IC11 Preview - Elks here to show they can take the next step
Tuesday, August 09 2011 @ 07:41 pm ACST
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
The Sweden Elks this year return for their second IC, after finishing 12th on debut in 2008. Captained by Johan Lantz and coached by Daniel McClaer, at the IC11 the Elks will be hoping to break out of the "middle field" of nations who are well ahead of the minnows, but yet to prove they are able to challenge the powerhouse nations at the front of the field.
The Country and Australian Football
Swedish footy had its roots with the Helsinborg Saints, who were formed in 1996 to compete in the Danish Australian Football League, just over the water in Denmark. The southern region clubs continue to compete in the DAFL, with the Saints today joined by the Port Malmö Maulers, both clubs supported by a Scanian Local League.
Further north, the Stockholm region Australian Football Federation kicked off its metro league in 2004, and has since grown to 5 teams, including one in the far northern town of Falun. Out west, the Karlstad Eagles and Gothenburg Beserkers play in a Western Sweden League together with Norway's Oslo Crows.
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 Swedes last year co-hosted the inaugural European Championships in Australian Football together with Denmark. The Elks brought home bronze, defeating the Great Britain Bulldogs in the 3rd place playoff.
The Elks recently created a partnership with VFL club Williamstown for the duration of the IC, with their jumper presentation held this week at the Whitten Oval, home to Williamstown's AFL partner club the Western Bulldogs.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Sweden will bring a fairly tall side to the cup, even without their 208cm cult figure Mats "Matzilla" Wurmbach from the IC08. Dan Koinberg and Paul Persson both stand at almost 2m tall, and the majority are over 180cm.
There is a fair amount of international experience in the side, one notable member being veteran Andreas Svensson who represented Denmark at the IC 2002, before Sweden had an official national team, and later captained Sweden at the IC08. Svensson is joined by several other squad members who have also returned from the IC08, including Emil Åberg, Robin Nilsson, Christoffer Fager, Mattias Fagersson and Joel Språng.
They will be keen to prove that their 3rd place EC finish last year was no fluke, but they may still struggle in terms of skill and speed against the top flight sides, having gone down to a young and fit Danish side earlier this year.
Players to Watch
Rickard Barrefelt is rated one of the best new players by the Elks, who has developed immensely since the first training camp in February 2010, to now being part of the Elks' leadership group. Elks management report that his courageous attack on the ball and decision-making under pressure have been outstanding in his build up to the International Cup.
Carl Löwenborg is currently playing for the Mordialloc Bloods in Australia, having moved down under a few years ago. He is rated as a handy player who the Elks are expecting to bring some very useful experience to the side.
Form Guide and Bottom Line
The Swedes have India and New Zealand on the first day, and while they should easily account for the Indians, the Elks will probably find it tough going against the top sides such as New Zealand, Ireland and Papua Guinea. While they'd be expecting to not finish last in Division 1, it's hard to see them climbing higher than maybe 8th or 9th place.