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Saturday, February 29 2020 @ 07:13 am ACDT

An Avalanche of Austrian Talent

Europe

“Well, where to start?” begins Oliver Krajacic, captain of the Styrian DownUnder Dogs in Graz, Austria. “Apart from restructuring internally, we finally managed to organise an Australian Football course in cooperation with our local university. The 25 spots were gone in about three weeks, and the prospect of adding that many potential regular players to our sport is just an extremely positive turn of events for us.”

Such is the manner in which Oliver almost breathlessly extolls the excitement of an off season which may forever change the fortunes of Australian Rules football in Austria. Oliver puts it in this light: "If no more than 5 or 6 players from that course turn out to be EU Cup material, we might finally get some competitiveness going. People fighting for a spot on the team for interleague matches or the EU Cup. That's something we'll have to get used to. Heck, practice sessions with possibly two full teams being available were the stuff of dreams in recent years.”

This is a veritable avalanche of players when compared to previous seasons, but it hasn’t all been beer and skittles over the past couple of years.

Oliver has certainly watched from a close distance as Australian Rules football started to ebb away before these latest positive changes.

“If you check our placements in the Euro Cups of the last few years, you'll notice we didn't do very well. All our struggles can be (more or less) traced back to a single problem: a lack of players. For the last three years (and before that, but I've been involved only for that long) we were constantly struggling to get a decent number of people to practices. Six players would already be considered ok, ten was a success, and our core players were almost universally close to or above 30 years of age.”

“Without the Vienna Kangaroos we were also lacking an opponent of comparable level to play constantly and earn experience for our understaffed team. The Interleague with the Croatian teams from Zagreb certainly was an improvement, but we were rarely able to field all of our better players to be somewhat competitive. Games against the Croatian national team were usually brutal blowout losses for us.”

“Don't get the wrong impression though. We are insanely grateful for the support and friendship of the teams from Zagreb. They are an all-around super friendly bunch, very helpful and without a hint of arrogance. They have time and again provided help with coaching, especially when we were starting out with our current team and always tried to be encouraging, even after they trashed us on the field.”

It is clear from Oliver’s descriptions at this point that Australian Rules football in Austria was on a slide in the wrong direction. Something or someone had to become the catalyst to turn the nation’s footballing fortunes around. Enter DownUnderDogs president, Martin Schitteg.

“Before [our restructure] our president, Martin, basically did everything. Despite welcoming an adorable little boy to his family and being somewhat occupied with that, he still poured his heart and soul into the club. Without him, footy in Austria would have died and been forgotten when the Kangaroos ceased to exist. [We are all] very thankful for his commitment to the club and the sport.”

But this recent connection with the Karl-Franzens Universität Graz, and the interest generated by the Australian Rules football course, might just prove to be the turning point for the game in Austria. Certainly Oliver sees this development in a positive light.

“So we kind of have high hopes for this year, both as a club and as a national team. I don't think we can be really competitive internationally for a few years [yet] though. Even if all the students that signed up are amazing athletes, you need to play the game to get better at it.”

“However, more players means more friends and relations that hear about the sport, which, in turn, means more potential new players or even teams, a higher profile for the sport in our province and country, and that certainly is encouraging.”

Oliver paints a picture of renewed optimism for the game in Austria. Despite a variety of hardships over the past few years, it appears that the darkest days might be over and a new dawn is about to rise over Austrian Aussie Rules.

And that can only be good for the game, both in Austria and across Europe.

Team Austria - the Avalanches

The DownUnderDogs of Graz, Austria, together with their Croatian rivals

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An Avalanche of Austrian Talent | 6 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
An Avalanche of Austrian Talent
Authored by: kolja51 on Friday, March 29 2013 @ 06:43 am ACDT

Great to hear about the uprise of our Austrian friends. Good luck with recruiting, and we hope to see you with numbers and talent this year in Interleague and Euro Cup.

An Avalanche of Austrian Talent
Authored by: Oliver Krajacic on Sunday, March 31 2013 @ 05:01 am ACDT

 We'll be there! Maybe not this year, but looks like it's coming together :)

An Avalanche of Austrian Talent
Authored by: Michael Christiansen on Tuesday, April 09 2013 @ 05:43 pm ACST

Is there a summary of the course content??

An Avalanche of Austrian Talent
Authored by: Wesley Hull on Tuesday, April 09 2013 @ 07:03 pm ACST

Michael, I didn't ask for a course content but I am sure that Oliver would track one down, so I will ask. From my observations, universities have always been a part of the make up of the European scene in one way or another. Even in my recent research, the stories about Austrian, Croatian and Finnish development have centred around the linkss forged between local clubs and university options.

It may be that the course structure offered in Graz could be seen as a template of sorts for others to follow if they want to pursue the university path to further develop their clubs/leagues.

I will contact Oliver and see what we can find.

An Avalanche of Austrian Talent
Authored by: Wesley Hull on Thursday, April 11 2013 @ 09:59 pm ACST

In response to tye question of course content, Oliver from DownUnderDogs sent me an email detailing many aspects of the university course. Some is not for printing, but this paragraph and link does go some way to answering the question. It is clear that the ffinal decision on what information or tasks are delivered are tailored to the students/group involved at the time.

 

Our Aussie Rules course at university is being run via the USI, the University Sports Institute (http://www.uni-graz.at/en/usiwww.htm .They offer hundreds of courses from Aqua jogging to Zumba, open to students, graduates and employees of Austrian universities for a moderate fee (13-50ish €/semester). You need somebody with either a recognised coaching certificate for the sports you plan to offer or someone with a basic coaching course certificate (not sure if there's an Aussie equivalent, basically something like an entry level coaching course of 8 weeks or so) for ANY sports.

 

My take on this is that actual content will change and evolve over time to accommodate the needs of players/teams. I am just pleased to see so many clubs/nations linking with their local universities and making inroads to have Ausstralian Rules football a part of courses and attracting new players to the game.

An Avalanche of Austrian Talent
Authored by: Aaron Richard on Friday, April 12 2013 @ 01:23 am ACST

 There certainly are coaching quals available in Australia.  Do AFL Europe run Level 1 coaching courses as part of things like the Euro Cup?  I'm pretty they have done so for umpiring.