Seven women’s teams representing eight countries go to battle in Bordeaux, France today in an attempt to claim the title of 2017 AFL Euro Cup champions.
The annual nine-a-side tournament sees two pools of round-robin matches, Semi-Finals and a Grand Final all played in one day, testing squad athleticism, endurance and depth.
2016 champions the Irish Banshees come into the Euro Cup as favourites fresh off conquering the International Cup in Melbourne two months ago, while footballers from Wales will be making their debut at an international tournament, albeit as a combined team with players from Denmark.
We caught up with representatives from each of the competing sides for thoughts heading into the AFL Euro Cup.
Marie Keating – Irish Banshees (Pool A)
When you look at it, I think England are going to be very, very strong; I don’t really see us as the favourites… because the spine of their team is very strong.
It (the Euro Cup) is a different mindset [compared to IC17] in that it’s a one-day tournament compared to full-on 18-a-side matches over two weeks.
It’s very hard to pick out one player [that will star for Ireland] as we’re a very balanced team; the team play in Australia I thought was just fantastic, so hopefully it will be more of the same [in France].
Ana Barisic – Croatian Queens (Pool A)
It’s going to be a very exciting pool, as last year we won against Sweden for the 3rd place medal, and lost against Ireland.
We have half the team who played in last year’s Euro Cup, and a few girls that just started playing, [But] We’re going to give everything we have to compete against those two teams.
I think we need to play more aggressively, I think that was our problem [last year], and also we flooded too much.
Linn Gardell – Swedish Ravens (Pool A)
I think we did a really good job the last Euro Cup, we just fell a bit short in our last game.
This year we’ve worked on changing a few strategies and our fitness levels, so we come well prepared.
We are really excited to get our revenge against the Croatian Queens, [however] the Irish team is obviously very strong and play very organised, but we are prepared and ready to put up good opposition against them.
Alex Saulter – England Vixens (Pool B)
I’m really looking forward to it (the Euro Cup), and I want to beat the Irish after the IC where we were seven minutes away from being in the final (with the GB Swans) but Ireland got a couple of goals to go through instead.
Squad depth is very important, and I think this year the standard of the English girls is immense.
Year on year it’s got better, and this year it’s really brilliant; even in the trials we were turning down good players which is hard to do, but is kind of the position that you want to be in, because it means the girls that you’re taking out there are the best of the best.
Coline Duquet – French Gaulouises (Pool B)
I think it’s an advantage [to host the Euro Cup], but at the same time it adds a bit of pressure, because our family and friends are going to be there and we want to do well.
We know that field, we know how it plays, we don’t have to travel all around Europe.
[Our game plan] needs to get back to the basics, a lot of handpasses, making some space, and I think playing IC17 for most of the girls will really help them do that.
We always give 200% in each game and I think our fitness is not too bad [post IC17].
Kirsty Gray – Scottish Sirens (Pool B)
In 2016 we came back from a year out, and I thought we did fairly well under the circumstances.
We (then) hadn’t played really much together, and some of our girls were really new to the sport as well, so we were put into the deep end a wee bit.
This year we’re really looking to build on that (last year’s performance) and have a better finish.
We’ll use some of that experience of playing in Australia [with the GB Swans] to have a strong tournament.
Elleanor O’Connell – Welsh Wyverns/Danish Valkyries (Pool B)
Basically the Danish girls approached our team organiser and said they were short of numbers, and because we were short of numbers too, it was a smart decision to combine the two teams.
We have four girls from our Wales-based training squad, and a number of Welsh London-based girls which should take us to about seven or eight [Wyverns players] and the Danish girls should have seven as well.
I’ve actually be really impressed with what I’ve seen [in the Welsh girls] because they’re all coming from some kind of sports background.
I have a fellow American footballer (Gridiron) player who is like an absolute dinosaur and smashes through everything, she’s amazing.
A select number of women’s matches from the tournament are being live streamed by Bar TV Sports via YouTube. Times and links are below.
Bordeaux Time/Melbourne Time
9.40am/6.40pm – Scottish Sirens v Welsh Wyverns/Danish Valkyries
11.00am/8.00pm – French Gauloises v Welsh Wyverns/Danish Valkyries
11.40am/8.40pm – Croatian Queens v Swedish Ravens
1.40pm/10.40pm – Irish Banshees v Swedish Ravens
4.00pm/1.00am – Semi-Final 2 (1st Pool B v 2nd Pool A)
6.00pm/3.00am – Grand Final