Wales can make the breakthrough and become a top four European nation in Australian Rules football – in both the men’s and women’s game – according to national coach Tom Case.
Both national teams recently returned from the Euro Cup in Sweden, where countries from across the continent competed in a sport which continues to expand away from its heartland Down Under.
Wales men finished seventh – which was a disappointment for a side hopeful of elbowing their way into the elite – but the women enjoyed their best placing yet of sixth.
That gave enough encouragement to Case that Wales can continue their progress.
“The women finished sixth out of eight – their best placing at a Euro Cup and showed real promise for the future,” said Case.
“The men’s and women’s teams both performed brilliantly on the day and can be very proud of what they achieved.
“The men’s group stages went in order of the seedings with good wins against the Czech Dragons and Swiss Wolves and a hard fought loss to ultimate finalists the Irish Warriors.
“With a top four place as the tournament objective, the men were then disappointed to lose their next two games. However, they stormed through their last game to thrash the Nederland Flying Dutchmen to pick up seventh place.
“The Dragons were fit, skilful and played well as a team. That top four place is within our grasp if we keep developing the sport in Wales.
“I thoroughly enjoyed coaching the Dragons and Wyverns. It’s a real honour to be part of such a fantastic group of people.”
Like the domestic Welsh Australian Rules Football League, the Euro Cup is a shortened nine-a-side version of the sport.
A total of 16 nations competed, playing 68 matches across five pitches on one day.
England beat Ireland in the men’s final, whilst that outcome was reversed in the women’s final, with Ireland the victors.
Wales men’s vice-captain Scott Jones believes his team can make that leap into the top four standings in the not too distant future.
“We had it all – nerves, excitement, victories, disappointments, a lot of love and some heated moments,” said Jones.
“This is the emotional rollercoaster of sport and doing what you love if you’re lucky enough. The emotions are taken even higher when you play for your country.
“Despite falling slightly short of my target, we had many other wins for the day.
“I’m so proud of all the boys and their unwavering commitment. It was an absolute pleasure to see debutant Rhodri James putting in some well-timed hits and Alex Clarke pinging some goals from some tight angles as well as the others making their first appearances – Connor Neeson and Rory Dewhurst.
“I look forward to getting these boys together again next year and can’t wait to see us come back and get ourselves further up the rankings.”