The 2nd annual AFL Europe Champions League took place in Amsterdam on 19th March 2016, co-hosted with the Amsterdam Devils.
Sportspark de Eendraact accommodated 5 women’s and 13 men’s teams as they all battled it out to be named the Champion of Europe. With 38 9-a-side matches being played over 4 pitches the atmosphere was buzzing from 10am.
The Swans were drawn in the 4 team White Group with Sodermalm from Sweden, the Zagreb Dockers from Croatia and the Lazy Koalas from Russia.
Our game with the Lazy Koalas was the tournament opener with a 10am bounce, which wasn't very forgiving following some Friday night team bonding in various Amsterdam hostelries! However the lads shook off any sore heads to record a convincing 62-7 win against the Russians. There was no respite with an immediate second game against Croatian champs the Zagreb Dockers. This was a tighter affair and the hard hitting Croats led by their hugely impressive talisman Tomislav Cvetko made the Swans work hard for a 29-14 win. The final group game turned into the pool decider for a place in the competition semi-finals. This was against the Swedish champions, Sodermalm. This was a very close encounter with nothing between the teams and goals being traded back and forward. The Swans had to work hard to contain the big Swedish forward Michael Larssen whose physicality and goal kicking was a real thorn for the Swans midfield and defence. The Swans however showed great determination to win this one by the slimmest of margins 28-26.
Having topped the group the Swans faced reigning Champions League holders, the West London Wildcats in the semi-final. A four hour break until finals probably didn't help any of the teams. At this stage the Swans had lost a couple of players through injury also. Although the Swans opened well, scoring the first goal, they could not match the impressive Wildcats who soon took control on the scoreboard and ran out comfortable winners 76-6, with a dominant performance. The Swans didn’t have long to think about that disappointing result as they then played the other beaten semi-finalists, the Hamburg Dockers in the third place playoff. This was a better performance from a tiring Swans team, but they fell short of another win, going down 38-23.
The West London Wildcats won the tournament for the second year in a row beating the Manchester Mosquitoes in the Grand Final with another dominant display 43-13. Swans small forward Kevin Brennan was the Swans best and fairest over the competition and selected on the team of the tournament. The tournament closed with an awards and presentations back in Amsterdam city centre, where we renewed rivalries with the Croatians in some shot drinking competitions!
Well done to all the Swans who travelled, there were great performances throughout the squad, though special mention goes to player coach Darren Shiels, captain for the day Liam Burns, midfielder Bryan O'Kane, ruckman Paul O'Halloran, forward Kevin Brennan and midfielder Craig Wood who unfortunately picked up a season-ending knee injury. Overall it was a great experience for the Swans and it was impressive to see the calibre of club teams from all over Europe.