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Wednesday, September 20 2017 @ 11:18 AM ACST

IC17 Preview: European Crusaders

International Cup 2017

In the first of our 2017 International Cup previews we welcome the European Crusaders women's team who will make their International Cup debut.  A combine of players from across Europe they will have their work cut out for them.  The Crusader's concept is a great vehicle to allow players that otherwise might never get to experience the International Cup for their own nation be part of this great tournament. 

Europe and Australia Football

Australian football has been played regularly in many parts of Europe since the late 1980s when leagues formed in England and Denmark. These first leagues led to the first international game between two European teams was played in 1994 between Great Britain and Denmark.  Football matches have been played much earlier by Australian troops during war time and also between students at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England.  As more cities and countries formed teams and leagues precursor bodies to today's AFL Europe formed and a number of tournaments held. 

In 2002 at the first International Cup European teams from Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark competed.  Since then many more teams and countries have continued to develop the game.

Women have played footy in Europe since around 2010. Some women played alongside men in matches across Europe. The first women's division at the International Cup saw Ireland compete and win the tournament as the sole European representative.  While some players in the team made the journey from Ireland, a number of Irish women on that team had only ever played the game in Australia. 

Since then the game has been more regularly played in smaller side formats as well as full 18-a-side formats in a number of countries across Europe including Ireland, Great Britain, France, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark and Italy.  The European Crusaders concept was first used for men's footy to provide the opportunity for players in smaller nations to compete in International tournaments.  This has successfully transferred to women's footy and the European Crusaders will be making their debut in the Women's Division at the 2017 International Cup.

European Crusaders, AFL Europe’s special project

The European Crusaders women team was created in 2012 for the Euro Cup in Edinburgh, a 9-a-side competition, which they won in 2013 against France in Bordeaux. From the start the Crusaders were always hoping to compete one day in the International Cup. Thanks to their iron will, they gathered enough players in London in August 2016 to play the European Championship, an 18-a-side competition.

In November, some of the girls, who played in the European Championship and who are involved in the French League, decided to take the lead and started looking for European players all over Europe and Australia. In December, they also launched a crowdfunding campaign on MAKEACHAMP to reduce the costs and so recruit more players.

In January, Paul Ritchie, an ex Melbourne firefighter who organized the Anzac Run and the Tour of Duty, joined the Crusaders to help them come to Australia. It was a game changer as he managed to get all the girls to be billing out by the very generous inhabitants of Wellington Crescent and Parade in East Melbourne.

He also found a sponsor, Caine Real Estate, who agreed to pay for the Crusaders entire equipment. Paul’s massive help allowed the others to focus on recruitment and so in May the Crusaders had enough girls to compete in the IC17.

The Team

The Crusaders are Croatian, Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish and Scottish. They usually play against each other in European competitions but for three weeks they will be teammates. Despite their different languages, cultures and countries, they will hold high European values and spirit. Stronger Together!

They will be coached by Graham Andrews, an Australian who use to coach the Paris Cockerels.  Of their chances Andrews says "While we will be starting a bit behind some of the other teams, coming from many countries, I'm confident we will quickly overcome this with a few good training sessions. We'll go out to win every game, with our first goal being to make the finals in our first outing. Go Crusaders!"

Players to watch

Coline Duquet (France) : Coline first started footy when she studied in Sydney in 2013. When she came back to France she started playing for the French women’s team and the Paris Cockerelles. She has been showing very good skills and amazing leadership.

Amanda King (Sweden) : A strong and dominant Ruck, has set a name for herself in the USA. One to watch at IC17, she creates a strong midfield with her slick tap outs and great communication to drive the ball forward!

Name Nationality Club
Naïma AIT EL MOUDEN French Paris Cockerelles (France)
Marine ASSEMAT French ALFA Lions (France)
Ana BARISIC Croatian ZKAN Zagreb Panthers (Croatia)
Mathilde COMBES French Paris Cockerelles (France)
Coline DUQUET French Paris Cockerelles (France)
Linn GARDELL Swedish Port Malmö Lynx (Sweden)
Emilie GIANCARLI French Bordeaux Bombers (France)
Catherine GILES Canadian Paris Cockerelles (France)
Amanda KING Swedish Boston Demons (USA)
Joanne MOURADIAN British Paris Cockerelles (France)
Claire PEREZ French Paris Cockerelles (France)
Anne PILLE French Paris Cockerelles (France)
Hélène PITTET French Toulouse Hawks (France)
Bérengère PORTAL French Paris Cockerelles (France)
Camille PORTAL French Bordeaux Bombers (France)
Frances FINN Irish Perth Angels (Australia)
Rachel FOX Irish Perth Angels (Australia)
Denise HECKMANN German Melbourne (Australia)
Leila MORGENROTH Irish Perth Angels (Australia)
Cassandra PITTARD Greek Sydney (Australia)
Anna QUAGLIERI Italian Melbourne Uni (Australia)
Dagmara RATINSKI Polish Perth Angels (Australia)
Isabella ROSITANO Italian Adelaide (Australia)
Lucy THOMPSON British Sydney (Australia)
Rachel URQUHART British South Melbourne Districts (Australia)
Charline WOOD German Newtown Breakaways (Australia)

*There may be some late additions to this squad - we will add them once announced.

Form Guide and The Bottom Line (By Editor Troy Thompson)

The Crusaders went winless and seemed to be short on numbers at last August's European Championships in London.  They were easily defeated by both the GB Swans and the Irish Banshees.  We expect the IC team to be much stronger than the one that showed up in London, but they will also come up against a stronger Irish team here.  This is really the only 18-a-side form-line we have for the Crusaders.

The Crusaders play Papua New Guinea in Round 1 of the Cup.  PNG are an unknown quantity.  Though they competed in the 2011 International Cup for the first time, they did not make it to the 2014 International Cup.  We do know that they have a history of playing the game a similar amount of time to the Europeans but precisely what their team make up is remains unknown.  We feel that the Crusaders may have an advantage with the inclusion of the experienced Australian based players giving them the edge over PNG.

In Round 2 the Crusaders take on Ireland, we favour the Irish here, they are experienced campaigners with a good number of players experienced in both Europe and Australia.

The final match before the finals will be against the USA.  Again we think the Crusaders will be up against it in terms of experience and will go into this match as underdogs. 

While a semi-final is a possibility if they can knock off Ireland or the USA, we expect the Crusaders to finish third in their pool and could finish the tournament as high as fifth which would be a great effort in their first International Cup outing. 

EUROPEAN CRUSADERS Round 1-3 Schedule with  dates/times in CEST
Sun 6/8 vs PNG (Ransford Oval) 12:15pm/4:15am(CEST)
Wed 9/8 vs Ireland (St Patricks,Ballarat) 10:45am/2:45am(CEST)
Sun 13/8 vs USA (Melbourne Uni) 12pm/4am(CEST)
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