Contributed by: Ian HillThe weekend of March 19 saw Denmark's North Copenhagen Barracudas make their first tentative steps onto the international stage, visiting the Brussels Saints in the Belgian capital.
Unfortunately not enough Barracudas could make the trip so some ringers were recruited from within DAFL, and at the last, three ringers from the Dusseldorf Lions in Germany. As it turned out both squads were a little depleted by last minute sickness and injury, most notably Brussels' AFL veteran Chris Stone who had not yet recovered from knee surgery. Happily he was still able to participate, making his umpiring debut, thanks Chris!
The match started quite evenly but it was the Saints that were able to apply the first pressure. Unfortunately they weren't able to turn their early advantage into goals, managing only a couple of behinds. Then it was the Barracudas who took over for the rest of the quarter scoring 33 to the Saints 9.
The second and third quarters were tight with not too much activity on the scoreboard. The small ground resulted in a lot of crowding around the ball which suited those coming from rugby backgrounds but stifled creative play somewhat. Both quarters were close with the Barracudas extending their lead slightly to 44 points.
All in all, though, the Barracudas always had a bit of advantage with more stand-out players around the ground than the Saints. Stuart Wynn was dominant in the ruck, taking numerous marks around the ground. Mats Tikjøb, Daniel Reinert and Jonas Holstein all worked hard in the middle, and the two young German lads Mattes Oser and Martin Neumann had too much pace for the Saints on the wings. Erik Krolmark was a real handfull for the Saints at centre half forward, while the Saints themselves lacked a similar target man in their own forward line. Prominent for the Saints were West Australian Kris Vanderwilk who showed great strength and skill around half back, and British Rugby convert James Stern who used his powerful physical presence to great advantage. Ex AFL player Mark Pitura showed glimpses of what he is capable of but looked rather underdone (and perhaps a tad hungover!).
The Barracudas mixed their side up a lot in the last two quarters and by the fourth had virtually reversed their line-up. This resulted in the Saints getting more of the play and indeed they won the final period on the scoreboard. Not enough to affect the final result, though, with the Barracudas running out winners 99 - 63.
It is interesting to compare the make-up of the two teams. The fledgling Saints were made up mainly of ex-pat Aussies, from both footy and Rugby backgrounds plus some Rugby converts from the British Isles. They only have a couple of Belgian players at this early stage in their development. The Barracudas were mainly Danes (10) plus 3 Germans, 1 Kiwi and 4 Aussies. Hopefully the Saints will work on luring some more local players into the fold, as danish experience has shown that this is the way to build a stable organisation on the continent. Thanks to the Saints for their hospitality and a great game of footy, good luck in the future and keep up the good work.
Scores: Brussels 1.3, 3.4, 5.6, 9.9(63) North Copenhagen 5.3, 7.6, 12.8, 15.9(99) Goalkickers: Brussels unavailable (contact us and we'll update this) North Copenhagen Erik Krolmark 4, Stan Doney 3, Martin Hansen 3, Mads Brinks, Martin Neumann, Mattes Oser, James Smith, Mats Tikjøb
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