The GB Swans’ first few days…

It was at Heathrow last Wednesday that Team GB gathered to begin their journey over to Australia for the 2017 International Cup. With a four-hour stopover at Kuala Lumpur en route and sleep plans to follow, it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that the respective male and female squads took to the air.


The flights themselves were thankfully hassle-free and the Swans disembarked at a grey and blustery Melbourne airport early on Friday morning. With bags dropped at our accommodation, the group left to wander into Melbourne to sample some of its famous coffee and brunch scene. As the various groups made their way back towards Carlton Gardens to check in, unpack and begin preparations for what was to come, the sense of anticipation was beginning to build. A joint light cardio session with the Bulldogs at Carlton Gardens, expertly lead by the physio team, sent the group to bed that evening looking forward to an early session on Saturday morning at the ground before the opening ceremony.


As the sun was coming up over Melbourne, the Swans and Bulldogs began to descend on Royal Park for a final run through of structures and team plays before the opening round. Both camps reported positive sessions with minimal injuries so with a quick freshen up and change, it was across town to Government House and the opening ceremony. Both squads enjoyed the hospitality at the event and took in the many different cultures from the other visiting teams. The South Africans were, as always, in fine voice, and players and staff took the opportunity to say hello to old friends from previous tournaments.

The Swans at Government House


With it being the first International Cup experience for all the Swans, the group couldn’t wait to get to the MCG. To get the opportunity to walk around the ground before the AFL game between Essendon and Carlton was such a fantastic experience. There were selfies, selfie sticks, Go Pros and camera phones everywhere as everyone wanted to try to capture the moment. The small crowd already in attendance gave all the players a warm reception as they made their way around the famous old ground. For many, the game that followed was an added bonus. Essendon and Carlton were good enough to provide a close and entertaining spectacle that kept supporters on the edge of their seats until the last few minutes.


At the MCG for Essendon v Carlton


Upon returning to the accommodation, there was time for the team announcement which is always tough. When you come to tournaments like this, quite often the pinnacle in many players sporting lives, and you have to leave some players out of the first game, it’s definitely not something that you look forward to. With it being a long tournament and games coming thick and fast we had to make decisions based on maintaining player’s fitness levels, managing little niggles and what is best for the whole squad in the long run. The girls missing out on the first game took the decisions well and went on to play crucial roles on the sidelines during the first game.


Another early start on the Sunday was required for the girls to make the trip to Royal Park to face a Pakistan side who were also debuting in the International Cup. The whole squad made the journey and the non-playing members of this squad were simply superb. They warmed up with the group, helped the coaching staff with various roles on the day and were a full part in what turned out to be a great performance for the side. By their own admission, Pakistan are an inexperienced side and this showed on the day. The Swans showed great discipline to hold Pakistan to no scoring shots whilst kicking 20.22.142 themselves for a convincing win.


Final instructions given before the start of the IC 17 campaign


Rania Ramadan and Stacey Hughes top scored with four goals apiece and other notable performances came from Lucy Jones and Alannah Blount in midfield with the Saulter sisters, Alex and Danni, also contributing with some fine goal kicking. I find that games like this can often be hard for players and coaches alike, as it is difficult to maintain structure and discipline against sides that aren’t playing the game in a way that you are used to. Often, the Pakistanis would be out of position or even unsure on the rules. However, I thought the girls maintained both their discipline and structure really well on the whole, which is pleasing moving forwards.


Warming up as the sun comes up!


Monday morning is dedicated to recovery before the majority of the girls have some free time to enjoy Melbourne.  I will also be doing the same as I haven’t been here for six years! We have been lucky enough to gain access to one of the local ‘anytime’ gyms, which the girls are using for their recovery, as well as the facilities at the accommodation. Tomorrow we will train as a group again before Wednesday’s vital game against Fiji, who were excellent in their narrow defeat to IC14 champions Canada yesterday. Head coach Garth and I watched that match intently and were impressed by the attack on the ball and competitiveness of both teams, so they will be two games to look forward to!



  1. WTF? a female Aussie Rules (I refuse to call it AFL) team from Pakistan, i’m flabbergasted but that is sensational, are they genuine Pakistani girls or ex-pat Aussies or a mixture of both?do they play in hijabs?shame they got flogged & didn’t score but what a revelation, great hopes for our native game ….

  2. Both GB teams won their opening match. It’s probably fair to say that the Swans were expected to win, but that Bulldogs win against Sth Africa was perhaps the shock result of the opening day.

    Having seen a bit of the Canada v Fiji game, the Swans clearly have a couple of tough games coming up.

    As for the Bulldogs, they must go in as favourites gainst Canada, and then have Ireland and Fiji.

  3. Hi Ian,

    Your story is so interesting and I bet you and your Swan girls enjoy the great experiences in Melbourne.

    The Essendon versus Carlton seemed a good game. Carlton’s forward Levi Casboult missed a goal in the last minutes. How did you see his action? I hope you sensed the big rivalry of two clubs at the game.

    Are you planning to meet AFL women players? I think you could learn more from AFL girls.

    You all seem fine with time difference. That’s good and I was happy I didn’t have a jet lag when I visited York in February/March from Japan.

    I wish you all the best on today’s match against Fiji. Go Swans!



  4. Hi Yoshi,

    We are really fortunate to have Lauren Spark as Assistant Coach (Melbourne University and Western Bulldogs) so we have not only spent tons of time with her but trained with MUWFC so players like Moana Hope etc… the whole squad had a great experience out at Arden St. We also got to meet Cat Philips last night (Melbourne Demons) who spent some time growing up in London.

    We are gradually getting used to the time zone but a few are still struggling to sleep! Thanks.

  5. Ian Mitchell says

    Gerry – it is my pet hate when the game is called ‘AFL!!’ In fact, that might be a topic for a future post…

    Anyway, yes the whole Pakistan team traveled over from Pakistan I am lead to believe. The majority wore longer shorts and socks with long sleeved tops. I’m sure there are photos on facebook etc if you search for them.

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