FOOTY AROUND THE WORLD: Germany

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The Aussie rules phenomenon has expanded in continental Europe in recent years, and Germany has been no exception. The sport was originally played there in 1995, with clubs formed by Aussie expats in both Munich (the Redbacks) and Frankfurt (the Kangaroos). The two clubs competed against each other on a largely informal basis until AFL Germany was founded in 1999.

In 2003, the league expanded, with the Berlin Crocodiles and Hamburg Dockers joining and forming a nice nucleus for a nationwide German competition. Soon enough, the Dusseldorf Lions (now the Rheinland Lions) and the Stuttgart Emus were added in the ensuing years.

The German national footy team, the Black Eagles, were established in 2006, when they participated in a tri-nation series of matches against Sweden and Denmark. The Eagles were able to use that experience as a springboard the following year in the same series, defeating Sweden in Berlin for their first international victory in July 2007. That September, the EU Cup – another international Aussie rules tournament – was hosted in Hamburg, where the Eagles finished in second place.

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The Eagles have desired to make an impact at the International Cup, but AFL Germany has been reluctant in the past, instead voicing the desire to focus on regional development and becoming a dominant force at various European tournaments, both in traditional 18-a-side format and 9-a-side. In the summer of 2011, the Eagles dominated France’s national team, the Coqs, at a test match in Paris.

After gaining suitable support to the greenlight from AFL Germany, the Black Eagles will be making their long-awaited International Cup debut later in 2017; AFL Germany now boasts four separate leagues, and many other clubs are looking to get started in the near future.

AFL GERMANY

  • Berlin Crocs
  • Dresden Wolves
  • Frankfurt Redbacks
  • Freiburg Taipans
  • Hamburg Dockers
  • Munich Kangaroos
  • Rheinland Lions
  • Stuttgart Emus

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GERMANS IN THE AFL

  • Alex Ruscuklic (played 1966-1974) — This German-born footballer was a star forward for Fitzroy, kicking 189 goals in 108 career games with the club. A testy relationship with his coaches resulted in his departure from Fitzroy, and he landed at Carlton in the 1974 season before announcing his retirement.
  • Peter Ruscuklic (played 1975-1981) — Alex’s younger brother was not quite as successful, but had some notable moments as a full-forward for both Fitzroy (1975-76) and Geelong (1977). After leaving the VFL, Ruscuklic caught on with the East Sydney Football Club in the Sydney Football League before retiring in 1981 and moving into coaching. He passed away suddenly at the age of 58 in 2014.
  • David Schwarz (played 1991-2002) — Originally from Sunbury, Victoria, Schwarz was a German-Australian footballer who was known for his goalkicking abilities. Although his later career was marred by knee injuries, Schwarz played in 173 games with the Melbourne Demons and became an AFL commentator following his retirement.
  • Dean Terlich (played 2013-2016) — Terlich is a German Australian who originally played in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL). He was drafted by the Sydney Swans in the 2008 rookie draft but never played a game for them, eventually falling in with the Melbourne Demons by 2013. He played in 35 career games before being delisted by the end of the 2016 season.
  • Jack Riewoldt (played 2007-present) — Riewoldt is of German descent on his father’s side and grew up in Tasmania, where he played for the Clarence Football Club before getting drafted by Richmond, where he remains today. Riewoldt is perhaps best known for his 2015 campaign, when he became the first Richmond player to kick 50-plus goals in six straight seasons.
  • Nick Riewoldt (played 2000-present) — A first cousin of Jack, Riewoldt has spent his lengthy AFL career entirely with the St Kilda Football Club, entering the league as the #1 overall pick in 2000. Although born in Tasmania, Riewoldt was historically significant as the first #1 pick to play his junior and senior footy in Queensland. To date, he has been St Kilda’s leading goalkicker four separate times and is a five-time All-Australian.
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