Australian rules football in Europe

Australian rules football in Europe

, each nation having a number of clubs and organised junior programs.

These three and Spain are currently the only who have thus far sent national teams to the Australian Football International Cup, although Sweden and Finland will join them in 2008.

There is no official governing body for the sport in Europe, although an informal group called Aussie Rules Europe exists among some of the leagues. Cup competitions that have been played between nations in Europe include the Atlantic Alliance Cup, EU Cup and Central European Australian Football League Championships. In addition, there are tests matches played between Great Britain and Ireland, a tri-series (European Australian Football Tri-nations Tournament) between Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and a tri-series between Croatia, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Andorra

A team from Andorra was in formation in early 2008, with plans to compete in the Catalan AFL. Logistical problems saw them withdraw from the league before the first round, but the team still intends to play other matches in 2008.

Austria

Australian rules football in Austria has been played since 2004, with one club to date based in Vienna.The club began life as the Vienna Dingos, changing their name to the Vienna Kangaroos in 2006. In the same year and doubling as the National Team, the Kangaroos competed in a tri-nations series against Croatia and the Czech Republic.

A second club was under formation in Graz in late 2007.

Belgium

Australian rules football was first played in Chatelet in 1919 by Australian soldiers in World War I. [ [http://www.pictureaustralia.org/apps/pictureaustralia?action=PADisplay&mode=display&rs=resultset-776609&no=149 Message ] ]

Australian rules football has been played in Belgium since 2004, with a team based in Brussels. The Brussels Saints have played matches against the Paris Cockerels and teams from around Europe, including winning the 2005 EU Cup.

Croatia

Australian rules football in Croatia began with the first official team, known as the Zagreb Giants, in January 2006, although there had been efforts for many years before this to found a team in Zagreb. The team competed in (and won) a tri-nations series in 2006 against the Czech Republic and Austria. In late 2006 plans were laid for a new team in Rijeka called the Sharks. The Zagreb Giants formed an alliance with Australian Football League club the Hawthorn Hawks, changing their name to the Zagreb Hawks. There have been beginnings of a national governing body set up and the national team has been nicknamed the Croatian Knights.

Czech Republic

Australian rules football has been played in the Czech Republic since around 2003, when there were efforts to start a club in Prague known as the Tigers. The first lasting club was founded in 2005, known as the Czech Lions - the name Prague Tigers still being reserved for the name of a Prague team should other teams develop in-country. The Lions are currently the only team in the Czech Republic and have played mainly in tournaments against other European teams, hosting the Central European AFL championships in 2006.

They will host the EU Cup in 2008.

Denmark

"Main article: Australian rules football in Denmark"

Australian rules football in Denmark is governed by the Danish Australian Football League (DAFL). The league has grown to over 300 senior players and has one of the most successful junior programs outside Australia with a few hundred young players playing regular club football annually. The DAFL is often considered the largest Australian rules football competition outside the English speaking world.

The national team, the Denmark Vikings, competed at the 2002 International Cup, finishing in fourth place. They withdrew in 2005 due to financial reasons, but will return for the 2008 event.

Finland

Australian rules football in Finland is controlled by the Finland AFL, who formed in 2006 after the creation of Finland's first Australian football club around a year earlier. Domestic matches began in 2007 with two teams, the Helsinki Heatseekers and Halikko Juggernauts. A third team, the Espoo Roos was created in 2008. The Finland AFL hope to have teams from Tampere and Turku commence in future.

The Finland Icebreakers are the representative Australian rules football team of Finland, formerly known as the Finnish Lions. They have twice won the Central European AFL Championships, going back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. While the team was started by Australian expatriates, it has been captained by a Finn ever since the 2nd match with the current captain being Kimmo Heikkilä, and the Icebreakers are now almost exclusively Finns.

The old Finnish jumper was primarily blue, with a white rectangle in the centre with the blue cross of the Finnish flag through it, and the coat of arms immediately below it. The current national jumper still has the flag as the predominant feature, but instead of the coat of arms, includes a stylized iceberg graphic.

