With the AFL London home and away season done for 2018, finals is the next journey for those clubs that qualified. But this season there is a decidedly demonic look about a finals landscape which features the mighty Wandsworth Demons as minor premiers across all grades. Over coming weeks, all clubs have to face these Demons if they want to hold up a premiership cup of their own.
Minor premierships don’t guarantee premierships. Far from it. Sporting history is littered with the debris of clubs that peaked for the end of the preliminary rounds, only to falter come finals time. Nevertheless, finishing on top does create an air of superiority, which does induce confidence.
In the Men’s Premiership division, a huge win to the Wandsworth Demons over the London Swans saw them finish on top of the ladder, equal on points with the West London Wildcats but with a better percentage. The Clapham Demons finished undefeated in the Men’s Conference division, three games clear of the second placed Shepherds Bush Raiders. In the Men’s Social division, the South London Demons finished on top of the ladder, equal on points with the Reading Kangaroos but with a superior percentage.
Much has been made in 2018 of the rapid rise of the Bogota Bulldogs and the new AFL Colombia competition. But the longest serving Australian Football team in South America, the Santiago Saints, have been preparing quietly, away from the limelight down in Chile. The Saints have been the mainstay of the game, so many miles from the MCG, and would see the rise of the Bulldogs as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they now have the Bulldogs for genuine international footy to be played. But also, the Bulldogs have entered the Saints' turf and must be thwarted.
Here is a small clip from the Santiago Saints showing a small glimpse of the team getting ready for battle next month against the Bulldogs.
It is only a few more months before the new NTFL season gets underway in Darwin. However, the Territory is abuzz with the prospect that the retired Hawthorn great, Cyril Rioli will line up for a club he is poud of –St Marys – for the looming 2018/19 season. The following story from Marc McGowan at the www.afl.com.au website looks at the likely event and frames Rioli within a pantheon of great footballers from the Northern Territory who have graced the game.
RETIRED superstar Cyril Rioli's first stop in the AFL after-life will be to visit his father in Alice Springs before honouring him by wearing his No.1 for St Mary's.
Rioli's dad suffered a near-fatal heart attack in Grand Final week last year and required surgery, the first and most critical in a series of events that caused the brilliant Hawk to call it quits this week.
The penultimate round of the SARFL competition in Scotland played out on the weekend, with most eyes on the top of the table clash between the Glasgow Sharks and the Edinburgh Bloods. In what was widely regarded as the grand-final dress rehearsal, the Sharks won solidly to reaffirm their favouritism for the 2018 flag.
In their final home game of the season, the Sharks proved too strong for the Bloods, running out winders by 36 points. However, the Bloods know that on a neutral ground they may be able to narrow the gap should they met again on grand final day, as they should.
The Sharks’ win catapults them immediately into the grand final despite a round to be played.
With the AFLCNE home and away season wrapped up focus now turns towards the finals series commencing next weekend in Manchester. With the final two rounds coming to a tame close, the Manchester Mozzies have again taken the minor premiership, followed by the Nottingham Scorpions, Wolverhampton Wolverines and Huddersfield Rams.
It presents a menu for semi-finals next weekend which will see the Mozzies (1st) taking on the Rams (4th) and the Scorpions (2nd) up against the Wolverines (3rd). Whilst finals are a different level of competition again to the home and away season, it is difficult to see the Rams causing an upset and usurping the Mozzies. The other semi, however, is less of a predictable match-up with the Wolverines certainly capable of beating the Scorpions if they bring their “A” game. A big ‘if”.
With finals just a couple of weeks away for the AFL London season, their two biggest guns – the Wandsworth Demons and West London Wildcats – flexed their muscle in a big way in their Round 9 matches. The two teams had already locked away first and second place, but the size of the wins on the weekend has again changed the order.
