With the recent success of a new wave of Irish recruits into the AFL system, what major Gaelic football prospects are on the horizon for a code switch to Aussie rules? This year would seem to be a ripe time for such recruits, with the continuing success of AFL players from Gaelic backgrounds, such as Geelong’s Zach Tuohy, Hawthorn’s Conor Glass, and Essendon’s Conor McKenna.
Additionally, the International Rules Series will be held in Australia once again this year, and the Ireland Warriors recently placed third at the 2017 International Cup. Jim Stynes (RIP) and Tadhg Kennelly might not be winning AFL premierships anymore, but it’s safe to say that the Irish experiment is alive and well in footy.
The Kingdom Kangaroos have made it into their first ever grand final by downing the Edinburgh Bloods by 15 points in their preliminary final. It is a great occasion for the club, having joined the SARFL competition back in 2013. Whilst other clubs have started in recent years, the Kangaroos have managed to survive their infant stage and now reach the biggest match in the club’s history.
It sets up a huge grand final match when the Roos will take on the Greater Glasgow Giants tomorrow at the Linlithgow Rugby Club.
Whilst the Giants will go into the match as favourites, the game will not be a one-way street. The Kingdom Kangaroos defeated the Giants only a few weeks ago and have to be rated a chance of an upset by doing so again.
All is set for grand final day in London with all matches set to be played this Saturday at Clapham Common. Whilst it is a great day for all clubs in all grades, most interest will centre on the Premiership Division decider between the Wandsworth Demons and the North London Lions.
The Demons were the first team into the Grand Final when they downed the West London Wildcats two weeks ago, but the Lions found their way into the decider when they downed the Wildcats in a low scoring Preliminary Final, running out 36 point winners: the Lions 6 15 51 defeating the Wildcats 2 3 15. It was a surprise straight sets exit for the Wildcats, a team which had for most of the season been neck and neck with flag favourites, the Demons.
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.