The Lions' first home game on May 13, 2006 was claimed as the northernmost international game of Australian rules ever played, being hosted in Helsinki, the northernmost capital of Europe, although this was later overtaken by the club in Falun, Sweden.

Finland participated in the EU cup in 2007, finishing six after a disappointing 2 point loss to Spain which would have seen them advance and be certain of a top four finish. Two Finnish players were voted into the All-European team, Grant Siermans who played with the Finland Icebreakers and Jari Pystynen who played with the EU Crusaders.

AFL Brownlow medallist James Bartel returned to Finland in October 2007, playing for the Halikko Juggernauts following his AFL premiership season. In the game he took a spectacular mark over an opposition ruckman and a difficult goal from the pocket. He was presented with the no.8 guernsey for the Finland national team who are raising funds to attend the 2008 Australian Football International Cup [ [http://afl.com.au/Season2007/News/NewsArticle/tabid/208/Default.aspx?newsId=52640 Bartel kicking goals in Finland] from afl.com.au]

France

"Main article: Australian rules football in France"

Australian rules football is played in France mainly in Strasbourg and the Paris area, although there have also been clubs formed in Tarbes and Perpignan. While there is no national league due to the distances between clubs, there is a governing body under development. The Strasbourg Kangaroos took part in the 2006 AFL Germany season (under the name the Black Devils), although they struggled on the field and withdrew for the 2007 season.

The France national team has competed at the EU Cup and there plans to eventually build a squad for the Australian Football International Cup, possibly in 2012.

Germany

"Main article: Australian rules football in Germany"

The Australian Football League Germany plays a home-and-away season featuring clubs based in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Hamburg. The official German national team (the Black Eagles) first appeared in the tri-series with Sweden and Denmark in 2006, although ad hoc German representative teams had appeared at other events in the past.

Ireland

"Main article: Australian Rules Football League of Ireland"
Australian rules football is a fairly recently-introduced team sport in Ireland but the country has a long history of interaction with Australian rules leagues. There has been some awareness of Australian rules football in Ireland since the first International rules football tests took place in late 1967, however Aussie Rules was not officially played in Ireland until clubs were formed in Dublin and Belfast in 1999. The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland was formed in October 2000. The Irish national Australian rules football team, first appeared at the Atlantic Alliance Cup in 2001, going through the tournament undefeated. Their berth in the Grand Final created a small amount of interest in the Irish media. [ [http://www.rte.ie/sport/2002/0821/aussierules.html Ireland into Aussie Rules final] from rte.ie] They then went on to win the 2002 Australian Football International Cup, but despite not having kept the pace with other emerging nations, they have since remained in the top four.

Australian Football League clubs have recruited several Irish players from Gaelic football to play professionally. As Gaelic football is primarily amateur competition and the AFL competition is professional, there is a strong financial lure.

Converts have generally been highly successful and include Jim Stynes, Sean Wight, Tadhg Kennelly and Setanta Ó hAilpín (hurler).

The International Rules Series between the AFL and GAA generated a high amount of media interest in Ireland, although this is more due to the similarity between International rules football and Gaelic football than anything related to Aussie Rules. In terms of Australian rules football, the media has covered with interest the successful recruits of the Australian Football League. Television coverage of the sport has grown in Ireland and highlights and game packages are now regularly shown on pay-tv on Setanta Sports.

Other players from Ireland to have played senior games in the Australian Football League include Sean Wight (89), Brian Stynes (2), Dermott McNicholl (3) and Paul Early (1). In 2001, AFL clubs that drafted Irish players onto rookie lists included Kevin Devine (Melbourne), Tadhg Kennelly (Sydney) and Bernie Collins (Western Bulldogs). In 2002, other rookie listed players included Nicholas Walsh (Melbourne), Declan O'Mahoney (Sydney). In 2006 Colm Begley (Brisbane), Brendan Quigley (Brisbane) and Martin Clarke (Collingwood) were rookie listed. [ [http://www.footystamps.com/ot_international_football.htm The Irish Experiment] ]

"See Also: Players who have converted from one football code to another"

Italy

Australian rules football in Italy was first played in 2004 with an attempt to start a league based around the city of Naples. Four teams in Salerno, Naples, San Giorgio and Barra were created, but the league has since disappeared.

