The Bulldogs squad consits of 28 players – 3 from Scotland, 3 from Wales and the rest from England. The team includes fourteen players presently based in Australia – ten from Melbourne, one from Port Lincoln, two from Brisbane and one from the Gold Coast. (Eligibility rules say that you must have lived in the country you represent between the age of 10 and 16.). Uk based players are screened and tested before Christmas and then again at Easter to make sure they are prepared for the journey south.
The international team members will leave Britain and fly to Australia – the team is lucky to have Brunei Airlines as a major sponsor – meeting their Australian based compatriates just two days before the tournament is due to begin, in order to reduce costs. They wont even have a practice match – the teams first game together in Australia will be their first game in the International Cup!
The Bulldogs are coached by Mark Apitura, who has been head coach of the side since 2009. He has an assistant coach, a physio and two runners to assist him. A relatively small operation compared to what some countries will send.
Great Britain has had a mixed fortune on the International Australian Football scene in the last year. A Bulldogs side won the 9 a side EU Cup in Bordeaux last year, while in the 18 a side European Championship, they went down by a point to the top ranked European side, Ireland.
British sides have competed at every International cup since 2002, however Great Britain has never finished higher than sixth and are currently ranked 11th having finished 7th at the last Cup and with a winning percentage of 45%.
The close game against the highly rated Irish side at the European Championships, puts the Bulldogs within reach of the tournaments big 4 sides. Ireland have won the tournament twice, New Zealand and New Guinea once each. Mark believes that if his squad can gel quickly, and if they can get a little bit of luck, then they can achieve their tournament goal of finishing higher than 7th and showing some imrpovement. However, he also added that all countries will be seeking to improve, making the challenge all the more greater.
The 2014 International Cup begins on August 9th in Melbourne. You can find more details about it here.
Players to watch:
- Sam Willat – Centre half forward from Birmingham. Willat comes from a soccer and basketball background, and the coach says that he has a great pair of hands and good speed for his size.
- Sean Waltan, the team captain from the Birmingham Bears. Sean will be at his second tournament, and was part of the team that won the EU Cup last year in france – being named to the team of the tournament. The coach is expecting him to have a very good tournament. You can read more about him here.
You can find the full team line up on the AFL England website.