EU Cup preview 2 - Austria, Germany and England
Friday, August 31 2007 @ 03:38 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
In the second part of our preview of the 2007 EU Cup and emerging nations of European Aussie Rules, we spoke to Germany's Malte Schudlich and Austria's Ben Chick. The 5 teams of the AFLG and the Vienna Kangaroos in the capital of Austria give a total six teams in the German-speaking areas of Europe, with at least one more on the cards for 2008.
Update - The report now also has an interview with England Dragonslayers' coach Rob Fielder.
Regarding the German team's preparation, Schudlich tells us there hasn't been any particular program for the EU Cup. "The main focus of the German national team was the Tri-Nations series with Denmark and Sweden. These games were prepared through a training camp in April. For the team the EU Cup is a minor event at the end of a long season, open to those national players who are available and can afford the money.
"Selection of national players is done by the AFLG National Coach David Mudge. David is in constant contact with all AFLG coaches, regarding the development of national players, or possible new ones. Our national team is a true German national team, consisting of Germans. There are very few exceptions where players have been naturalized in Germany, between the age of 10 and 20, but are not German passport holders. This is due to the very strict German nationality laws, where until recently only the descendents of German citizens could claim nationality. If you are born in Germany, but your parents do not carry a German passport, you used not to be German - it didn't matter how many generations of your family have been living in the country. This has now been changed, but it will take 15 years before it can effect the national team".
Regarding where the Germans expect to finish on the table, Schudlich says that as no one really knows who the other sides will have playing for them it's pretty tough to make a realistic guess - and on the topic of star players to watch out for, he simply answers "The team is the star".
While the Germans took a heavy beating from Denmark recently, their form against Sweden suggests the overall standard of German players has improved this year. If they have their best 15 players on the pitch, they could be one of the tougher sides to beat.
Austria has until this year only been represented by one club, the Vienna Kangaroos, who fly the Austrian colours at European tournaments. 2007 has seen the Roos grow however, with a second side forming in the city of Graz. Ben Chick tells us: "Austria held the CEAFL championships in Vienna in June against Croatia, Czech Republic, and Finland - going down to the Finns in the final but showing vast improvement. A team is in the formation stage in Graz, consisting totally of Austrian players with the intention for 2008 to hold more regular "local" games between the Graz and Vienna based teams."
"The local "Battle of the Roos" was fought out recently between Munich Kangaroos and the Vienna Kangaroos in Koessen, a small village in Tirol. This was a good hit out against the AFLG premiers and a good yard stick to measure the Vienna team against - no surprises with the Munich boys too fit, skillful and strong on the day and playing well as a unit going into their finals series. With the weather for the day nothing short of filthy it was also a good introduction to wet weather footy for most of the lads."
"Having just returned from the Prague cup last weekend, part of the annual tri-nations series between Austria, Czech Republic and Croatia, the boys restored a bit of confidence by putting in a really hard team effort to beat Czech and then compete for 2 quarters against Croatia in the final. A few injuries and some sore legs couldn't get us through in the end but all credit to the tight-knit Croatian unit who remain the team to beat in the tri nations series. We look forward to the Zagreb leg of the the series in October."
The biggest factor in putting together an Austrian team for the cup are the travel costs, which ruled out a large percentage of the team from day one. Says Chick, "nationalities that form the team are Austrian, Australian, Hungarian and French with the largest contingent being of Austrian nationality. The club has seen a lot more interest this year with the formation of the Graz team and more Austrian players attending training and games - however realistically we don't see Austria pushing the top teams too hard in this championship. As long as we can compete, improve each time and enjoy it, I think we will be happy."
"A few blokes to watch out for would be The "M-Train" Martin Ruppe who has found a new lease of life in the ruck, Stuey who took the best player award for the Prague cup in his first ever Aussie rules hit out, the tenacious Punti Boardman who always gets a few touches despite his bald spot and Captain Raoul Himberger who in his 3rd year is starting to realise that it's not always about the drinking."
When the England (ARUK) Dragonslayers competed at the 2005 EU Cup, most of the Dragonslayers team was recruited from the BARFL's Reading Roos. This year however they are drawn from a various Aussie Rules UK clubs, since the advent of the ARUK senior league.
Coach Rob Fielder, an Englishman who also coaches the Swindon Devils, tells us "We have a tournament in Manchester on the 8th September. This is really important in terms of getting a hit out, getting a feel for each others game strengths and piecing it all together. The players have been given instructions to maintain fitness levels after the end of the season and to continue skill development with their coaches. It has been difficult to get the whole squad together, with holiday season, rugby and football (soccer) commitments taking over."
"Each club coach was asked to put forward 3 players for consideration. The selection panel watched and reported on the performances of the proposed players. A balanced selection process led to the squad we have for Hamburg. I've been told faithfully we are one of the favourites - without having played. We have quite a few lads who could step up to the plate on the day. If you want names look out for guys like Simon Greetham, Luke Brailey, Tom Ingall and Aaron Myers."
After the 9-a-side EU Cup, the Dragonslayers will take on the BARFL's Bulldogs - a match up which could potentially say a lot about the relative strengths of teams around Europe, particularly if the Dragonslayers do well in Hamburg.