The culmination of the 2016 AFL London season takes place this Saturday the 6th of August at the picturesque Motspur Park. Eight teams will battle it out across four divisions in an attempt to become the 2016 premiers.
Also see: AFL London finals action: FULL REPORT
Social Division: South London Demons v Reading Kangaroos
The Social Division Grand Final will be anything but social come 10:30am on Saturday morning. These two sides have met only once this season, a round 2 blockbuster at Clapham Common, where the Demons ran away 27 point winners.
It’ll be the best part of three months since they last played one another and a lot has changed for the two sides since they last locked horns.
The Demons finished the regular season as minor premiers, dropping only one game to the Ealing Emus in round 5. Redemption was sweet for the Demons as they won through to the Grand Final with a convincing 10-goal win against the Emus two weeks ago in the major semi-final.
The Roos have gone the scenic route to the big one with a minor semi-final win against the Wimbledon Hawks before snatching victory from the more fancied Emus in last weekend’s preliminary final.
They’ll be up-and-about off the back of that prelim victory and their momentum will be a worry for the Demons who had the week off.
With all 3 men’s team playing in Grand Finals this weekend for the Demons, they’ll have a full squad to choose from and will go into this one as early favourites. The Roos will be buoyed by their upset victory in the prelim and will be hard to put away.
This one is going to kick the day off in style and will be a treat for all spectators making the journey down to Motspur Park nice and early.
Coach’s thoughts: Reading Roos, Travis White
“Coming off a hard fought win in the prelim, we need to make sure we put in a good four-quarter effort to back it up this weekend. The boys are looking forward to having a red hot crack and bringing the Cup back out to Reading.”
Conference Division: Clapham Demons v Shepherds Bush Raiders
Prior to the major semi-final two weeks ago the Shepherds Bush Raiders were a shoe-in to claim yet another Conference premiership. No one had looked like beating them all year until the Clapham Demons, on a stinking hot day at the Common, got a jump on them early to hold out as 11-point winners.
The Raiders were trailing by seven goals at three quarter time and as expected cranked up the pressure to close the gap to be within two kicks at the final siren. It was too little too late for the Raiders in that game but they bounced back in the preliminary final at the weekend in clinical fashion with a classy display against a valiant South East London Giants.
The Demons would’ve made the most of the week off following that draining first final win and will be primed when the two old rivals got head-to-head again on Saturday.
History is against the boys from Clapham who haven’t claimed a Conference premiership since 2009. That day was one of only a couple of times the Raiders haven’t won the Grand Final since the second tier of the AFL London competition was introduced.
With a midday bounce and the mercury rising to a scorching 25 degrees, the elements could play a factor in this one. The game is set to be an arm-wrestle for four quarters with the side who adjusts to the intensity first likely to hold the ascendancy in what is shaping up to be one of the closest games of the day.
Coach’s thoughts: Clapham Demons, Ash Pittman
“The Raiders have been the benchmark of the twos competition for the last five years and it has been the same for the 2016 season. We are excited to take on the best in the business in the big one and have been working really hard over the past month. We came up against a depleted side in the semi and the Raiders will have some handy inclusions. They will take some beating but we have hit form at the right time and have been playing great team footy. There were some tough decisions made during the week but we are confident that we have a side to the break the Raiders run just like we did in 2009.”
Coach’s thoughts – Shepherds Bush Raiders, Jared Risol
“The footy club is pumped to have two sides make the Grand Finals. It was disappointing losing in the first final at Clapham Common, however you always have to look at the positives and we had worked hard to get the second chance. The boys can’t wait to get out and test ourselves on Saturday”
Women’s Division: Wimbledon Hawks v North London Lions
The undefeated Hawks welcome a battle-hardened North London outfit onto their home turf in an attempt to become the only AFL London side to go through the 2016 season without dropping a game. The Hawks have been clear standouts in the women’s competition all year and it’s hard to see them crumbling under the pressure on Saturday.
The Lions will be under the pump from the first bounce after winning their place in the big dance with a nail-biting preliminary final victory last weekend. With an extra game to fine tune and gel as a unit, the Lions could pose a genuine threat to the Hawks juggernaut.
In what is typically a low scoring, contested game it’ll be crucial to get on the board first in this one. First goal will go a long way in determining the outcome and no doubt both coaches will be stressing the importance on that in their last address to the players.
Whatever the result on Saturday we’ll be seeing a first-time women’s premier crowned at Motspur Park. Being played as the curtain-raiser to the Premiership game will mean the crowd will be brimming for what is bound to be an amazing display of women’s footy in London.
With the new women’s AFL competition starting up in Australia next year I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a few girls from this game strutting their stuff for an AFL club in the near future.
This one is the Hawks to lose but stranger things have happened on Grand Final day and without doubt the Lions will be doing everything in their power to spoil the party. The underdog status will suit the Lions who are the best equipped team to end the Hawks’ run of dominance.
Coach’s thoughts: Wimbledon Hawks
“I am really proud of what the team has achieved so far this season, we’ve been consistent and effective in all our games. The girls have worked hard all season and really come together to produce a high standard of football in the women’s league. As long as we play our brand of football, we expect to play our best game this weekend.”
Coach’s thoughts: North London Lions
“The girls have worked hard all season and thoroughly deserve their chance this weekend. They’ve really come together as a group and have shown real heart and determination to give it a red hot crack.”
Premiership Division: West London Wildcats v Wandsworth Demons
17 points, 13 points, 12 points. Those are the margins that have split these two powerhouses in season 2016. Its AFL London’s greatest rivalry and come 3:30pm Saturday another enthralling chapter will be added.
These two foundation clubs have contested against one another for AFL London’s greatest prize eight times with both claiming four apiece. The winner of this one can lay legitimate claim to being the most successful AFL club in London.
The Wildcats had the weekend off leading into the big one after putting the Demons to the sword early in the first final. The Demons clawed their way back but left it far too late.
A tough, hard-fought preliminary final win could be just what the Wandsworth Demons need to get over the line on Saturday. The effects of that game will come to the forefront late in Saturday’s Grand Final as to whether the Demons kick on or run out of gas.
Both sides will welcome back some players for the big dance and will no doubt take this one to the next level.
The Wildcats will have last year’s surprise defeat to the North London Lions on their minds as they’ll be hoping to get some redemption for what could have been.
Likewise, the Demons won’t be forgetting the missed opportunity of the 2014 Premiership where they had one of the most talented sides seen in recent history.
Regardless of history, these two teams have been standouts in season 2016 and will again do battle in what is anticipated to be one of the most hotly contested Grand Finals between these two archrivals.
With a fiery semi-final two weeks ago still on the players’ minds this one could boil over and it’ll be the team who focuses on the footy first who’ll most likely control the play.
With a late afternoon bounce at the picturesque Motspur Park you’d be mad not to get down to see this one.
Coach’s thoughts: Wandsworth Demons, Frank Caldow
“We have had three fantastic duals against the Wildcats this season. All have come down to the wire so the scene is set for a classic finale. We are blessed to be able to be involved in a football competition that is equivalent to that of a very high standard back in Oz, whilst also being able to involve and develop players from the UK and other nations. Everything that’s happened to date has been great for both, but all that matters is what happens during those four quarters on Saturday. That’s what makes AFL the greatest game, the team that wants it more generally prevails.”
Coach’s thoughts: West London Wildcats, Keith Della-Vedova
“The Demons have set the benchmark for the year early and finished on top come season’s end, so we had to match them step for step in the first final as we knew it was going to be a big test and we know it’s going to take an even bigger effort this weekend. Our guys are raring to go with a mixture of new guys to the club who are looking for their first chance at success and guys who are looking to make amends for last year’s grand final loss. Both grades are looking forward to the big challenge on Saturday and hopefully we can deliver for the club.”
WORDS BY: Benjamin Durrance