EU Cup 2009 Team Previews - France, Italy, Scotland & Austria
Thursday, September 10 2009 @ 06:21 AM CST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
In our second set of previews of teams for the 2009 EU Cup, WFN spoke to team coaches and managers from France, Scotland, Italy and Austria.
The French, Austrians and Scots will be eager to improve their standing over previous years, while the first appearance of an Italian side in European Australian rules football circles has created a huge amount of interest.
So far, we've looked at half of the 16 national teams that the organisers at Aussie Rules Europe are expecting to make the trip. Still to come are some very big names including reigning champions the England Dragonslayers, potential juggernauts the Irish Exiles, and the always-improving German Black Eagles.
French footy stalwart Marc Jund tells WFN that the players for the national team were selected after the second French Cup. "The selection was made after a meeting with all the presidents of each team. It is a selection with 100% french players coming from the 6 existing teams. Only one player of this list could not come to Zagreb, this means that it's the first year we will almost have the selection we wanted: that shows also the motivation of each player."
"We hope there will be a good spirit like there was during the domestic competitions this year. There will be a lot of newcomers and only 5 players have taken part in an EU Cup before: our captain Frédéric Zohar from Bordeaux, Cyril Talon and Denis Schneider from French premiers the Paris Cockerels, Guillaume Lautre from Montpellier and Adam Le Nevez from Strasbourg, who will play his 3rd EU Cup."
"Like every year, we'd like to have a better ranking than the year before - 8th in 2005, 7th in 2007, 6th in 2008 - but we know the level is higher each year and even if the French level is higher too, we're sure that in the other countries, it could have increased faster."
"So we will wait and see. Let's have fun!"
The Scottish ARFL has had a very positive rebuilding season in 2009, with the emergence of a new club in Aberdeen and the full domestic fixture completed without any matches being forfeited.
The Puffins will this year be coached by Wayne Harnden, who tells us that the SARFL held national team selection trials for the first time. As Harnden explains, "The local players for the EU cup have been from this group, with the more experienced Australians from the Scottish League selected to round off the squad. We have people born in Australia, Scotland, Ireland, England, New Zealand, the USA and Zimbabwe in the squad, but most travel on a British or an Australian passport. Multi-cultural!"
Harnden rates ruckman Matthew Wells as a man to watch, having made all-Europe selection at the EU cup last year whilst playing for Austria. Also ready to make headlines are dangerous forwards Duncan Black and Brendan Fleming, Scottish and Irish respectively.
Regarding their expectation for the tournament, Harnden says "We are really looking at the EU cup as an important stepping stone in developing the national team. Matching last year's performance of a couple wins would be fantastic, but more importantly we really hope the local players come on well and give some big performances in the competition."
The Azzurri will be a bit of an unknown in this tournament, but there are some indications they could put in a good debut showing. As WFN reported a few days ago, the side is composed entirely of Italian nationals, with the exception of a single New Zealander, and come from different sporting backgrounds including rugby and American football, so expect a strong, physical contest even if they are lacking in Australian rules football experience.
Armando Colombo from AFL Italia says "I think that at this stage the only key player we can indicate is Luca Tramontin, who has been a Rugby Union player for 15 years in the major Italian league and played also in Australia with Glenn Innes (NSW) when he was 20. He is the skipper of our team and plays in the Ruck - he is nearly 2 meters tall."
"I can say that being the first ever experience, we can consider a good result just avoiding the wooden spoon, but with our spirit and enthusiasm, who knows, the sky is the limit!"
Austria footy stalwart Ben Chick is again taking charge of the national team for 2009, with the two halves of the squad currently training in Vienna and Graz.
Chick tells us the selection process is basically dictated by availability. Half the squad will be made up of players from the all-local Graz "Styrian Downunder Dogs" club in an effort to get them more involved and to keep the make up of the Austrian team as "local" as possible.
As such, the Vienna Kangaroos and Graz Dogs are holding combined training and matches between the two teams several times during September.
The squad will feature both Austrian and Australian players - with the bulk of the team being locals. As far as stars to watch go, Chick says captain Raoul Himberger and stout defender Hartwick "Chopper" Schandl from the Kangaroos will be two key elements in the side, as will tall speedster Richard Classen and the "big fella" Martin Schittegg from Graz.
Chick is fairly conservative in tipping where the Austrians will finish on the table, saying "With a lot of new faces in the squad this year and majority local players, I can't see us threatening too many sides. The experience will be good for the lads and as long as we improve and have a go, then that's all we ask."