Brussels Saints March into 2005
Saturday, February 12 2005 @ 10:38 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
The Brussels Saints were newcomers to the European scene for 2004, with an impressive mix of experienced footballers and new recruits from a rugby background taking out the Central European AFL championship.
Luke White reviews their 2004 season and tells more about their plans for 2005.
At the commencement of the Saints' 2004 season expectations were never high. Attempting to establish a strange game in a foreign land was always going to be tough but the foundation year of the Brussels Saints was a cracker.
The Saints kicked off the season in fine style, overcoming a tough Paris Cockerels contingent in Tervuren, Belgium on the 20th of May and then again at Chateau Thoiry on the 26th of June was an excellent beginning. The team for the away match in France was made up almost entirely of non-Australians and was played in fantastic spirits in the shadows of the historic Castle.
The playing list was quickly expanding and by the time the European Championships in Dusseldorf rolled around the Saints had 19 players make the trip. In a tournament where points were awarded for non-Australians the Saints took the field with no fewer than 11 non-Aussies. This was seen as an important step as the pool of Australians living in Belgium is pretty shallow but ex-pats in general number in their tens of thousands.
Brussels had representatives from New Zealand, England, Belgium, Holland, Ireland and Italy take the field to contest the championships alongside their Australian teammates – lead by captain and ex-St.Kilda player Chris Stone.
The Saints kicked their Championships off in fine style with another sterling victory over the hard working Cockerels but overconfidence crept in as they were caught napping in game two against a fired up Spanish outfit.
Stung into action, the Brussels team overcame points penalties to knock off the Austrians and Germans in the next two games to sneak into the final where they faced their new nemesis, the Spanish.
The final was a hotly contested affair with dour defending and hard running eventually seeing the Saints victorious, bringing home the bacon with the title of Central European Champions and a winning record of six and one for their first season of competition.
The season finished with an intra-club match that was fittingly held on the historic battlefields of Waterloo and was a highlight of the season with 28 players involved – an involvement that further solidifies the Saints presence in Belgium.
2005 kicks off with perhaps the toughest test yet for the fledgling Saints with a visit from the North Copenhagen Barracudas on March 19. The Barras play in Europe’s oldest and strongest competition, the Danish AFL, and are historically one of the strongest performers of that league.
Playing against such an experienced and settled opposition should be a challenge but the Saints are quietly confident with several impressive recruits from Kenya, New Zealand, Holland not to mention former Magpie, Bomber and Tiger Mark Pitura all tipped to take the field for the first time in this all important clash.
Several other fixtures are in the works with dates yet to be confirmed.
The ideals of participation, involvement and enjoyment have been the cornerstones of the Saints success in Belgium. Anyone in the area, of any fitness or experience level, who is interested in a uniquely enjoyable experience please get in contact with Luke on firstname.lastname@example.org