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Saturday, February 29 2020 @ 07:34 am ACDT

2011 Euro Cup team previews - Austria, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Croatia

Europe

In the second set of previews for the 2011 Euro Cup, we profile the Austrian Avalanche, German Black Eagles and Italy Azzurri - as well as last year's gold medallists Croatia and the runners up Netherlands.

Can the Knights and the Dutchmen repeat their stellar performance this year, or will the hosts Ireland bring them back to Earth?

The Germans have seen lots of growth at home and won a few internationals this year - can they take the next step and stamp their mark as up-and-comers in European footy? The Italians impressed with their development in 2010, taking out 6th place despite being one of Europe's newer leagues.

The Austrians have had some setbacks domestically with the Vienna Kangaroos going into recess, but with the Styrian DownUnderDogs playing a season in the Croatian domestic league they too will be eager to show they're on the way up.

Austrian Avalanche

The newly-rebranded Austrian Avalanche will consist entirely of players from the Styrian DownUnderDogs this year, after the country's only other club, the Vienna Kangaroos, went into hibernation for the 2011 season.

Without any domestic opportunities, the Styrian Dogs joined with the Croatian domestic league for this year, although it was tough going against the experienced Croatian sides. To close out the season, the league held a lightning premiership to get players used to the format for the Euro Cup - which saw the Styrians defeat a Croatian side for the first time, and take out third place in the tournament.

Coaching the Avalanche is Alexander Eigl, who is also one of the key organisers for the teams besides Christopher "Bobby" Plank, Richard Claassen and Martin Schittegg.

Martin told WFN that the Austrians will be coming to Belfast with 13 players, the coach, and a few fans - all of whom are locals (11 Austrians and 2 Italians) who learnt the game with the DownUnderDogs.

The Avalanche are hoping to win at least one match at the Euro Cup this year, placing development of the team as a higher goal than the end position. They are also hopeful of a change in opposition - having drawn Croatia and France in the pool stage for each of the last 3 years of the competition.

Germany Black Eagles

Despite a relatively large and vibrant domestic league, the Black Eagles are yet to really stamp their authority as a powerhouse of Aussie Rules on the European stage. This year however, the Germans had a good win against the Czech Republic in a 9-a-side match earlier in the year, as well as a dominant win against France in a 16-a-side friendly in Paris shortly before the Coqs headed Down Under for the IC2011; they will be hoping that this will put them in good stead for the Cup.

Coaching the team is Troy Pedder, who recently brought the Berlin Crocs to their first-ever AFLG grand final. Pedder says "The preparation for the Black Eagles has had a few setbacks, losing key players with injuries and family commitments - our Captain has broken his collarbone and one of our Vice captains is expecting their first child."

"We are proud to have a 100% German Team and hopefully we will still have a full squad for the tournament. Our aim is to make the Final and anything can happen from there," Pedder says.

The amount of footy played in Germany has increased significantly over the past few years, with new club Stuttgart Emus, the Leverkusen Wombats being formed as the Rheinland area's second club, and the creation of Munich and Berlin metro competitions, soon to be followed by a regional comp in and around Stuttgart.

Italy Azzurri

The Italian Azzurri are off to the Euro Cup wanting to show how much they are progressing on the playing field.

A squad of 16 has been selected from an initial group of 22 players, following a few trial sessions over the month of September. The team is a blend of youth and experience, with 6 new players making their debut in the Euro Cup.

Eight players are from the current AFL Italia premiers Genova Dockers, including the 2011 Best and Fairest winner Filippo Alloisio, who at 18 years of age is a very bright midfield prospect to keep an eye on for any talent scouts around. Roma and Milano have each supplied three players, and Lugano two.

Coach Nicola Giampaolo and Assistant Coach Armando Colombo have put particular emphasis on quick and rapid team play, to serve a tall and skilfull forward line headed by captain Bruno Nugnes. Giampaolo says "It is a very complete side, which I am sure will do well and impress at Belfast. Our aim is to improve on our 6th place finish last year but we are also aware that as we improve, all other nations are rapidly improving as well, so the competition and level of football on show in Belfast will be of the highest standards ever seen in Europe. Can't wait to get started."

Netherlands - the Flying Dutchmen

Another side with a proud record at the EU Cup is the Netherlands - with the Flying Dutchmen being in the top group of teams for the past few years and taking the silver in last year's edition.

Joost van der Hulst from the Dutch Australian Football Association says the Dutchmen will field an all-local team next weekend, who have been building towards the Euro Cup during the domestic season. "The team has played against or with each other at least once a month during game days this season. The last two months we've had regular national training sessions. Also during training at local level we've been focussing on the Euro Cup."

"We have a some new guys in the team combined with players who are bringing a lot of skills and experience. On ball we have Jort Kolman and Aaron Gray-Block. In the forward line our goalgetters Remi Nolle and Wicor Telkamp. And reliable and solid defenders as Calvin Telkamp and Mark van der Werf."

Coaching the team is Josh Carmichael, who has been a driving force behind Dutch footy for a number of years.

Croatian Knights

The Croatian Knights will go in to the tournament as reigning champions from 2010, and with a proud record in 9-a-side footy over the past few years. Kolja Koracak from the Knights says "Our team has been practicing for 6 weeks, 4 times a week. During that time, we played our Croatian league grand final (Velika Gorica Bombers defeated the Zapresic Eagles) and had a 4 team tournament, in which players got their game face on."

The Leadership team is unchanged from last year, coaches are Josip Kravar and Ante Loncar, while we can expect Josip Josipovic and Tomiclav Cvetko to carry major roles on the field. The Knights are returning 2/3 of last year's team, with some new players making their way in."

"Previously the federation paid for all the team's expenses, while this year players had to pay for themselves, so we hope this team can mirror the success of the last year's team."

"The Last 3 Euro Cups - 3 medals, same is expected."

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