Note this article has been updated since first published on July 12 as we now have height and weight data and at least one change with David Meli into the team).
Defending champs Papua New Guinea have named their squad for IC11. Many things jump out as most obvious about the list - its youth yet experience, lack of height and wide spread from across PNG.
10 players are under 19 with 2 sixteen year old boys from the AFL Academy in Port Moresby. Only 5 players are 25 or older. Bruce Savare (36) and Nicholas Apamumu (35) will no doubt get plenty of good natured teasing from the teenagers in the team. The average age is only around 21 years.
In terms of height it has often been the Mozzies' Achilles heel, and while they are slowly unearthing taller talent it remains an issue when they come up against teams of similar talent. At 194 cm a key player could be Tiernan Carbry (only about to turn 20 and yet returning for his second International Cup), yet he has been named as an emergency. 5 cm (2 inches) taller than any team mate, it looks like PNG's onballers will once again be deprived of first tough in many ball ups. In some ways they will have to be significantly better than their opponents and against sides like New Zealand and a resurgent Ireland that could be a big ask.
Perhaps two of PNG's best, Donald Barry (Brisbane Lions listed) and David Meli (Essendon international scholarship player) were thought to be unavailable, but Meli has now been named (Barry is injured and possibly unavailable anyway). The list is still formidable with 17 players returning from IC08 and a swathe of young guns backing them up. They will surely make the top 4 and probably start favourites to go back to back, with the height issue the main nagging doubt.
The South African Lions are attending the International Cup once again, making them one of just eight nations to make it to all four Cups.
Looking across the list, as per past tournaments, lack of height seems to be a factor that may hurt them when it gets down to the top few teams (except PNG). Their tallest players are Zola Mtiwetafa and Malibongwe Mlami, both 190 cm (nearly 6'3") and the average is 177 cm (5'10"). At least in the case of Zola at 102 kg there would appear to be a solid body.
The average age is a relatively young 23 but there's some very experienced international campaigners as well, such as the Steven Malinga, Benjamin Motuba and the surprise return of Mtutuzeli Hlomela.
Coached by Stewart Edge, who has spent considerable time in South Africa as a high performance coach, the Lions can be expected to challenge for a top four spot once again. 2008 saw a massive rise from 8th to 3rd - will the rise continue? Maybe, but the final couple of steps may be the hardest.
The French Bleus are attending the International Cup for the first time.
The squad has a relatively experienced average age of 26, with Sébastien Artus and widely travelled Pàll Thomas Finnsson both 36. The youngest player is Jory Giner from the club in Strasbourg. They average 180 cm (5'11") and although there are no "streaks" they do have four players in the 190s.
The crucial match will be their seeding game against Tonga, also at their first International Cup (at least, in the main draw) - the winner is likely to go through to Division One and a guaranteed top 12 finish, a great result for either team on debut.
The French are coming to Australia for the first time and whilst their expectations are not high they should give a good account of themselves if as expected they feature in Division Two. But that assumes a loss to Tonga in their first day of seeding matches, and there's no real evidence to make a call either way on that game.
The Coqs, also known as les Bleus, will be coached by Cyril Talon and features perhaps one of world footy's most "widely" capped players in Páll Tómas Finnsson. Not only will he represent France but helped start footy in Iceland (including representing them at EC2010) and also captained Denmark at IC08. He's also a pretty handy player to add some experience to the French team, being named in the IC08 World Team on the wing.
The United States' national squad is headed for Australia determined to break back into the top 4 after slipping out in 2008. The squad features plenty of familiar names from past Revolution campaigns, as well as new talent.
The oldest player is Minnesota's Jason Becker at 43, no doubt a key factor in his longevity being his height at 196 cm (6'5") in a relatively short US squad (by American standards) that has only one other major tall in LA's Bryan Dragus at 198 cm (6'6"). The average height is still a very respectable 183 cm (6 foot).
The average age is a mature 29. The youngest players are 23 year olds Ryan Sutherland, also from Minnesota, and Eric Floyd from Louisville. That's a sign of the Americans' major strength and weakness - it generally serves up a tough, physical brand of footy with mature bodies, but a widespread junior program still eludes them which means there aren't the numbers of exciting youth coming through that we see amongst their rivals in the top echelons of international footy. As such expect a very honest effort but the pace might be too hot at the pointy end.
Denmark return for the third time out of four International Cups. Long lauded as having the most advanced junior program in Europe, the Danes will be keen to start putting results on the board. An impressive runners-up at the 2010 European Championships suggests the team is on the right path.
