In the lead-up to the 3rd annual AFL Europe Champions League, hosted by AFL Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday 1st April, we’ll be taking a quick look at the teams who’ve qualified for the premier club tournament held in Europe.

Next up we have the undefeated 2016 AFL London women’s premiers, the Wimbledon Hawkettes, the Paris Cockatoos, the Zagreb Dockers, the Sussex Swans & the ARFLI Champions, the Leeside Lions.

Wimbledon Hawkettes

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

The Wimbledon Hawkettes were undefeated in the London league in 2016, winning the Grand Final against the North London Lions​. We were consistent on the field throughout the season, using our midfield pressure to push the ball forward, and shutting down the opposition when they came into our end. We also had the honour of being the only London team to have two of our forward line players drafted into the AFLW this season (Don’t worry, they won’t be kicking goals for us in this tournament!).

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

We recently started our pre-season training and many of the girls are looking fast after a productive off-season! We train with our men’s team so have been getting plenty of experience going up against rough opponents, and fighting for every contested footy. The weather in England has been all over the place as well, so we will be ready to play in whatever the Amsterdam skies want to throw at us.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 Ideally to take home the flag, as with any competition the Hawkettes always step onto the field wanting to win! Off the field though, I think the ladies will be looking to have fun and make footy contacts across Europe. We are bringing a big team to Amsterdam as this tournament is also our pre-season tour, and I think we’d like to share how we are growing the sport in London. Tournaments are a great place to recruit new players who come down to watch, and the surest way to keep that going is by putting on an exciting competition and ​following it up with a memorable afterparty.

Player to watch?

Midfielder Chloe Ong​ – Recruited from the sidelines, Chloe spends the Aussie Rules off-season playing football (soccer) in London. She has a great mix of speed and stamina which means she puts a formidable amount of pressure onto her opponents and keeps the footy moving into the forward line.

Paris Cockatoos

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

The Cockatoos are the newest team in the Paris Cocks franchise. The team was created for the 2016 season as we had too much players for just one men’s team. The team did amazingly well last season only losing two games in the regular season. They beat the Cockerels in the semi-finals (very tough and emotional game cause both team are from the club). In the Grand Final they beat the Coyotes in the last quarter. This was by far the toughest game of the season with all the Cockerelles and Cockerels cheering like crazy when they brought the trophy back to Paris!

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The French Championship is running from September to end of April so the Cockatoos are training twice a week and playing a game pretty much every two weeks. We are definitely ready for the Champions League!

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 We basically approach every game with the expectation of winning so we definitely have our eyes on making the final four. As a team we’re hitting some really good formats we’re bringing a lot of depth so there’s no reason why we can’t challenge the really good teams.

Player to watch?

A couple of our local products are worth looking out for. Julian Dagois and Clement Dony have had really consistent seasons are playing great footy. Jacob Raiwalui is a really exciting talent so it will be fun to cut the big boy loose against quality opposition. Also a couple of our old blokes have wound the clock back this season which has been fun to watch.

Zagreb Dockers

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

We qualified for the 2017 Champions League by becoming champions of Croatia in 2016. The Croatian league of Australian football includes 6 clubs and it lasts from April till October. We were favorites to win the title being the reigning champions from 2015. Also, our squad is very strong and experienced. In the regular part of the competition we finished second but in playoffs we won all games and managed to defend the title, becoming champions for two years in a row.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

The preparation for the Champions League started two months ago. It was very cold in Zagreb so we were training indoors. We will play in the Croatian Cup, so we will have a few matches before coming to Amsterdam.

What are your team’s expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

Our expectations for the Champions League are to be better than last year when we finished in 9th place. This year we are coming with a full squad and we hope to be at least second in a group. There are no Australians in our team so this is a great opportunity for our players to grow and learn.

Player to watch?

Player to watch is definitely the Captain of Croatian national team, Tomislav Cvetko. He was elected as Best and Fairest of Croatian League in 2016. Tomislav is soon to leave for Australia to play footy there. No doubt he is a star but our team is a compact unit with a lot of talented players and some of them will hopefully be a pleasant surprise at 2017 Champions League.

Sussex Swans

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season!

Under the leadership of Will Mclean, Sussex Swans grew their numbers significantly in 2016, with most non-Australian first time players. Going into their first game of the Southern England Australian Football League, the Swans suffered a loss against Southampton Titans – fortunately, this would be their last loss of the season. The final game of the season was played against Surrey Stags at the Swans’ home ground in Brighton. The passion and energy of the 2016 new recruits provided Will with enough confidence to put out a rookie team against the much more experienced Stags. The Swans took their eleventh win and the title of 2016 SEAFL Premiers.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Having committed to the 2017 Champions League in December of last year, the Sussex Swans returned back to skills-training on the first Saturday of January and every subsequent week since, training through rain, sleet and snow. The weather isn’t the only brutal elements the Swans have faced, with a new mid-week HIIT training session leaving the 2017 players fitter, stronger and faster than ever before. Word has spread about the Swans’ hard training and dedication with a strong increase in membership – the Swan’s even welcomed their first ladies players to training in March.

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 The Sussex Swans haven’t trained all through winter with the expectation that winning is not a possibility. This may be the Sussex Swans’ first challenge at the Champions League title, but that doesn’t mean that they are a team to be taken lightly. Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is!

Player to watch?

Boo. One to both watch and hear.

 

 Leeside Lions

How did you qualify for the 2017 Champions League? Quick recap of your 2016 season…

Having not won the flag since 2007 and not appearing in a grand final since 2011, the Leeside Lions were perennial underachievers in recent times. 2016 saw a great mix of youth and experience in the Lions ranks as there was great numbers crossed over for the summer period from our sister Uni club, the UCC Bombers. There was a great buzz at trainings and games and we knew 2016 had the potential to be our year. The ARFLI season is played on a carnival basis with each team playing two league games on the same day. The Leeside Lions won the 2016 ARFLI flag on the back of an unprecedented unbeaten season winning 9 from 9 culminating with the defeat of the highly-experienced Belfast Redbacks by double scores, 104-52 on home soil.

How has the preparation for the 2017 Champions League been going?

Preparations have been going well, the Lions are training with the UCC Bombers at the moment, recent Fitzpatrick Cup winners. This allows us to challenge ourselves against quality opposition on a weekly basis with great playing numbers. We were also delighted to host the North London Lions for a pre-season game on Saturday 11th March, this was a tough and fair contest but it certainly was very beneficial to both teams with our North London counterparts preparing for their AFL London season and us for the AFL Europe Champions league with the final score as follows:

Leeside Lions 10.8 (68) North London Lions 6.9 (45).

What are your teams expectations for the 2017 Champions League?

 The Champions League is unknown territory to us but its something we’re very excited about. There is no point entering a tournament unless you want to win it and I think that’s our mantra for Amsterdam. We’re going to go, enjoy the experience, play as good footy as we can and hopefully that will take us to the latter stages of the comp.

Player to watch?

This is a difficult one as we have guys with plenty of international 9s experience as well as some older club stalwarts and the influx of youth from the UCC Bombers. Players like Paul Murphy and Padraic O’Connell will certainly be players to watch as they are part of the Irish Warriors squad for the upcoming IC17. You have experience with the likes of Eoin O’Sullivan and Cian Quigley who have literary won everything there is to win in the game. For 9s you are looking for the team to perform as a cohesive unit and that’s our aim, no individual players, just one team.