of the season, the whole team started to believe that we have the best team in Croatia, and we prove that in semifinals and grand final. We played top quality footy and deservedly won the championship against a fantastic team and great friends from Cvjetno Dockers. Also, we won the Croatian cup and were second placed in Central European AFL, so that was a fantastic season for us.

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

Last season was really a long one, as we played many games on different fronts and many of our players participated in national team actions. That being said, we decided to give our players a long rest over winter. So, actually, we started preseason training sessions at the beginning of February with many of players going to the gym aside official training seasons.

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

As this is our first participation in a Champions League, we are going to Amsterdam to gain a lot of experience and to have some fun on the field. Our first and only goal is to play footy as good as we played it last season and if we manage to achieve that, we’ll see where will that lead us.

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

We like to say that our team is strong as the weakest link is and we are really working hard on team spirit and team harmony. We really believe that we are doing well only if the whole team work hard and every player knows what to do. Of course, every team has their star players. In Sesvete Double Blues those are unarguably Josip Motik, who had been the best player of the national team in Bordeaux or Mislav Karamatic as one of the best goalscorers last few seasons in Croatian league. There are also young players who can show what they worth like Josip Karadza or Marko Klisanin. Of course, there is one an only, our key to success, captain and team spirit Goran Pecikoza. But as I said, we are before all a team

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

Fun fact: we are in serious considerations that we bring live alpaca on our next home game as our new mascot. Also, with it comes and a new name: Double Alpacas or Blue Alpacas.

The Sesvete Double Blues will be fierce competition for the rest of the men’s Champions League field.

 

CHECK OUT PART ONE OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TEAM PREVIEWS HERE