The home and away season in the Scottish SARFL competition is now done with the Greater Glasgow Giants, Kingdom Kangaroos and Edinburgh Bloods to take part. An unlucky Glasgow Sharks will look on wondering what might have been.
The final match of the round matches took place last weekend with the Glasgow Sharks hammering the Edinburgh Bloods. The final score saw the Sharks 134 defeat the Bloods 63 to at least have a positive end to an otherwise frustrating season. In the end, the Sharks finished with two big wins for the season (they also hammered another finals aspirant – the Kingdom Kangaroos – by 73 points earlier in the season).
Of their four losses, three were by less than a goal. They lost both local Glasgow derbies against the Giants by less than a goal (98 to 94 and 66 to 63). They also lost their other encounter with the Bloods by just two points (75 to 73). It begs the question – what if the Sharks had had just an ounce more luck? They would almost certainly have played in the finals, and if all three results had gone their way they would have topped the ladder and likely been flag favourites. Sometimes footy can be cruel, and the Sharks can certainly attest to that.
As the Manchester Mozzies shake themselves back to reality after having won their fourth flag in a row, other events have been or will be occurring across the AFLCNE. Whilst the premiership season is done, the Tyne Tees Tigers have another ace up their sleeve with the Tyne Tees Cup in September. Also, in the lead-up to Grand Final day, the inaugural AFLCNE team was announced.
The Tyne Tees Tigers’ annual Tyne Tees Cup will be held again this year at the Gosforth Sports Association fields in Newcastle. The event has become increasingly popular since its inception and now has a healthy interest not just from teams within the AFLCNE but also from Scotland. Confirmed teams will be announced closer to the date, but it is hoped that there will be a healthy representation in both men’s and women’s divisions.
The blueprint for success at any team sporting level is deceptively simple. Well drilled, disciplined, well trained, great communication, ability to execute team plans and essential skills, group goals, positive team ethos, a liberal dose of talent, a great support network off the field and a hunger that is never satisfied.
There are more, but those qualities listed are common to any team that has enjoyed long-term success – and the Manchester Mozzies are proof of that after winning their fourth consecutive AFLCNE premiership in England. To their list of skills, however, can be added two others that come with empires in football – experience in big occasions and belief.
All of that came to the fore this weekend when the Manchester Mozzies downed the Nottingham Scorpions in the AFLCNE Grand Final at Sheffield. In one of the hardest fought slogs of the year - and possibly many years in a finals sense - neither team was prepared to yield for the first three quarters.
After the weekend’s semi-finals, the Wandsworth Demons are the first team through to the AFL London Grand Final. Their win over the West London Wildcats, and the North London Lions own victory over the London Swans has set up a Wildcats versus Lions Preliminary Final this weekend.
In tough conditions, the Demons and Wildcats slugged out a low scoring match. Both teams have proven themselves capable of high scores all season, but a combination of weather and two very determined defences kept the scoring down and made for a close match all day. In a game described as an arm wrestle, it took a goal from the Demons in the final minute to win the game.
The final score saw the Wandsworth Demons 4 6 30 defeat the West London Wildcats 3 10 28.
To play in this season’s Scottish SARFL finals, the Kingdom Kangaroos simply had to beat ladder leaders the Greater Glasgow Giants – and they did, in a comprehensive 32-point victory which sees the Kangaroos join the Giants and the Edinburgh Bloods as confirmed finalists for 2017. The win by the Kangaroos means that the Glasgow Sharks cannot reach the finals regardless of the result of their match against the Bloods next weekend.
According to the Kangaroos’ Facebook page, “an amazing performance today has ensured our place in the 2017 SARFL finals series. A much anticipated match of the greatest importance against league leaders the Greater Glasgow Giants lived up to the pre-game enthusiasm and hype from the boys. A brutally physical and bruising team performance saw us win 13 15 93 to 08 13 61 in wet and slippery conditions at Beveridge Park.”
With the completion of the AFLG season in Germany, the Berlin Crocodiles have set themselves a new record – their first undefeated season since their inception as a club back in 2001. Their last start victory against fellow finals aspirants, the Hamburg Dockers, underlined how dominant their season has been as they thumped the previously second-placed Dockers by 126 points in Hamburg.
For the time being players from all clubs will return to local leagues to play as the national team – the German Eagles – travels to Australia for the IC17 (International Cup). Crocodiles will spend time playing in the local Berlin League to stay ready for the finals series from 26th August after the return of the national team.
The Manchester Mozzies and Nottingham Scorpions have once again made it through to the 2017 AFLCNE Grand Final to be played next weekend. But whilst the Mozzies downed the Rams and the Scorpions defeated the Wolverines to reach the final weekend of the season proper, the Merseyside Saints almost upstaged everyone with their win over the Sheffield Thunder.
The Saints haven’t won many matches since their introduction to the AFLCNE roster. They have endured some fearful hidings as part of their learning curve. Yet that is what makes their win on the weekend so important and so sweet. By downing the Thunder in the semi-final of the Plate they can now challenge the Tyne Tees Tigers next weekend for a chance at some real silverware for their display case. The final score of Saints 17 5 107 to Thunder 7 7 49 was a great reward for belief and perseverance for the club and they can go into next weekend’s Plate final as a genuine outside chance to win.
The Manchester Mozzies, Nottingham Scorpions, Wolverhampton Wolverines and Huddersfield Rams have reached the finals of the AFLCNE competition in England after last weekend’s final round – the Lightning Premiership played in Nottingham. The Mozzies were minor premiers again and will be favourites for yet another flag, but the other teams can also smell glory and will most certainly reach for the stars from here.
The Tyne Tees Tigers were unlucky not to reach the finals. They needed to effectively win two more matches than the Rams on the day to pass them, and started well by downing the Rams in their first match of the day to draw level on the season’s ladder. But from there both teams struggled to match the league’s big guns, with the Tigers missing finals action by percentage only.
Conor Glass is set to become the first Irish International rookie to play for Hawthorn. Following on from New Zealander Kurt Heatherley becoming the Hawk's first International recruit to play in the AFL, Glass will run out for the Hawks against Fremantle on Saturday night Melbourne time (Live on ESPN - BT Sport Saturday @ 10:00am BST).
In a battle befitting first versus second on the ladder – and very possibly a grand final preview – the Edinburgh Bloods ensured they would play finals by bringing down the previously undefeated Greater Glasgow Giants. In a season that has seen many games go down to the wire, the Bloods held their nerve to claim a 110 to 102 victory.
The Giants had already claimed the first finals berth due to their previously undefeated reign at the top of the SARFL ladder. It was a game which the Giants could probably afford to lose in some respects – better a loss now and galvanise for finals – but they would still be disappointed at giving the Bloods a psychological edge so close to finals time.