Netherlands

Australian rules football was first played in the Netherlands around 2003, with the creation of the [http://www.aussierules.nl Dutch Australian Football Association (DAFA)] . This organisation later disappeared but was re-formed in 2007. In 2005 a new team representing the Netherlands appeared at the EU Cup, where they finished third. There was still no formal team or league in the Netherlands, but by late 2006 some steps had been taken with a group training and playing regularly in The Hague and the national team being nicknamed the Flying Dutchmen (de Vliegende Hollanders). In 2007, the Dutchmen played their first game in almost two years with a social match against the Rheinland Lions from Germany. In the 2007 EU Cup the Flying Dutchmen finished 10th, losing to Belgium in the plate final.

In 2008 the Flying Dutchmen have established a home ground in Amstelveen, near Amsterdam and intend to field a team in this year's EU Cup in Prague. They have hosted both [http://lions.aflg.de Rheinland Lions] (Cologne, Germany) and [http://www.putneymagpies.com Putney Magpies] (UK) in home games, as well as playing away against [http://lions.aflg.de Rheinland Lions] (May 2008) and the [http://www.impactsport.fr/pariscockerels/index.php Paris Cockerels] in July 2008.

Training sessions are held every two weeks in either The Hague or Amsterdam.

[http://www.aussierules.nl DAFA Website]

Norway

The Oslo Trolls formed in 2005 as Norway's first Australian rules football club, but didn't play their first match as a stand-alone club until hosting the Karlstad Dragons from Sweden in August 2008. Prior to this, players from the Trolls had travelled to western Sweden to play in club matches with the teams in Karlstad and Gothenburg.

pain

Australian rules football in Spain is currently played in two regions, the Madrid Bears in the nation's capital and the LFAC in the region of Catalonia. Spain's national Australian rules football team is nicknamed the Bulls, their guernsey showing a Bull, the national symbol of Spain, in the national colours of red and yellow. The Spanish national team entered a team into the 2005 Australian Football International Cup, successfully raising the money to travel to Melbourne, Australia. The team failed to win a game and finished last, but was widely commended for its spirited performance. This team was drawn exclusively from players from the Madrid Bears and Spanish nationals resident in Melbourne, the Catalan league not taking part in the squad for various reasons.

Two separate sides from Spain appeared at the 2007 EU Cup, one drawn from Madrid under the banner of 'Spain' and another representing Catalonia.

Madrid

Australian rules was first played in Madrid at a social level in 1997. In 2003, the Madrid Bears formed and quickly grew in player numbers. In a minor international championship in 2003 hosted by Spain and with Germany and England also involved, Spain defeated Germany in the final.

In October 2003 the Australian Convicts played their second match of their European tour against the Bears in Madrid.

Catalonia

Australian rules football in Catalonia is currently played by two teams in Barcelona and Valls organised as the Lliga de Futbol Australià de Catalunya (Catalan Australian Football League). The sport began in Catalonia in 2000, when a group of people begun to play in Valls. The LFAC was officially created in 2005, teams that have competed in this league include Belfry Valls, Barcelona Stars, Gabas Tarragona, Lleida Coiots, and Wendells Salou. Salou marged with Tarragona for the 2006 season, then in 2007 the teams from Lleida and Tarragona elected to withdraw from the league, hoping to rebuild.

A French team from Northern Catalonia, the Saint Esteve Saints, considered joining the LFAC for their 2007 season, but this club has since folded.

The Catalan national team played at the 2005 EU Cup in London and also appeared at the EU Cup in 2007.

