Brussels Saints Celebrate Stellar Inaugural Season
Thursday, August 05 2004 @ 08:10 am ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
In only four months of existence, the Brussels Saints have defeated Paris both home and away, taken first place at the Central European AFL championships and assembled a playing list of almost 30 players, of which only around half are ex-pat Australians.
When the Brussels Saints take the pitch for an intra-club match at Waterloo, Belgium on August the 28th it will mark the culmination of a rather impressive first-up season.
The club was formed in March of this year by expat Australians Luke White, Duncan Lodge, Tim Noonan and ex-St Kilda footballer Chris Stone.
The task of finding players took the four to Aussie pubs, the Australian Society of Brussels and the local Brussel Barbarians Rugby club - but the biggest recruiting tool has been word of mouth.
As White recalls 'The list started at around 12 mainly Australian ex-pats but after the first match expanded quite quickly. Attendance to training has always been poor but the overwhelming positive has been the fact that the number of players available for matches has increased constantly.'
'For our intra-club match on the 28th we will have 26-30 players in attendance. Roughly half of these players are Australians. The rest are Irish, English, Belgian, Dutch and New Zealander. They have all been recruited from either the rugby club or word of mouth or both.'
Equipment was purchased second-hand through the St Kilda football club and the fledgling club given the Saints moniker.
The first match was scheduled for the 20th of May in Tervuren, Belgium against the Paris Cockerels. The Saints ran out three-goal victors over the Cockerels, also a new side on the European scene, then defeated them again in the return match held a month later in Paris.
Their most impressive effort though was when they hit the road for Düsseldorf, Germany early July for the CEAFL championships and stunned the crowd winning all their lead-up games except the match-up with Spain, then defeating the Spanish in the final of the day.
'Winning the Central European Championship was a huge effort against some pretty strong opposition' says White 'and most pleasing was the performance of the non-Australians who have developed their skills/knowledge to the point where they are capable of outperforming experienced Australians.'
When asked about what the future might hold, White is optimistic - 'I'm hoping to get a few more games organised for next season. I'd like to get 2/3 teams to come to Brussels on the one day so that we can play a more than one match on a day. As distances are such a problem it has become obvious that making the most of the occasions when we do come together is the best way to arrange things from now on. When we played Paris in Brussels we should have invited Düsseldorf Lions/Edinburgh to come and play also. When we played in Paris we should have invited the Madrid Bears to play as well.'
'I'd also like to get more non-Australians involved. I think the involvement of non-Aussies creates more justification for our efforts than just a bunch of old ex-pats running around.'
'Creating a juniors competition would obviously be the ultimate. Organised sport (particularly for kids) in Europe is poor to say the least and attracting kids to a sport like Aussie rules isn't as far-fetched an idea as many - including the AFL - would think.'
And that's the truth.