2011 Euro Cup team previews - Scotland, Sweden, Iceland & Finland
Friday, October 07 2011 @ 08:43 am ACDT
Contributed by: Aaron Richard
With the 2011 Euro Cup kicking off in Belfast this weekend, we present our third batch of team previews - this time profiling the Scottish, Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic sides.
The final draw includes 18 sides, with the teams from Poland, Portugal and Norway pulling out, but the Denmark Vikings having been added to the original list we received.
The full schedule can be found at the AFL Europe website.
Ed: We didn't receive word back from the Russian, Catalan or Spanish camps in time for inclusion in our Euro Cup previews, but we hope to have an update on their domestic progress in the near future.
Scotland's national team coach Stephen Connor says the Clansmen are aiming at a top 4 finish, with a great deal of effort put into developing local talent in recent times.
"The Scotland team had a training camp earlier in the year to allow myself and assistant Coach to have a look at the players available for this years various tournaments. It was a worthwhile exercise and let us see 7 new players that hadn't been involved with the Squad before.
"Last weekend we took part in a tri-team 9-a-side tournament in Worksop between Scotland, Wales & England. Was a great warm-up just 2 weeks prior to the Euro Cup to allow the newer players get familiar with the rules, structures and speed of tournament matches. It also allowed us to see how well players would 'back up' after short periods between games."
"All in all the tournament was a success overall for us and highlighted some areas we need to focus on for the Euro Cup, 4 games in a afternoon stretched the squad but also really prepared them."
Adam Jack is assistant coach with the squad, other support staff including physio Eileen Myles and team manager Douglas Hunter. Ross Thomson will captain the squad, with David Gamble as vice captain.
The squad is all home-grown Scottish talent, with 75% of the players from SARFL clubs - the Glasgow Sharks supplying 9 players, the Edinburgh Bloods 2 and Aberdeen Dingoes one. The remaining players are currently based elsewhere in Britain, with two players from the Cardiff Panther, and one each from the Manchester Mosquitoes and Hull Mariners.
Last Year the Scots got off to a slow start, narrowly losing opening 2 games in the group stages to hosts Italy and eventual runners-up Netherlands, before going on to win every other game they played in the tournament.
"This year I believe a top 4 finish is definitely possible if we start fast and play to our potential. Although we have some new players at this year's tournament, our core is still similar to last year's squad, so the experience of playing last year should be of benefit," Connor says.
The Swedish Elks squad for the Euro Cup will be very different from that which attended the IC11; only their captain, Johan Lantz, and Oliver Seiberlich from the IC11 squad will make it to Belfast.
AFL Sweden president Jörg Pareigis says "We see the Euro Cup as a great opportunity to introduce and hopefully integrate some new players to the national side. We are especially happy that we can welcome many new faces from the Stockholm region. Given that the Euro Cup has a more development role in our strategy, we do not consider us as title aspirants. We aim at finishing in the top third of teams, hoping to upset the one or the other favorites."
Adrian Knee, playing coach from the Solna Axemen, will coach the Elks squad in the absence of Daniel McClaer, who is still enjoying paternity leave in Australia. Pareigis is functioning as team manager.
"Apart from the IC11 participants we have some other experienced players who rejoin the Elks, for instance famous ruckman Mats Wurmbach, Jimmy Ljunggren, Joel Tjernlund, and Nicklas Sääv, who all were in the Swedish IC08 squad. I am particularly looking forward to see newcomer Natis Johansson from Södermalm, who recently won BoG in the SAFF grand final," Pareigis says.
Icelandic footy stalwart Fridgear "Fritz" Asgeirsson says the Ravens will be bringing a number of newcomers to the EuroCup, with only 5 of the current team being present at their debut Euro Cup appearance in Croatia two years ago.
"As a preparation to the Euro Cup we hosted Norway for the first ever international game of Aussie rules in Iceland, against Norway. Sadly we lost but the game was invaluable to our newcomers and will serve them well in Ireland."
"Our coach is Eyjólfur Bjarni and he has been the coach for the national team since he took over from me after Croatia in 2009, hopefully he can better our result from the 2009 Euro Cup, where we finished Bowl winners in 9th place. I am still the captain of the team, hopefully not for much longer as I'd love for the younger generation to step up and take over. We have a new general manager of the league in Viðar Kristinsson, who will be playing in Belfast. We all have high expectations of him."
"Our league and national team has been built up by Icelanders and we don't even have any Australians training regularly with us at the moment. We won't field any Australians in Belfast."
"We are hoping to win our group and thus finish no lower than 6th, failing that we aim at the 7th place."
The Finland Icebreakers hope to overcome the disappointment of not being able to field a team in IC11 this year with a solid showing in Belfast. Finland is fielding its strongest ever team, comprised almost exclusively of Finnish nationals (15 Finns & one Irishman).
The team will include some new faces due to the expansion of the FAFL to include a team from Waasa, 5 hours drive north of Helsinki. The Waasa Wombats capped an amazing debut season by winning the FAFL premiership, and the selection of some of their young stars will see some raw talent added to the Icebreakers squad.
2009 EU Cup 2009 All Star representative and Waasa Wombats co-founder Mika Kupila will captain the Finnish team. He will be be supported in his leadership role by Icebreaker stalwarts Ville Koivunen and Jukka Reiman.
The Icebreakers will be coached by former Geelong and Collingwood AFL player Carl Steinfort. He will be ably assisted by one of Finland AFL's longest-term Australians, Craig Primmer, who has experience from the Geelong under 19s right back when the AFL was the VFL and is still playing in the local competition at the age of 41.
The Icebreakers preparations for the tournament have not been ideal, with distance making group training difficult. In fact, some of the guys on the team may not have even met before the pre-game warm-up! Despite the limited preparation, expect to see the renowned Finnish toughness on display. With good depth in the squad, and a group of guys passionate about their footy, the Icebreakers have their sights set on finishing in the top half of the tournament.