In 2008 the league kicked off the season with four teams; Belfry Valls, Cornella Bocs (previously the Barcelona Stars), Valls Fire and Picamuixons Birds. A team from Andorra had planned to compete, but were forced to withdraw due to problems with the stadium they had planned to use. The Andorrans plan to compete in other matches outside the LFAC season.

weden

"Main article: Australian rules football in Sweden"

Australian rules football started in Sweden with the creation of a club nicknamed the Saints in the southern city of Helsingborg to play in the Danish AFL. For the next decade, Scania was the only area in Sweden where the sport was played, clubs in Gothenburg and Stockholm being created in the early 21st century. Scania, Gothenburg and Stockholm remain the three largest centers for the sport in Sweden, although clubs have also been created in Falun, Karlstad and most recently Uppsala in 2007 by Australian and other Students studying at Uppsala University.

The Swedish national team, the Elks, have become increasingly competitive in the last few years and will make an appearance at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.

United Kingdom

There are a number of leagues operating throughout the United Kingdom, affiliated with the AFL Britain. The Great Britain Bulldogs are the representative team for the whole of Great Britain, although the England Dragonslayers, Scottish Puffins and Welsh Red Dragons have also competed on occasions. Northern Ireland is represented through the Irish national team.

England

"Main article: Australian rules football in England"

The sport in England has a long but obscure history which dates back to the 1880s. Local competition has grown since 1989 to several amateur leagues.

Northern Ireland

The only club from Northern Ireland to date were the Belfast Redbacks. The Redbacks were part of the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland, although they are currently in recess, and have supplied some players to the Irish national team.

cotland

Australian rules football is currently played by four teams in Scotland, two each from Glasgow and Edinburgh forming the Scottish Australian Rules Football League, affiliated with the AFL Britain. No one knows how long Aussie Rules has been played in Scotland, but it appears it may have been played in that country for almost a century, or at least before WWI.

Scots living in Melbourne and Victoria in the mid-19th century were greatly involved in the formation of the rules of the game, as well as the formation of a number of early clubs, including the still-existing Essendon Bombers.

The Scottish Puffins have at times indicated that they may in future compete at the Australian Football International Cup.

Wales

Australian rules football began in Wales with the formation of Aussie Rules Wales (ARW) on September 1 2006, associated with Aussie Rules International under the umbrella of the London-based Aussie Rules UK.

The first Welsh premiership season was conducted in 2007, with an affiliation with the South Australian National Football League. The four Welsh senior sides in the South Cardiff Panthers, Cardiff Double Blues, Newport Tigers and Swansea Magpies wear the guernseys of South Adelaide, Sturt, Glenelg and Port Adelaide respectively.

Aussie Rules Wales was renamed the Welsh Australian Rules Football League for the 2008 season.

The national Welsh team known as the Wales Red Dragons was formed by ARW, with their first appearance against the England Dragonslayers which was played in Cardiff on 3rd November 2007 with England defeating Wales 61-91. Welsh representatives Ed Doe and David James will become the first Welsh members of the Great Britain Bulldogs at the 2008 Australian Football International Cup.

External links

* [http://www.brussels-saints.co.uk Brussels Saints]
* [http://www.finlandafl.com Finland Australian Football League]
* [http://www.lfac.cat/ Catalan Australian Football League]
* [http://digilander.libero.it/australianfootball Italian Federation of Australian Football]
* [http://www.devliegendehollanders.nl The Flying Dutchmen]
* [http://www.aussierules.nl Dutch Australian Football Association]
* [http://www.berlin-crocodiles.de Berlin Crocodiles]
* [http://www.vienna-kangaroos.at.tt/ Vienna Kangaroos]
* [http://www.canza.cz/index.php?page=Czech%20Lions%20(CAFL) Czech Australian Football League]
* [http://zagrebhawks.blogspot.com Zagreb Hawks]
* [http://www.warfl.co.uk Welsh Australian Rules Football League]
* [http://www.aussierulesuk.com Aussie Rules UK]
* [http://www.aussierulesinternational.com Aussie Rules International]
* [http://glasgowmagpies.co.uk/ Glasgow Magpies]
* [http://www.sarfl.org.uk/sarfl/ Scottish Australian Rules Football League]
* [http://www.aflg.de Australian Football League Germany]
* [http://lions.aflg.de Rheinland Lions]
* [http://www.southdublinswans.com]

References


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