The Vikings' squad has a reasonably tall average height at nearly 184 cm, although only one really tall player in Michael Neugebauer at 198 cm (6'6"), who has been playing for the Fitzroy Reds in Victoria. As usual the majority of the Danes come from the successful Farum Cats club on the island of Zealand (home to the capital Copenhagen).
There's also a good mix of players from other clubs and a couple based in other countries, in René Damborg Jensen (Norway) and Páll Tómas Finnsson (France), as well as Neugebauer. The average age is 26.
Japan has finalised its squad for IC11 and bring a diverse mix of experience to Australia, with the hope of stepping up to being recognised as a top 4 team.
Japan has become a regular appearance at all international footy events, from the early days of the Arafura Games, to having attended every International Cup tournament since 2002. Their performances have shown a steady improvement and their 8th placing in the 2008 International Cup was a credit to their hard work and determination. Now they hope to continue their rise up the rankings.
As previously mentioned in WFN articles, AFL Japan’s resilience and organisation in attending this year’s International Cup, on the back of a pretty traumatic 12 months for the country with the Tsunami, is simply outstanding.
WFN has caught up with team manager, Hideki Miyasaka, on how the team’s preparations are going.
In breaking news charismatic former South African Lions captain Mtutuzeli Hlomela, who seemed to have left the sport, is back in the South African side for the 2011 AFL International Cup. In many ways Mtutu was the face of international footy and his return will be as welcome as it was unexpected.
More information to follow as it becomes available.
Great Britain's IC11 squad has a very fresh look, with very few players (we believe two) that represented them at IC08. As discussed in our preview, the Bulldogs are increasingly drawing on players spread across Britain, not just relying on players out of London.
Like Ireland the Brits have several players who are currently playing in Australia, although not the extremely large numbers of their neighbours. Unlike some of their opponents the Bulldogs have some very tall players that should give them good structure around key positions and in many matches first tap at ball ups. Two players (Anthony Trigg and Chris James) are 205 cm (nearly 6'9") and six are in the 190s. Compare that with Japan that has no one over 186 cm - so that's at least a 19 cm (7 inch) advantage in ruck (not including reach) if these two teams meet. The average height is 185 cm (nearly 6'1") which makes this one of the tallest squads at IC11. The average age is nearly 27.
The hosting partnership will entail joint training sessions, access to training facilities, experience exchange sessions and a farewell get together. Exact dates of the events are still under discussion due to the participation of Williamstown in the Foxtel Cup final, but both parties are excited about the opportunity.
"We are proud to have Williamstown Football Club as our host club who is one of the oldest footy clubs and shares the same colours," says AFL Sweden president Jörg Pareigis. Head coach of the Elks Daniel McClaer continues, "The possibility of joint training sessions with the Williamstown squad would be a great opportunity for our players to see how footy really is trained and played."
Football & Development Manager Chris Dixon at Williamstown FC explains “We were very keen to be apart of such a great event in the International Cup and it’s great to be able to help out an International Side in Sweden. We’re looking forward to assisting where possible and helping the Swedish Elks as they strive for International Glory.”
The 2011 International Cup will feature a women's division for the first time ever. Five teams will fight for the inaugural Women's trophy. We begin our previews with Canada.
Women’s football in Canada has come a long way since the first women’s team was formed back in 2007 in preparation for the Northern Light’s first ever international against the USA Freedom. They lost that match, but didn’t lose the desire to continue the push to expand female football across Canada. With momentum on the back of their surprise victory over their American rivals in the 2010 49th Parallel Cup, the Northern Lights are coming over to Australia with the intention of dazzling opposition and fans alike.
Nauru were perhaps the biggest surprises at IC08. With footy in disarray in the tiny nation for several years before the tournament, not much was expected. But after an opening round loss to eventual winners PNG the Chiefs didn't lose another game, finishing 5th overall.
This time around other teams will know what to expect but Nauru should still perform very well and would be looking to break into the semi finals. 2008 coach Wes Illig moves into an assistant role as the Bendigo Bombers' football manager (VFL) Graham Pratt takes the reigns.
We'll also get our first look at senior level of GWS Giants scholarship player Yoshi Harris. Overall the team lacks some height with the average at 174 cm (5'9") and no one over 182 cm (6 foot), which surely spells trouble in ruck, but the age profile shows a good mix of experience and youth, with an average of about 24 years.