Champion teams from throughout Europe converged on Amsterdam over the weekend to contest the 3rd annual AFL Europe Champions League.
With 24 teams (19 men’s, 5 women’s), 16 umpires, countless volunteers, 5 pitches and 60 matches across the day it was always going to be a massive tournament for all involved.
The Group Stages
The women’s group was a tight contest from start to finish. The Paris Cockerelles started their campaign with a hard-fought win over the Odense Lionesses while the Port Malmo Lynx knocked over pre-tournament favourites, the Wimbledon Hawks. The Mixed Team, led by a host of GB Swans, proved a difficult opponent winning their first three games.
The Cockerelles continued their strong form throughout the group to finish atop of the table before progressing in the semi-finals having only dropped a game to the Mixed Team. They were best served by Coline Duquet and Camille Portal who were dominating games in the midfield.
The Lionesses finished second with two wins, two losses next to their names while the Hawks and Lynx rounded out the table to with one win apiece.
Standings after the Group stages
- Paris Cockerelles
- Odense Lionesses
- Wimbledon Hawks
- Port Malmo Lynx
*Mixed Team unable to qualify for finals
The men’s competition was divided into four groups (3 groups of 5, 1 group of 4). Group A proved the closest of the three with the Leeside Lions and Farum Cats the standouts. The North West Eagles, Cardiff Panthers and Oslo Crows each took a game off one another showing just how close the three teams were. Two of the games of the tournament took place in this group with the Leeside Lions and Farum Cats finishing their encounter at 20 apiece while the North West Eagles and Cardiff Panthers fought out a nail-biter on the live stream with the Eagles holding on for an 8-point victory.
Group B consisted of 2 time defending champions, the West London Wildcats, Paris Cockatoos, Glasgow Sharks, Zaprude Giants and Sussex Swans. It was no surprise that the Wildcats were the early favourites but an in-form Cockatoos and Glasgow Sharks showed that they had what it took to give the defending champions a scare. The Giants and Swans struggled against the bigger sides but represented their clubs well and will only be better for the experience.
Last year’s losing finalists the Manchester Mozzies were met strongly by the boys from Munich in Group C. Their match went down to the wire with the Mozzies just edging past them 28-22. The Bordeaux Bombers continued with the form that saw them lift the French Cup in December last year finishing third in the group after knocking off the Port Malmo Maulers and wildcards, the Styrian Downunderdogs.
The final group, Group D, consisted of four teams, hosts, the Amsterdam Devils, the Norrtalje Dockers, the Zagreb Dockers and Russian United. This group played longer halves to ensure they played similar game time to the other three groups. The Devils were on a mission, after two years of just being off the pace, wanting to prove to their home crowd they were the real deal in 2017. The Norrtalje Dockers started strongly against Russian United before failing to trouble the Devils and Zagreb sides. Russian United again struggled but showed improvement on their 2016 campaign and gained valuable experience against some very polished sides.
Standings after the Group stages
- Leeside Lions
- Farum Cats
- Cardiff Panthers
- North West Eagles
- Oslo Crows
- West London Wildcats
- Paris Cockatoos
- Glasgow Sharks
- Zaprude Giants
- Sussex Swans
- Manchester Mozzies
- Munich Kangaroos
- Bordeaux Bombers
- Port Malmo Maulers
- Styrian Downunderdogs
- Amsterdam Devils
- Zagreb Dockers
- Norrtalje Dockers
- Russian United
The women’s final pitted the 1st placed Paris Cockerelles against the 4th placed Port Malmo Lynx in the first semi-final. The Cockerelles were expected to go through after defeating the Lynx in the group stages. The Lynx had other plans with an 11-point win catapulting them through to the final.
The second semi-final had an in-form Odense Lionesses against an out-of-sorts Wimbledon, however, the Hawks showed their class and lifted when it counted to convincingly beat the Lionesses by 20-points.
The evenness of the women’s competition showed with the 3rd and 4th placed teams playing off for the Champions League title. It was an incredible game with the Hawks lifting a notch in the big game. They controlled the game and held out to win by 7-points claiming their first Champions League title and becoming the first women’s club champions of Europe.
The men’s finals were always going to be a great spectacle with Group A’s Leeside Lions taking on Group D’s Amsterdam Devils in the first semi-final. The Devils lifted in front of their home crowd and held on to a hard-fought 27-19 victory in a fiery encounter to progress to their first Champions League final in their third attempt.
The second semi-final saw a rematch of last year’s final with Group B’s West London Wildcats taking on Group C’s Manchester Mozzies. The Wildcats flexed their muscles and proved too strong for the Mozzies with the scoreboard reading 65 to 18.
The Wildcats were through to yet another Champions League decider with an underdog Amsterdam Devils hoping to pull off the unthinkable. The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead to going into half-time with a 15-point buffer, inaccuracy hurting them and keeping the Devils in the game. A quick goal to start the second half got the Devils within range and when they kicked the 2nd goal of the half with 5 to go they were a real chance.
Two quick goals in response sealed the game for West London with a third goal late putting the icing on the cake to claim their third straight Champions League title with the scoreboard reading 37 to 14.
A special mention to the squad of 16 umpires who officiated throughout the day. Another stellar effort from the third team and congratulations on a great day of umpiring.
A massive thank you goes out to AFL Netherlands for their superb efforts in making this great event happen again in 2017, Spark United & Sportpark de Eendracht for hosting us, Drovers Dog for providing extra food and beverage options, all the volunteers and pitch managers who work so hard throughout the day, the umpiring squad led by John Enright who assembled the biggest group of umpires to any AFL Europe tournament, the team managers, Tony Pubjie the First Consul of the Australian Embassy Netherlands and everyone who attend the 2017 edition of the Champions League. You all represented your leagues proudly. Good luck with your 2017 seasons!
The Down Under Centre Golden Whistle
Player’s & Team of the Tournament
Michael Stewart – Amsterdam Devils
Benoit Treuillet – Bordeaux Bombers
Dan Aldous – Cardiff Panthers
Mathias Biron – Farum Cats Australsk Fodboldklub
Daniel Connor – Glasgow Sharks Australian Rules Football Club
Dominic Joyce – Leeside Lions AFL
Oli Hobin – Manchester Mosquitoes
Ruben Streicher – Munich Kangaroos
Ryan Tucker – Norrtälje Dockers
Niccollo De Giorgio – North West Eagles
Jarrod Casperz – Oslo Crows
Justin Kristensen – Port Malmö Football Club Maulers
Slava Belov – Russian United
Dan Shinners – Styrian DownUnderDogs
Joe Durling – Sussex Swans Australian Rules Football Club
Jared Risol – West London Wildcats
Ivan Ivos – Zagreb Cvjetno Dockers
Zvonimir Murkovic – Zapruđe Giants
Men’s Player of the Tournament
Jacob Raiwalui – Paris Cockatoos
Lisa Wilson – Mixed Team
Sidsel Wraa Hansen – Odense Australsk Fodbold Lionesses
Georgia Verkuylen – Port Malmö Football Club Lynx
Isabelle Currenti – Wimbledon Hawks
Women’s Player of the Tournament
Coline Duquet – Paris Cockerelles