Manchester Mosquitoes at the AFL Europe Champions League 2017

Last weekend saw the Mozzies travel to Amsterdam for AFL Europe’s Champion’s League 2017. Having come second the previous year the Mozzies were ambitious and confident going into the tournament. The Mozzies’ preparation began back in January and tough selections were made for the tournament. Coach Chris Sproule announced his captains and leadership group for the season before going in to Champions League 2017.

 

Head Coach – Chris Sproule

Captain – Ben ‘Sweets’ Sweetman

Vice-captain / Assistant coach – Spike Kilheeney

Leadership group – Budd Norris, Cam McBryde, Tim Gower

 

“These lads have encapsulated what it means to be a leader,” said head coach Chris “they are respected throughout the club, work hard on and off the field and have experience of high level footy.”

 

The Mozzies took their strongest side yet to Champions League 2017. The new players had shown their worth and more in training, and experienced Champions League players were fitter and stronger than previous years.

 

The Mozzies were entered in Group C with; Port Malmö Maulers, Munich Kangaroos, Styrian Down Under Dogs and Bordeaux Bombers. Game one was against the Maulers, and after an inaccurate start by the Mozzies (kicking three points from three shots) the lads slowly began to show their true skills. With slick play around the field the Mozzies went on to open the day with a W. Mozzies def Maulers 70 – 13.

 

Game two was the Mozzies’ first game on grass as they took on Bordeaux Bombers. It was a near perfect performance from the lads. Physical, accurate and dominant. The Bombers were a strong side who put up a fight, but they couldn’t make it into the Mozzies’ defensive 20. With a strong midfield and forwards kicking goals, the Mozzies were too much for the French side. Though the W was great news, we unfortunately lost two of our backs to injury. Niall Dowd and Tom Stack both struggling, Dowd’s hip came misaligned in a contest over the ball (which he won!) and Stack’s back began to spasm after a contest in the air. Mozzies def Bombers 67 – 7.

 

Game three saw the toughest fight the Mozzies would face in the group stages. The Munich Kangaroos were physical and accurate. The Mozzies started slowly, and the scoreboard showed it at half time. A half time team talk from Captain Ben Sweetman and Coach Chris Sproule was needed. The Mozzies were far more clinical in the second half, making the most of possession and their shots on goal. With 20 seconds left to the buzzer the game was tied at 22 – 22. A ball-up deep in the Mozzies half, Sweetman wins the tap and Oli Hobin cleared toward the forward line. GB Bulldog Chris Britton wins a contest with a clever tap on to fellow Bulldog Andy Cochran, in the forward 20, who kicks the goal milliseconds before the buzzer! The Mozzies were three from three, with one group game to go. Mozzies def Kangaroos 28 – 22.

Mozzies team talk before they fought back to beat Munich on the buzzer.

Mozzies team talk before they fought back to beat Munich on the buzzer.

 

The final game of the group stages came against Austrian side, the Styrian Down Under Dogs. The Mozzies went into this game with their eyes fixed on a more than likely semi-final clash with rivals and fellow Champions League 2016 finalist West London Wildcats. The game against the Dogs was all or nothing. The side stepped up to the plate, conceding only one goal and showing why they were one of the best teams in Europe, the Mozzies finished top of their group after beating the dogs. Mozzies def Dogs 57 – 6.

 

Group C finished like this:

 

Pos Team Points
1 Manchester Mosquitoes 8
2 Munich Kangaroos 6
3 Bordeaux Bombers 4
4 Port Malmö Maulers 2
5 Styrian Down Under Dogs 0

 

 

After a long break between the final group game and the semi-finals, the Mozzies came face-to-face in a replay of last year’s AFL Europe Champions League final. Manchester Mosquitoes versus West London Wildcats. The Mozzies knew this would be a tough game, the Wildcats spine having played VFL standard football back in Australia prior to moving to the UK, and having lost to them on previous occasion. The Mozzies were pumped, the boys had been quiet for the first time all day, contemplating their job, what they could do to help their teammates and the club be the best they could. Through the game the maturity and experience of top level footy the Wildcats had benefited from was obvious. They were extremely accurate and clever with their leads. At half-time the Mozzies were by no means down and out, they trialled by only four goals, which on a small nine-a-side pitch is not much. The Mozzies started the half strong, knowing full well this was it if they didn’t win. Goals came the way of the Mozzies, Britton and Cochran again showing why they are in the Bulldogs IC17 squad, with Budd Norris showing his class at fullback with some top-class punches and solid contact. But it wasn’t enough. The Wildcats’ experience and size was too much. The Mozzies fell to their only defeat of the day. This loss left the Mozzies ranked third in the tournament. However, it was a performance to be proud of, and the boys held their heads high going in to the night’s celebrations of another great AFL Europe Champions League.

The Mozzies after their semi-final loss to the Wildcats, heads high and celebrations beginning.

The Mozzies after their semi-final loss to the Wildcats, heads high and celebrations beginning.

 

After a brief chat amongst the leadership group, Coach Chris Sproule announced the Best on Ground winners for the day. Budd Norris and Andy Cochran accepted their “pints” after a long, hard and impressive day of footy, they boys truly deserving of the award. Norris was strong at the back and barley let anything past him, even against the Wildcats when the goals were flowing, he constantly made himself present at the back with strong punches and some heavy contact. Cochran showed his class across the field, he put a huge shift in the midfield, whether it was on-ball or in the ruck, he dominated. It was a day for all the stats with Cochran from goals to possessions, Cochran would surely have been at the top.

 

AFL Europe closed the day with the formalities. West London Wildcats awarded their third AFL Champions League trophy in a row after downing the Amsterdam Devils 37 – 14 in a cracking final. In the Women’s tournament Wimbledon Hawks defeated Port Malmö Lynx 13 – 6 to be crowned as champions. The final items on the list were the ‘Team of the Tournament’ for both the Men’s and Women’s tournament, one player from each team won this accolade having been nominated ‘Best and Fairest’ by the pitch managers during the day’s play. The ‘Team of the Tournament’ Guernsey for the Mozzies went to midfielder Oli Hobin!

Hobin accepting his 'Team of the Tournament' guernsey from Tony Pubjie the First Consul of the Australian Embassy Netherlands.

Hobin accepting his ‘Team of the Tournament’ guernsey from Tony Pubjie, the First Consul of the Australian Embassy Netherlands.

 

We would like to thank AFL Europe, the umpires, volunteers, clubs and supporters for making AFL Europe Champions League 2017 such a brilliant day. Further thanks goes to Venture Studios Photography for their ongoing support of the club! On to the 2017 season, and qualifying for next year’s tournament!