EU Cup preview 3 - Czech Republic, Netherlands and the rest of the field
Thursday, September 13 2007 @ 07:36 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
With the EU Cup 9s tournament kicking off in a few days, we take a quick look at the Czech and Dutch teams for the tournament, as well as a look over the team lists for the remaining sides. The twelfth team for the tournament is to be a scratch team of extra players of teams with more than 15 making the trip, as well as a few from other countries not represented.
Ash Ball from the Czech AFL tells us "as a developing sport in the Czech Republic, we have the challenge of limited numbers available for selection. However, selection is based on attendance to training, prior games played in the national colours and a positive footy attitude. Along with a growing number of Czech players - 5 took the field in the 2007 Prague Cup - we have some Irish players, an American, a player from Mali and the usual fill of Australians.
"The biggest change has been the availability of a much improved training ground. Slavia Athletics Stadium in Prague has given the team a chance to train on the pitch inside the athletics track and this has been excellent. It's given the players a real sense of belonging to a real sport and a real sporting club.
"Our expectations are fairly open, as we have not seen all of our scheduled opponents in action. Our goal is to enjoy our footy, learn what we can from the more experienced teams - by playing them, but also watching - and above all to have fun as a team.
"Young defender Ladi Hnyk has shown great improvement in just his first season wearing the Aussie Rules jersey. Despite his smaller stature, his determination and vision out of defence is a real delight to see. Aliou Sidibe is also a player to watch. Mali-born Aliou shows great agility for a tall player and if he recovers fully from a back strain, will be a player to watch in the EU Cup."
The Flying Dutchmen went into hibernation after their first international matches at the 2005 EU Cup in London, coming back onto the scene early this year with some friendly matches involving some of the AFL Germany club as well as the Strasbourg Kangaroos from France. They have recently launched a website for the new Dutch Australian Football Association.
DAFA president Jase van der Ven tells us "Not too much to report from Holland other than that we're hooking right in and getting some quality training in, working as a solid unit and aiming high for the EU Cup. We're coming with a mixture of expat Aussies and some great local talent - could be worth putting a tenner on us..."
As a side still very much in development stages, the Dutch will certainly be something of an unknown quantity for the cup. Let's hope the group can get into some regular local footy in the coming season, maybe building on the proximity to the powerful Rheinland Lions in Germany and the Brussels Saints in Belgium.
The Brussels Saints, Belgium's only footy club to date, took out the 2005 EU Cup with a very strong Aussie contingent, including one ex-AFL player. The team also had the lowest number of local players (only one) of any team at the cup - something which with new rules could be a problem for the Belgian team this year. The team list posted for the EU Cup has 18 players in the current squad, but 15 of those are Australians, with only 2 Belgians and an Italian. The tournament is placing a quota of only 10 Australians per squad of 15 - but how this effects the Belgians remains to be seen.
The Madrid Bears club has been fairly quiet since the 2005 International Cup, when the club formed the Spain Bulls team to tour to Australia. The team list posted on the Footy Record suggests the side will be almost all Spanish nationals.
The Swedish side this year will be drawn from the northern Stockholm and Falun area clubs, with a large number of the Scania players unavailable as they will be playing in the Danish AFL Preliminary Final on the same weekend. Sweden should again be strong this year, particularly with a few experienced Australian players on their list, as well as some continually improving Swedish talent.
EU Mixed team
With the withdrawal of the Welsh team for the cup, a gap opened for a twelfth team. The "EU Crusaders" squad on paper looks to almost be a Finland reserves team, plus a Dane from the Jutland Shinboners (whose season is already over due to missing the DAFL finals) and Croatian veteran Kolja Koracak.
The team lists and draw is available at the Footy Record.