Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 04:51 am ACST
Contributed by: Ian Hill
The series kicked off on August 19 in Bielefeld in Germany. The traveling Danes were an unknown quantity for this match. The team which considered itself the glamour side of international footy prior to 2001, had had a mixed bag since then, culminating in a disappointing draw against Sweden in 2005 (albeit against a side of 50% ex-pats), and the resignation of Stuart Wynn who had coached the side since 2000. The domestic situation with DAFL had not been a bed of roses either, and the national team, "The Vikings" had undergone a significant makeover. Many players who had carried the side since the mid-90s made way for a lot of the younger players who had started as juniors and would now be coached in the Vikings by their original mentor - Jim Campion. This would also be Denmark's first away international since the 2002 International Cup. The Germans were an unknown quantity and nobody knew much what to expect from them.
Denmark need not have worried as they cantered to the easiest of wins in a very one-side affair. Whatever problems the Vikings had endured in recent years were more than compensated for by DAFL's extra years in the game (16 as opposed to three) and the fact that many of their players learned as kids. Denmark was never headed and won easily 31.15(201) to 0.4(4). Mikkel Norlander equaled the Danish record for the most goals in an international with nine. Full scores can be found at: http://www.thefootyrecord.net/match.php?m=1241&acct=INTL.
With all their clubs being one-town teams it must be an uphill struggle for AFLG. Every single match requires a significant amount of travel, which after the novelty wears off must make it tough to get a lot of locals to play, and that showed in the game. In that sense the Germans should consider it an achievement to have fielded a representative side at all, considering that some of their players had to travel further than the Danes did.
Fast forward to the end of the DAFL season, and Denmark was scheduled to host Sweden on September 30, AFL Grand Final day. There were some raised eyebrows at this scheduling, but it was done deliberately. With the game in Farum and most of the Swedish players coming from nearby Scania (Skaane), it was decided to hold the match early - 11.00 am - and watch the (pre-recorded) AFL Grand Final afterwards.
What the organizers didn't count on was the combined impact of the late season and early start time - with the resulting excessive dew on the grass. Nor did South Sweden's upset loss in the DAFL Preliminary Final do them any favours, with that result taking the wind out of Sweden's sails and resulting in some disappointing player pull-outs just prior to the game.
Denmark were again far too good, although Sweden did hold the Danes at times, keeping them to only three goals in the middle half. The Elks also unveiled two very impressive younger players in Hans Andersson and Emil Aaberg ( a 16-year-old who had actually played in Farum's junior Lightning Premiership only two weeks previously). Full scores can be found here: http://www.thefootyrecord.net/match.php?m=1242&acct=INTL.
The Danish team that played Sweden in Farum on September 30.
On the following weekend, Sweden hosted Germany at Gold Beach, Landskrona. With the season winding down, Germany did have trouble putting a team together but in the end DAFL players Jorg Pareigis (GV), Daniel Reinert (Copenhagen) and Stockholm's Niclas Hitziger - all German citizens - pulled on the boots for their mother country and Philip Porublev (also from Stockholm) shared in that honour as well. There were vicious rumours flying around that former Helsingborg legends Reini Masarek and Ingmar "Terry" Lundquist (both born in Germany) were also going to make an appearance for their country of birth, but when it was pointed out that their Australian upbringing would preclude both from representing Germany in the International Cup they decided against it, much to the disappointment of the assembled crowd.
The Germans did not disgrace themselves this time around and kept the Swedes honest - it wasn't until the last quarter that the tyranny of numbers started to tell and the match blew out a bit, with Sweden extending a 33-point three-quarter time lead to a 75 point victory by the end. The match was also unique with North Copenhagen's Mads Brinks (Danish, but holds a Swedish passport), playing his 100th "DAFL" game. Full scores: http://www.thefootyrecord.net/match.php?id=1243&acct=INTL.
If nothing else the three results showed consistency, but the total of 59 goals to three (winners over losers) reflected a disappointing one-sided-ness to the whole affair. In hindsight, had all three venues been reversed (as was originally intended), it might have been much closer - Denmark would have beaten Germany anywhere but both the other two games might have been a bit closer had the eventual loser had the benefit of the home ground advantage, which is how the draw should be in 2007.
In summary, the concept was only partially successful. Denmark were back on the winners list but internally they may be wishing for some tougher competition, and DAFL will be encouraging both the other sides to field a limited number of Australians next year in order to be more competitive. Germany did well to field two national teams for the first time and also to travel to Sweden.
But for the Swedes the way things turned out represented a mixed bag - not on the scoreboard but in terms of who came out to play. Swedish footy is moving towards a crossroads - they have some good people at the top willing to do the hard yards and at a domestic level things appear to be going well. But the sheer size of the country and the disparity between the nature of footy in the different regions of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Scania are posing problems which those in power are having trouble addressing.