IC11 Preview - Denmark's Vikings ready to Invade
Monday, August 08 2011 @ 08:07 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
The Denmark Vikings are back for their third IC campaign this year, after strong showings in 2002 and 2008. The Danes have one of international footy's longest history of matches, and have generally fielded a strong team, but so far haven't been able to challenge the top flight sides like PNG and NZ.
With a fit and relatively young side, the Vikings will be eager to show that this year they can hold it with the best of the field.
The Country and Australian Football
Denmark is home to one of Europe's oldest footy competitions, only rivaled in age by Great Britain. The first teams were formed in the early 1990s, well before the internet allowed the rapid growth of clubs and leagues in recent years, with the story of a homesick Aussie putting an ad in the paper having become a part of international footy folklore.
Since then, the DAFL has grown to a six-team Premier League, with four sides in Denmark (Copenhagen, North Copenhagen, Farum and Jutland) and two in Sweden (Port Malmö and Helsingborg). The Premier League teams are in turn supported by a number of 9-a-side regional clubs, divided into Jutland, Zealand and Scania (Southern Sweden) local leagues.
The strength of the DAFL Premier League is also reflected in the large contingent of players from Port Malmö and Helsingborg in the Swedish Elks side.
The Farum Cats have Europe's longest-running juniors program, which has produced a large run of junior talent over the years, standing out against other European players through having grown up with the skills and gameplay knowledge required to take their footy to the next level.
The Danes last year co-hosted the inaugural European Championships in Australian Football together with Sweden. The Vikings made it to the final, but were defeated by European powerhouse Ireland by 17 points.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Denmark's side looks relatively young, and were a fit side with plenty of run at the last cup. They count a number of players with Aussie experience, including Matthias Biron, who competed as part of the World 18 at last year's Australian under 16s championships.
One comment passed by a spectator at the IC08 was that the Danes played an "older" style of footy compared to sides such as South Africa, more in keeping with the positional play of the VFL in the 1980s and early 1990s than the running game and zone defence of more recent years.
On paper they have an average height of 184cm (just over 6 foot), but don't seem to have many tall key position players, although Copenhagen native Michael Neugebauer is listed at 198cm (6 foot 6 in the old scale) and has gained suburban footy experience with the Fitzroy Reds in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
Players to Watch
Jens Djernes first played footy whilst traveling in Western Australia, before returning to Denmark and founding the Jutland Local League club Randers Dockers. Djernes quickly became a valuable addition to the national team, providing the Vikings with a mobile target up forward, something they had lacked since the days of Mogens Hansen, and was named as a member of the World Team at the IC08.
Chris Campion, the Denmark born-and-raised son of national coach Jim, spent a season with Geelong District FL club Thomson after the IC08, where he impressed with his skill, fitness and dedication. He was promoted to the seniors halfway through his stay, after being a consistent standout player in their reserves.
Matthias Biron is another Farum junior who has impressed, both in being named to the World 18 last year, and then heading to London to play the AIS-AFL Academy team earlier this year.
Form Guide and Bottom Line
The Danes should again be in the front end of the pack, but it remains to be seen if they can keep up with the ever-improving powerhouse sides of PNG, New Zealand and Ireland. Still, they should be a chance to finish in the top 6, depending how the draw pans out after the first round.