The Demons were far too good for the Wimbledon Hawks, trouncing them by 172 points and gaining yet another big percentage boost. The Wildcats won their match by a compelling 123 points, yet conceded top spot in an unusual quirk of the game. It is not a remarkable thing for a small percentage to separate first from second place. It is very unusual, however, for the top side (Demons) to have a percentage of 329.4% and be narrowly ahead of second place (Wildcats) on 325.8%.
However, such has been their dominance this season, with just one round to play, they are even on points and only a couple of goals different on for and against. It is difficulty now to pick which of the two teams is flag favourite with just on round left to play before finals.
It wasn’t the first time that Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw had played against each other. Early in their careers they occasionally lined up on each other, including their first time at the highest AFL level in August 2016 (see A Glimpse Into An African Future) down in Hobart. But almost two years on, both have moved further into their careers and after yesterday’ thriller at Etihad Stadium, both have gathered even more spotlight.
Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw were lined up on each other for three quarters at Etihad yesterday. Both have had to re-establish themselves at the highest level. Aliir from injury and indifferent form across 2017 and early 2018, whilst Daw had reinvented himself for much of this season as a Kangaroo defender.
However, on the weekend, they were back in their former roles – Aliir the powerful defender and Daw the athletic forward. For three quarters both dazzled and entertained in a power struggle within a bigger struggle as the Roos and Swans remained within touch of each other. Then Aliir got loose up forward for the Swans and kicked the match-winning goal in a thrilling finish. Aliir’s effort sent Swans fans into delirium and Roo fans despair. On the day Daw on the statistical battle with four goals. Aliir’s single goal won the match.
It has taken three years on the Sydney Swans list and a journey from the other side of the globe, but 22-year old Irishman, Colin O’Riordan, made his AFL debut in a drama charged clash against the North Melbourne Kangaroos. Holding his own in the cauldron-like atmosphere of Etihad Stadium, the product of Tipperary, Ireland, signalled another Irish success story in the AFL.
In a game about which he “had no clue” about as a kid back in Killea, O’Riordin roamed the defensive zone or the Swans gathering 17 disposals at an efficiency rate of 81%, took seven marks (one contested) and laid five tackles. His five rebounds from defensive 50 set up scoring opportunities for the Swans and his four one-percenters showed a deep understanding of a team-based game. On pure statistics, O’Riordan was one of the Swans most efficient players in a very tight and at times frenzied contest.
AFL Canada has been looking to increase it's international competitiveness by increasing the number of representative fixtures and the Canadian Nationals are the latest step up from the inter-provincial games held prior to the 2017 International Cup. AFL Canada has also taken development teams to England as earlier preparation.
This hasn't gone unnoticed south of the border where the USAFL is taking a team to Ireland this year and has been holding annual national tournaments. The following report on the Canadian Nationals is from Zachery Brandstater, Président of AFL Québec. WFN thanks Zachery for his effort in producing this report.
Pic: Rob Colburn.
The Canadian Nationals tournament is an opportunity for the various entities within AFL Canada to get together and play some high quality football. AFL Canada restricts eligibility for this tournament to only those who would be eligible for the Canadian national team. As it stands British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Québec all support leagues in their own right so there is plenty of football across the country (over 5000 participants in 2017, including youth football programs). This network of grass roots football is contributing to a strong football identity in Canada, and it is continuing to gain momentum.
It seems like just a few weeks ago when the DC Aguilas defeated the Bogota Bullants to win the inaugural AFL Colombia premiership. In fact, it was. However, the format for the first season of competition in Colombia sees two mini seasons within the one calendar year, and part two is about to get under way.
The competitions in Colombia are very heavily built around the growth of the national team – the Bogota Bulldogs. The first season (completed just a month ago) saw the drafting of local and ex-pat talent to the three local clubs (Aguilas, Bullants and Bombers) to form a national competition where players could develop and the best would be selected to represent the nation in the Bogota Bulldogs team.
The Bulldogs will fight to retain The Andes Cup against the Santiago Saints from Chile mid-way through this next season. There is also the chance to play in an 18 per side match at season’s end and possibly play in another yet to be defined international match, so performances across this second AFL Colombia season will be important.