This Saturday, two women’s teams will clash in a fierce battle to be the first to take home the cup, but it won’t be in the warm autumn conditions of the Gold Coast.
Instead, ‘The Arctic Cup’ will be up for grabs on the other side of the world as the South East London Giants take on the Baltimore-Washington Eagles in the wintry city of Reykjavic in Iceland.
Australian football has been played competitively in the Northern European nation since 2010, with a regular nine-a-side men’s competition and national men’s team nicknamed the Ravens.
The original idea for The Arctic Cup was for men’s teams from the USA, Canada, England and Sweden to take on the hosts in a pre-season tournament, but as Molly Halberstadt from the Baltimore-Washington Eagles explained, the women from her club also wanted to take part.
“One of the guys [from the men’s team] had been setting it up with the Iceland team, because Iceland had been wanting to host a tournament for a while,” Halberstadt told Girls Play Footy.
“[However] Iceland doesn’t have a women’s team, so originally we were going to be excluded from the tournament, and I wasn’t happy about that, because I wanted to go to Iceland.
“So I reached out to pretty much any women’s team I could find and it turned out that one of the London teams has a women’s side and they wanted to come too.”
That London-based team was the South East London Giants, and with their interest it was now up to Halberstadt to put together a team of women that could take the time off and pay their way from the North American continent to Iceland.
“I tried to get all of the Eagles to come, but that was not enough for a full team, so I reached out to some of the other Eastern [North American] teams.
“We actually have a mixed team coming, with a couple of women from Boston, a few from New York and one from Montreal, along with a couple of Eagles, too.”
On the same day the Brisbane Lions do battle with the Adelaide Crows in sunny conditions and a temperature of around 28°C (82°F), Halberstadt’s Eagles will be running out onto the ground in windy and wet conditions with a top of 6°C (42°F).
“I’m really nervous because I’ve only played in the [USA] summer season, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to catch if my hands are frozen!” Halberstadt laughed.
The sentiment was shared by her opponent Marianna Graham of the South East London Giants.
“I’m raring to go; not looking forward to playing in [possible] minus conditions, but it should be a good day,” Graham said.
Although the women would be playing just one match in the Icelandic capital, the Giants coach said it was an important exercise in helping promote the women’s game, and hopes it would catch the interest of some in the country’s 330,000 population.
“The guys have a few more games, but it doesn’t matter because we’re out there promoting the sport, and will hopefully lead to more people going out there.
“It’s a proud moment for the club, kind of leading the way to playing footy in unique and diverse places, so I’m really excited.”
Graham also sees The Arctic Cup as not only a promotional opportunity, but also a chance for her Giants to get some much needed match practice before the highly competitive AFL London Women’s League season begins for the year.
“We’ve got some of our older players going out there that have played a couple of seasons.
“It should be a good mix, with a couple of newbies, so hopefully we’ll give them some exposure of what an Aussie rules game will be like before actually get into the London season.”
Regardless of who takes out the first Arctic Cup, both Halberstadt and Graham agree they hope it becomes an annual event with other women’s teams also taking up the challenge.
Baltimore-Washington Eagles vs South East London Giants (as part of the Arctic Cup tournament)
First tournament match from 10am, Saturday, March 25th in Reykjavik, Iceland