On the 19th of March three Red Lion favourites will be taking part in the biggest Aussie Rules tournament outside of Australia, The AFL Europe Champions League. Neil ‘Biscuit’ Cooke, Michael ‘Vegas’ Stewart and Tom ‘Sloppy’ Crameri will go from teammates to rivals, hoping to take home the coveted title of the best club in Europe.
The Champions League is being contested for the 2nd time in Amsterdam, with the West London Wildcats hoping to defend their title from last year. To be invited to play in the tournament, teams must win their national leagues in their respective countries. The competition is an initiative of the AFL’s governing body in Europe, AFL Europe, and is co-organised with the Dutch Australian Football Association (DAFA).
Former Red Lions are scattered all around the world, plying their footy trade in countries new to AFL. Three in particular will meet again on the field come March 19, aiming to take away the top prize of being crowned AFL Europe Champion. Biscuit and Vegas will be teaming up for the host team, the Amsterdam Devils, while Slops will don the yellow and black for the mighty Manchester Mosquitoes.
Each team has been drawn into a pool where they will play each other once. The top teams from each pool will proceed to the finals with the remainder battling it out for the minor placings. The UQ boys will definitely be playing each other as the Devils and Mozzies have been drawn in the same pool along with the 2015 AFL London Premiers, the North London Lions. This pool is being regarded as the ‘pool of death’ as all teams are highly regarded in the AFL Europe community.
When asked how his team was travelling in preparation for the weekend, Tommy Crameri said, “the Mozzies are pretty keen to showcase the talent from the North of England”. The team has been setting themselves up for the Champions League since the 2015 Grand Final. Having won 4 in the past 5 flags in the Central and North England competition the boys from Manchester could go all the way on Saturday. Crameri went on to say, “we’ve been training for about 2 months and the standard is great. The boys live and breathe footy up here, especially the non-Aussies. We’re taking a really strong squad across and looking to go as far as we can”.
Unfortunately, only one team from the pool of death will progress to the Championship rounds. Standing in the way of Tommy’s side will be Vegas and Biscuit’s Amsterdam Devils who have been training since early January. Perseverance is the key word at the Devils. Not many years ago they only had two playing members. This year they are up to 34 with Biscuit and Vegas poised to play major roles on Saturday.
When asked how he thought the Devils would do leading into the Champions League, Biscuit stated “This year we have our eyes set firmly on the prize. I believe we have the talent, passion and sheer determination and drive required to test any team at the Champions League and really put Amsterdam on the AFL map”. When questioned about the prospect of taking on an Ex-Red Lion, Biscuit continued, “We’ve been drawn in the same group as the Manchester Mozzies (where Tom Crameri is playing his footy) and current AFL London Premiers the North London Lions, so expect fireworks from the first bounce”.
No doubt, regardless of the outcome on Saturday, the boys will relish the opportunity to play footy abroad against so many different nationalities and catch up for a well-deserved beer with some familiar faces afterwards.
Make sure you keep up-to-date with scores and results by following AFL Europe’s various social media accounts: