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International Cup team summaries

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CANADIAN NORTHWIND
The Canadian Northwind squad consists of players head coach Ben Roberts and assistants Cody Royal and Adam Kelly have selected from the best footy athletes Canada has to offer.

Players have been selected from almost every province in Canada and because of the size, skill and agility that this squad has to offer, Northwind expects to make its presence known to the AFL community that it is here to stay and will be a force to be reckoned with.

The team plays with heart and makes sacrifices for each other on and off the field. If fans in Melbourne want to see Australia’s game played with passion, the Canadian Northwind team is sure to deliver entertaining, skilled and gritty matches.

CHINA DRAGONS
The China Dragons are three-time participants of the AFL International Cup. 

The IC14 team consists of players who have completed a domestic season at the South China Australian Football League. 

For the first time, the team has had a thorough selection process for players as well as a pre-tournament camp. 

This year’s tournament not only sees the team change its name to the Dragons, but also a much different outfit of players.

FINLAND ICEBREAKERS
Finland is making a comeback to the International Cup after missing the previous tournament. 

Although still small in stature, football has grown steadily in Finland and the game is attracting more and more natural talent from other sports. 

The game has evolved in the past couple of years with an emphasis on improving the quality of umpiring. Individual player skills are also improving rapidly, as is the understanding of the sport.

The team this year is a good mix of experienced veterans and new blood, with players from all domestic league teams as well as Finnish players playing in Ireland, Sweden and Australia. 

Coached by expats David King and Anthony McDonald and encouraged by good Euro Cup results, the Finns are looking to improve on their 14th-placed finish in 2008.

FIJI TRIBE
The Fiji Tribe won the Division 2 title in the 2011 International Cup campaign and are aiming to take it up to the top teams this year. 

The Tribe will be facing heavy favourite and defending Division 1 premier Ireland in the first round and will need to start the tournament with a bang. They will be up for the challenge and it will be a good measure of where they stand. 

The Fiji Tribe return as a stronger, more skilful and more experienced team. In their new-look black and ocean blue strip, they are set to fire up and be a competitive group of young men.

Players to watch include hard-working rover Juita Vateitei, who has experience, skills and fitness, midfielder-forward Mesake Koroi, who was Fiji’s leading goalkicker in 2011, and experienced ruckman Atunaisa Lewanavanua, a strong player with a good leap and good hands and a powerful kick.


FRANCE LES COQS
The goal for Les Coqs at IC14 is to come home with better results than in 2011. 

During the past three years, they have worked hard at club and national level in preparation for this tournament. 

The results of this development started to be seen at the 2013 Axios Euro Cup, where France achieved its best European performance by finishing second.

The squad is built around a core of the Toulouse team that has dominated for three years in France, players from other French clubs and playing abroad (Canada, the US, the UK and Australia) were added to this group.

Despite the different game format (nine-a-side in Europe), France will relish its opportunity and hopefully take its chances.

GREAT BRITAIN BULLDOGS
The GB Bulldogs have participated in all International Cups since the event began in 2002 and have shown steady development during this time. 

The 2014 squad is the strongest yet, with more young players having several years’ experience and others developing their footy with time in Australia. 

The squad contains a mix of players contesting the 18s and 9s formats, all of whom have made great efforts to get as much footy under their belts as possible in preparation for the greatest footy challenge of their lives.

Preparation for the tournament has been the most professional to date, with increased squad days, condition testing and more opportunities to interact with teammates. 

The development of the squad was amply demonstrated at the 2013 AFL Europe Championships in Dublin, with a heart-breaking Grand Final loss to international champion Ireland by a point.

IRELAND WARRIORS
The Warriors come into their fifth International Cup as the reigning champions and the only two-time winners of the tournament. 

Since the last International Cup, the team has had continued success, winning two Euro Cups and retaining its AFL Europe Championship title on home soil in a thrilling Grand Final victory over Great Britain, winning the game with the last kick of the tournament from Mark Leavy.  

The team will be led by player/coach David Stynes, who is playing in his fourth International Cup, and captain Mick Finn, the IC08 best and fairest winner. 

Look out for Ronan Geraghty, who plays with Sydney University in the NEAFL, Muiris Bartley, who played for the World XVIII in 2012, and ruckman Padraig Lucey, who played for the European Legion in 2013 and 2014 and featured in the FOX8 series The Recruit.

INDONESIA GARUDAS
Development of Australian Football in Indonesia started more than a decade ago with Australian expats facilitating footy clinics in many local schools, organisations and community groups. 

From the thousands of young Indonesians who have participated in these development programs, hundreds have been exposed to competitive football at ANZ Cup events.

The Indonesia Garudas squad consists of players from various cultural backgrounds and from many corners of Indonesia. Expat clubs in Jakarta, Balikpapan and Bali have united to oversee the development of the players and selection of the team.

Despite limited opportunities to play in competitive matches (there is no structured league in Indonesia), expect the Garudas to show blinding speed and a fearless determination at keeping possession of the ball. Indonesia may surprise a lot of opponents and win many fans at the International Cup.


JAPAN SAMURAIS
The Japan Samurais squad has been selected mainly from five clubs in the AFL Japan Top League, plus two players from Victorian and South Australian clubs. 

The team is by led by experienced players Jun Sekiguchi (coach/captain), Yosuke Kuno, Junji Tanaka and Michito Sakaki, who is making his fifth International Cup appearance. 

Like the last International Cup, half of the players are university students from Senshu Powers (Senshu University), Komazawa Magpies (Komazawa University) and Shonan Poseidons (Kanagawa University).

Of the young university boys, Sohei Yoshida will be one of Japan’s key players with his great marking skills. He spent five weeks at AFL Japan sister club Box Hill North in the VAFA this year as a scholarship player. 

NAURU CHIEFS
The Nauru Chiefs have been training together in Nauru since the squad was announced after the Grand Final in May. 

AFL Nauru selectors are confident they have the right mix of experienced players and youth. Trent Depaune, who was captain in 2008 and vice-captain in 2011, will lead the team this year. Depaune, along with other experienced campaigners such as Johnny Dagiaro, Mallinson Batsiua, Otto Adam and former GWS Giants international scholarship player Yoshi Harris will be looking to lead Nauru’s tilt at this year’s tournament.

Renowned for their fierce attack on the ball, the Chiefs will again showcase their toughness and physicality and their opponents will certainly know they have played a game of football afterwards. 

After finishing fifth and sixth in 2008 and 2011 respectively, the Chiefs will be looking to finish in the top four in 2014. Among the players to watch are the three Dagiaro boys – Johnny, Charles and young Ezekiel ‘Pilo’, who are athletic, energetic and fast. Also keep an eye on Harris and comeback kid Jonas Amwano, who missed 2011 with an ankle injury but in 2008 was Nauru’s best player and won a spot in that year’s international team.

NEW ZEALAND HAWKS
The New Zealand Hawks are the elite team in the AFL New Zealand high performance program. 

The team consists of young players who have emerged through the AFL New Zealand high performance system, those who have dominated the New Zealand club and provincial competitions, and players now plying their trade with clubs in Australia.

The New Zealand Hawks have a strong history at the International Cup, last winning the competition in 2005. While no players from that team will take the field, many team members were part of International Cup campaigns in 2008 and 2011. 

Coached by Justin Davies, Rob Malone and Andrew Congalton, the New Zealand Hawks play a tough and uncompromising brand of football. The expectation for the team is to go deep into the tournament.

PAKISTAN SHAHEENS
Ten months ago a group of Australian-based Pakistanis gathered on the fields of Princes Park in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton with a desire to learn the game of Australian Football.

Like many people new to the sport, they struggled at first with the shape of the ball, the unique rules and the complexity of the game. Today they compete in the International Cup.

The Shaheens have been officially endorsed by the Pakistan Government and have been widely embraced by the local community. The team has more than 150 registered players and that group has been trimmed to a 30-man squad. 

The founder of the Shaheens Sporting and Social Club, AFL Multicultural Programs Coordinator Kashif Bouns, says he is working on a broader vision of providing multicultural youth with an opportunity to engage with their Australian counterparts and encourage them to consider the AFL industry as a career option.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA MOSQUITOES
New sponsors, new players and a seasoned coaching and support staff have the Mosquitoes poised to reach the top again.

With an average age just under 21 and led by experienced coach David Lake, the Mosquitoes are looking to repeat their 2008 International Cup triumph.

The retirement of a host of stars and the unavailability of former AFL-listed players Peter Labi, David Meli and Stannis Susuve, mainly through injury, has given opportunity to a band of youngsters to make their mark.

Led by the experienced Donald Barry (former Brisbane Lions listed player) and Willy Aisi (Cairns representative), the squad will be young, exciting, quick and unpredictable.

Bringing the squad together is logistically and financially difficult with just over half playing in PNG and the rest on scholarships or playing throughout the eastern seaboard of Australia. But with over 40 years on the international stage, including all four International Cups, the Mosquitoes are keen to continue being a benchmark for international football.

SOUTH AFRICA LIONS
The South Africa Lions squad for the International Cup has a blend of experienced players combined with the enthusiasm and talent of several promising youngsters.

The 28-man squad has 16 players making their debut for the Lions, which includes five players aged between 16 and 19 who have come through the footy program in South Africa in the past five years. Having a SA Lions provisional squad in the past two-and-a-half years has ensured there has been intense competition between the players to make the final touring squad. 

The Lions players are looking forward to showing off their flair and skill at the International Cup, but they will take it one game at a time to achieve their ultimate goal of bringing the cup home to South Africa.

SWEDEN ELKS
The Swedish Elks will participate in their third International Cup and will be looking to continue their climb up the international rankings. 

The Elks will be heading into this event with a relatively young squad. Thirteen players will make their official international competition debut in the tournament, giving the Elks a strong blend of experience and youth.

Rebuilding and development will be a strong focus for the Elks during the competition, although a top-10 finish for the team is an achievable expectation for the Swedes, who are under the watchful eye of long-time coach Dan McClaer.

With plenty of exciting young talent in the team, led by the experience of four-time International Cup participant Andreas Svensson and Chris Mårtensson, you can anticipate the likes of European Legion member Hampus Olsson and up-and-comer Max Skärlén to have a strong impact throughout the Cup as the Elks look to turn some heads in this tournament.

TONGA THUNDER
After its debut in 2011, Tonga Thunder’s team and management know what is needed to compete in a competition that asks for five games in two weeks.

The Thunder have several players who have competed in Sydney competitions for the past two years. Undoubtedly this experience will prove beneficial on the field. 

The team has a healthy average age of 23.5 years and, with most players coming from rugby backgrounds, they are accustomed to a physical contest. The team has a good mixture of physical attributes, fitness and the ability to adapt to game-sense situations quickly. 

The team will be coached by Jim Lucy (coach of 2005 International Cup winner New Zealand), Malakai Mahina, Ed McGowan (ex-VAFA player), Trevor Stack and Barry Lawrence. This is an experienced group, with Stack and Lawrence having an affiliation with WAFL club Peel Thunder. 

Tonga’s motto is ‘OUA E LOTO FO’I’ which translates to ‘never give up’.

USA REVOLUTION
The USA Revolution are the men’s All-Star team, consisting of the best American players from around the country.

The team is named after the American Revolution, an event which gave the country separation from the British Empire, and wears the colours of the American flag. 

The program was founded in 1999 when the team, coached by AFL coach Paul Roos, played Canada in the first 49th Parallel Cup (then known as the CanAm Cup) in Chicago. 

The Revolution have continued their fierce continental rivalry with the Canadian Northwind by playing them every year preceding the International Cup. 

The US team has participated in every International Cup since the first in 2002. They have finished as high as third and are coming off an impressive fourth place showing in 2011.

This year the Revolution look to go one further and compete for the International Cup on the MCG.

WOMEN’S 

CANADA MIDNIGHT SUNS
The Midnight Suns began as a development squad that first played at the Parallel Cup in Ohio in 2012. 

When the AFL announced it was considering the possibility of adding an additional team to the IC14 women’s competition, there was an overwhelming response from across the country, and within hours there was enough interest to field a second Canadian team.

While many of the players have yet to play side by side, they are united by their determination, passion and excitement for the game and the opportunity to represent their country. Their future is so bright they’ve brought their sunglasses.

CANADA NORTHERN LIGHTS
Women’s football in Canada has come a long way since the first women’s team was formed in 2007 before the Northern Lights’ first international match against the USA Freedom.

The growth of AFL in Canada, and in particular in the women’s game, is unprecedented and the skill, talent and genuine passion and commitment these women show for the game should win over many fans in Melbourne.

Since finishing second to the Irish Banshees in the inaugural women’s International Cup in 2011, the squad has been training hard. With the support of the coaching staff, family, friends and fans, the Northern Lights look forward to competing against some of the world’s best players. 

FIJI VONU
Fiji Vonu, AFL Fiji’s first female team in the International Cup, is looking to make an impact. 

With 40 participants and a female competition having been established only this year, the interest continues to grow and those in the squad are excited and proud to be representing their nation in this tournament.

The leadership group, consisting of captain Siiteri Tadrau, Litia Matanisigadrau and Vilise Sukhu, believe the squad has progressed a lot as a team and are eager to face the challenge. The team has been training hard in the lead-up and is continuing to focus on developing its skills. It is the first time many of the squad members have travelled overseas.

Worth looking out for is midfielder and vice-captain Litia Matanisigadrau, who has pace and is skilful. 

Another midfielder, Shelly Fong, is the fittest in the squad, is solid and can rove the ball all over the ground.

IRELAND BANSHEES
The reigning women’s champions, the Banshees come into this year’s International Cup with several new faces in the squad, but retain the experience of players such as Emma Kelly, Aimee Louise Hazley and Laura Corrigan, who were so impressive in 2011.

The team took a sabbatical from competition in 2012, but remains unbeaten in all competitions since being formed in 2010.

The team is again made up of a core group of players who play for the Dublin Angels and Ulster Kookaburras, but are joined by a number of players based in Melbourne and Sydney. 

New players to watch out for include Donegal pair Carolann Cassidy and Fiona Roarty, who have only taken up the sport this year but have made swift progress.

TONGA STORM
Playing in its first International Cup, Tonga initially may find the going a bit daunting, but the women will adjust to the situation quickly. Many team members are young, have great fitness and skill levels and will revel in the physicality of the game. 

During the trials for the team, several women showed great fitness levels in beep tests and 3km runs. A good mix of sizes will cover all positions with ease, especially a good running midfield that spreads quickly and tackles with the ferocity expected in this competition.

While the Storm do not have the experience of several other teams in the women’s competition, they will match them with fitness, endurance and spirit – something that this small island nation has plenty of.

Tonga’s motto is ‘OUA E LOTO FO’I’, which translates to ‘never give up’.

USA FREEDOM
Women’s football in the United States was established in 2003 with an exhibition match at that year’s USAFL National Championships.  

This sparked rapid growth and quickly led to the formation of the national USA Freedom team in 2007.

USA Freedom earned a first-up international victory over the Canadian Northern Lights at the 2007 Parallel Cup, paving the way for the Freedom’s journey to Australia for the inaugural women’s competition at the International Cup in 2011.

The squad placed third, narrowly missing a spot in the final after a hard-fought loss to Ireland in the final round-robin match.

The USA Freedom is hopeful of competing in the final this year and excited to showcase American development.

USA LIBERTY
Soon after the US Freedom was founded in 2007, the US Freedom Academy was formed to provide a pathway for players to earn spots in the team.

The academy provides access to national team coaches, training camps and tryouts for any player who aspires to make the US Freedom squad.

In 2012, the academy had grown to allow for two squads to compete against Canada in the 49th Parallel Cup.

With the US and Canada both having sufficient numbers for two squads, the US Liberty was created as the development squad for the US Freedom.

The initial focus was to provide a team to play against Canada’s development squad in the years that the 49th Parallel Cup is contested.