The Scottish city of Stirling is not a place that rears its head in conversations about football – until now. Almost equidistant between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Stirling has just been announced as the venue for the next AFL Europe Euro Cup in 2020.
The city is far more famous for Stirling Castle, and William Wallace’s defeat of the English. However, for one glorious weekend next June, Stirling will entertain the cream of European Australian Football.
The club does not boast its own club in the AFL Scotland SARFL league, but that may well change after hosting the premier nine per side tournament. Converted fans and curious onlookers will descend on Stirling and if all goes to plan a whole new batch of recruits, administrators, sponsors and fans will work to ensure the game remains in the city long after the event is over.
Maybe the teams are not at their fullest strength and maybe playing for an off-season cup isn’t quite as intense as a premiership season. However, make no mistake – all players who represented their teams at last weekend’s Movember Cup in Manchester were there to firstly raise money for cancer and secondly – compete, maybe even win.
After all of the pool matches were done and dusted, and the finals played, the Wandsworth Demons from AFL London had taken out the men’s cup whilst the more local Nottingham Scorpions took out the women’s title.
The hosts, the Manchester Mozzies, were runners-up in both men’s and women’s competitions.
Last week’s AFL Drafts unearthed a huge new pool of talent, but unlike previous seasons was light-on for international players or players of multicultural journeys. One exception to that, taken in the draft on Thursday evening, was Bigoa Nyuon – snared by Richmond from under the Brisbane Lions’ nose at pick 54.
In an inspirational tale sharing the same basic plot lines as many other players from African countries now playing (or have played) in the AFL, Biggie, as he is known, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, after his family fled war-torn South Sudan. He lost his father in the fighting and his brave mother Mary managed to get as many of the divided family to Australia as possible. Some were in Kenya, some in Ethiopia, all were refugees.
The St Mary’s Saints have used a 123-point win over Waratah to strengthen their grip on a top five position in the NTFL Premier League after the completion of Round 9 – the halfway mark of the season. After a big percentage boost, the Saints now sit in fourth place, two games clear of the fifth-placed Tiwi Bombers – a finals berth is theirs to lose from here.
After claiming last season’s wooden spoon, St Mary’s were always going to be a danger this season, and Waratah found that out the hard way yesterday. St Mary’s were too good in the opening half, charging to a 53-point lead by half time. Any hope of a Waratah comeback was vaporised in the third term with Saints rattling on seven unanswered goals for the quarter. The last quarter saw more of the same as the Saints dominated all over the field.
With the completion of the Auckland Australian Football League’s season last weekend, footy in New Zealand goes into its off - season with winners, losers and plenty to think about for all clubs ahead of the 2020 season.
The AAFL Grand Final was an absolute thriller with the University Blues downing the North Shore Tigers by four points. The Blues won the minor premiership ahead of the Waitakere Magpies and won their first final against the Mt Roskill Saints to book a berth in the final. The Magpies went down to a rampaging Tigers outfit, allowing the Blues and Tigers to fight it out for the flag.
After a tough match, the University Blues 7 9 51 defeated the North Shore Tigers 7 5 47 to take the 2019 flag.
The Bordeaux Bombers have had a delayed start to the season – partly due to postponements, partly weather – and have had to wait until Round 3 to take the field and begin their 2019/20 campaign.
However, the wait was certainly worth it as the Bombers held on for a narrow two-point win against the in-form ALFA Lions in Lyon. In a game described by the Lions as “a game of huge intensity”, which remained “intense to the end”, the Bombers have made it one win from one game and a positive start to the season.
It was a surprise loss for the Lions – a home match and coming on the heels of a record victory the previous match. Certainly, it raises the question of consistency for the Lions and this will need to be addressed when teams return to the fields of battle after the winter break. The Lions have a huge percentage, but now sit with just one win from three matches and will need to come back hard after the break.
The inaugural AFL Ireland Leeside League competition was completed last week with the Leeside Lions pipping the CIT Saints on for and against to finish on top of the ladder. Results were not based on a finals series as such, but based on where each team finished after their six matches.
The Leeside Lions and CIT Saints (Cork Institute of Technology) finished the season with four wins apiece after the final round of matches. The Lions had the superior percentage.
The Leeside League Facebook page reported:
“And that's a wrap on The Leeside League 2019. Phew, some going! The Leeside Lions powered home to claim the cup as inaugural winners, hearty congratulations lads. Hard luck to CIT Saints who were pipped at the end by score difference only, great showing boys.”
After a season start which saw Wanderers, Waratah, St Mary’s and Darwin showing big improvements since last season, recent weeks have seen a return to order. Nightcliff and Southern Districts are back in the top two places on the ladder and beginning to show their dominance as the competition heads towards the midway point.
Whilst Round 7 was full of upsets – the Tiwi Bombers upsetting Southern Districts and St Mary’s downing the Tigers – this weekend’s results saw more predictable results.
Nightcliff responded to their shock loss last week with a 73-point drubbing of Wanderers, whilst Southern Districts were just as effective in bouncing back with a 59-point win over Palmerston.
It sees the Tigers sitting on top of the ladder with a game and a half break from the Crocs. The Darwin Buffaloes, St Mary’s and Tiwi Bombers make up the top five.
The opening round of the National University League was played last weekend, hosted by Oxford University. The day was won by Cambridge University in the men’s division, winning both of their games against Oxford University and South Wales Universities, as did the women in their matches.
The conditions were not ideal for footy, but that didn’t stop all teams from hurling themselves at the ball all day. In the first two men’s matches, the Cambridge crew won their matches against both Oxford and South Wales by comfortable margins before Oxford won the last men’s match by 72 points against South Wales.
Last weekend, two French teams not competing in the national league this year – the Cergy-Pontoise Coyotes and Lille Eagles - took the field against each other to keep their teams active, motivated and keen for next season. Next weekend a third French team – the Perpignan Tigers – will do the same when they venture to Manchester, England, for this year’s Movember Cup.
The club has been having a rebuild during their two-season long hiatus from the premier French footy competition. However, armed with seven new players for the club, the Tigers are keen to give this new-look team a decent run against quality opposition to build for a possible re-entry to the big time next season.
This will be the first time the Perpignan Tigers will compete in the Movember Cup, but it is a great experience for the club and an exciting move for French footy and the wider European scene. They will only have a men’s team enter, but that ill open the door for women’s teams from Perpignan next year.
The Dubai Dingoes have pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent years, surprising almost everyone in the AFL Middle East world. Their victory over competition behemoth, the Dubai Dragons, on Friday was as unexpected as it was exhilarating – especially for the Dingoes.
The club has had a tough time over the past few seasons, being a perennial prey for other teams, secure in the knowledge that at least they’ll get a win against them. How that has now changed. The Dingoes 34-point victory over the Dubai Dragons has made the club believe that they can be a finals candidate again. Other clubs can now wipe away the smug smiles when they play the Dingoes with victory no longer a given.
With Essendon’s Conor McKenna playing in a game of Gaelic Football when home in Ireland recently, the spotlight has turned to the question of whether or not Irish footballers playing with AFL clubs in Australia be allowed to play for their local clubs/leagues in Gaelic Football matches when they return home, usually in off-seasons.
When reading the media stories and associated fan comments, there is something of a polarisation in opinion. One camp is firmly in the “too big a risk of injury”, and therefore cannot be allowed. The other camp sits largely along the lines of a trip to Ireland is a player’s private time and they are entitled to risk injury.
The clear third option is that the issue isn’t risk of injury, it is the fact that a simple enquiry to their club to advise or discuss the matter may have made a big difference.