WITH over 700 international players and officials, representing 16 countries and regional areas, the 2008 AFL International Cup was the most successful Australian Football tournament of its kind. This year’s AFL International Cup will see 18 nations competing with Tonga, France, Fiji and East Timor all participating for the first time as well as an inaugural women’s tournament with five countries taking part.
The Great Britain Bulldogs will again be competing in the cup with players being drawn from all across the country as well as some already based in Australia. This year’s squad includes a greater number of players from regional areas of Great Britain where in the past the team had largely been made up of London based players. The Huddersfield Rams, Birmingham Bears, Manchester Mosquitoes and Cardiff Panthers have all contributed players to the 2011 team as well as a strong showing from the London based clubs. The team will be captained by Paul Harris from the Putney Magpies who, at the ripe old age of 39, will be representing Great Britain at his third International Cup. With only a few returning players from the 2008 International Cup, experience is at a premium in the squad however senior coach and former AFL player Mark Pitura, will be looking to take advantage of some new found height in their squad. An average height of 185cm across the team, two players standing an imposing 205cm and a further six players in the 190-200cm range, the Bulldogs will be one of the tallest squads in the competition.
Each player in the Bulldogs squad has had to raise £2,500 just to make the trip and with a recent spate of injuries, the journey to take part in the cup has not been an easy one. Despite these setbacks, the team is looking forward to the opportunity to represent their country abroad as well as the challenge of taking on the best national teams from around the world. Having placed 9th in 2008 and being grouped with Ireland and East Timor this year, the Bulldogs are hoping to progress to the second round of the tournament where they could potentially face the daunting prospect of a match up against the champions of the 2008 International Cup, Papua New Guinea or runners-up New Zealand. While they may not line up in the final, the team will still have the honour of taking part in a Parade of Nations at half time of AFL games at Sydney’s ANZ stadium and the MCG.
The 2011 AFL International Cup will take place in Australia from August 12 — 27 with matches being played in both Sydney and Melbourne and the grand final being played as a curtain raiser for the Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs clash at the MCG, 27 August. You can keep tabs on Great Britains progress in the competition and all other results at http://www.facebook.com/AFLInternationalCup