The final round of the AFLCNE home and away competition was played last weekend with final places determined ready for next weekend’s finals series. Once again, thee Manchester Mozzies have taken out the minor premiership with an undefeated season to date, downing their nearest rivals – the Nottingham Scorpions – in the final round.
After a brave showing, and a huge learning curve throughout 2016, the Merseyside Saints took bottom place but have a chance to fight for higher honours during the finals series. Their heavy loss to the Huddersfield Rams assured a finish that was not unexpected, but it has been a year of excitement to offset disappointment in their first season. The Rams are now able to pursue bigger game during the finals and are on a roll now.
A new team in France is taking to the air with the new Toulouse-based Blagnac Aviators set to make an impact in the CNFA as early as next season (later this year) if they get their way. Whilst the 2015/16 season has not long finished, the Aviators have been spending their time wisely throughout the year to grow something special for themselves and their supporters, their city and French footy in general.
Blagnac is a suburb of Toulouse city, just five kilometres from the Toulouse CBD and home to the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, hence the aviation reference in the team’s moniker.
Rob Aziza is one of the club’s co-founders and is excited at the development of the Blagnac Aviators to date and what the immediate and longer term future holds for the fledgling club.
The first ever AFL National Combine In Russia has been deemed a great success by co-organiser, Slava Belov, president and founder of the St Petersburg Cats. Designed to attract more athletes in the two key AFL cities of St Petersburg and Moscow, the event saw prospective players from a variety of sporting backgrounds (basketball, soccer) try their hand at Australian Rules football.
According to Slava, “it went well, six blokes showed up in every city. We expected 10 at least, so in terms of numbers it's a bit of a disappointment, but five of the six of those participants in St Petersburg went to the [club] training yesterday, so it's a very good result overall.”
“The disciplines were the 20m run, shuttle run, push-ups, kicking 10m/30m, marking 10m/30m and the horizontal standing jump.”
With just one round remaining before the AFLCNE finals series kicks off, some of the questions from last week were answered after last weekend’s matches. The four finalists are now decided with Sheffield Thunder unable to cause an upset in their final match of the season. It means that the Mozzies, Scorpions, Wolverines and the Rams will contest the finals.
Also decided, though it was a decision already made, was the Merseyside Saints claiming (unwantedly, but not unexpectedly) this season’s wooden spoon. They have one more match to throw caution to the wind and create a final round upset, but any unexpected miracle needed to occur on the weekend – it didn’t.
The following article is from the ARFLI website and looks at one particularly exciting aspect of last weekend’s Belfast Carnival, incorporating Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2016 ARFLI season. Galway won both of their matches, downing the Belfast Redbacks 9 2 56 to 5 6 36 for their first ever win in Belfast. They followed this with a tight 8 4 52 to 7 5 47 win over the South Dublin Swans. With one game to go before finals time, the Magpies sit clear second on the ladder behind the Leeside Lions.
In other matches, the Leeside Lions survived a close call against the Redbacks, winning 4 8 32 to 4 7 31. They also defeated the Swans 10 8 68 to 4 2 26, remaining undefeated so far this season.
Former AFL star Marty Clarke made his ARFLI debut on Saturday last at the Belfast Carnival. Lining out for Galway Magpies he was impressive in helping the Pies to their first ever away win against the Belfast Redbacks. Wearing his most recent Collingwood guernsey and County Down shorts he looked fit and strong. The Pies beat the Redbacks by 17 points before overturning the South Dublin Swans by 4 points in an exciting second game.
The West London Wildcats clawed their way back to the top of the ladder, leaping back above the Wandsworth Demons, in the completion of the split Round 7 fixtures. After the Demons downed the Hawks last weekend they briefly grabbed back the lead. From here it will be a fight to the finish for each side, locked together on six wins apiece and not meeting each other again before the finals.
The circuit breaker is that both will meet third-placed North London Lions (Demons in Round 8 and Wildcats in Round 10), with both hoping the other slips up which would determine the minor premiership – although it would be interesting if the Lions won both encounters, though their percentage is far weaker.
Last weekend saw the Merseyside Saints host the AFLCNE Lightning Round, a round that threw up some more interesting permutations for the league as at rolls towards the 2016 finals series. There is still a battle for top spot, a battle for a finals berth and even a battle to avoid the wooden spoon. There was also an historic first win for the Merseyside Saints.
Sitting on top of the ladder are the Manchester Mozzies. They are a game clear of the Nottingham Scorpions, but with a lesser percentage. It means their final round clash could be played for premiership favouritism. The Sheffield Thunder have crept silently up behind the Huddersfield Rams to create a battle for a finals berth. Whilst the Rams have the better run home, they cannot afford to slip up of the Thunder could sneak a surprise finals opportunity.
The Merseyside Saints have been on a very steep learning curve in 2016, their inaugural season within the AFLCNE (Australian Football League Central & Northern England). The club was expecting defeats – heavy ones – and that has played out as expected. They also had a dream that maybe, just maybe, they might get their first win also. That, too, has played out to a myriad of emotions during the Lightning Round hosted by the Saints last weekend.
Their 11 point win over the Tyne Tees Tigers – 5 15 45 to 5 4 34 – will go down in club and league history as a day when the Saints proved to all and sundry that they belong.
The Paris Cockatoos have created all kinds of history in the CNFA Grand Final in Bordeaux, France, when they defeated the Cergy-Pontoise Coyotes by 20 points – 110 to 90. Not only did they win their first ever premiership, but they did it in their very first season as a club, ostensibly having grown out of the bigger “brothers”, the Paris Cockerels, only last year.
Regardless of how the Cockatoos arrived on the French football scene, it is a remarkable achievement in any sport to reach the highest level of success in an inaugural season. Credit must go to the Cockatoos, the Paris Cockerels and the CNFA for having the foresight to develop another club in Paris, and to do it so well that the new entity was blessed with the talent and belief to go all the way.