IC17: Head Coach Cody Royle Believes In Top Four Finish For Canada
In 2012 Cody Royle answered the call as an assistant coach and joined Team Canada. In 2013 he became the midfield coach for the Parallel Cup and 2014 International Cup. By 2015, head coach Ben Roberts had stepped aside and Royle jumped into the coaching role.
In 2016 for the first time ever, AFL Canada held a provincial-level tournament and Royle used that to select two teams from 44 players for a head-to-head selection game in Toronto. The day after the selection game Royle announced a squad of 30 that would represent Canada at IC17.
Over the May 24 Weekend, a development team traveled to London, UK to take on Great Britain, Wales and the Wandsworth Demons which could evolve into a quad-series between Canada-USA-Ireland-Great Britain in the years to come during non-International Cup years.
Justin Robertson caught up with Team Canada head coach Cody Royle to see where things are at, a few months out from International Cup 2017 held in Melbourne.
How is the team placed ahead of IC17?
This will be the best team we've ever sent to an International Cup, for a number of reasons. As I mentioned earlier, we had the 44 best guys in Canada to choose from, so we had to turn away at least 14 players. Also, 12 of our 30-man squad have been to an IC before, so they know the rigors of playing 5 games in 14 days. Lastly, we're now seeing the real fruits of BC's junior program, where some of our core 24-27 year olds have been playing footy for 12, 13, 14 years. With that much experience, and now in their physical primes, it's going to be exciting to watch.
Who have been some standouts?
Mickey Berk from Edmonton is probably the most improved player in the country. His third or fourth game of footy (ever) was for Canada against USA and he's progressed incredibly quickly since then. Matthia Singh is a veteran that just keeps getting better - he was on our IC14 squad and was the best player at the Canadian Nationals. Jacob Martin from Grand River, who most people know as "Junior", is very much not junior anymore. He's already been to one IC and has now grown into his body - we might have to start calling him something else.
How can someone go from being a person who watched a game of Australian Rule football to playing for their country on Team Canada?
Go to practice. The guys we select aren't the ones that just show up to games on a Saturday - they live and breathe for practice. Aussie Rules isn't a sport you can excel at by trying to play it "pickup" style like other North American sports. You learn to kick effectively, pick up the ball cleanly, and play in the wet, by going to practice.
The squad is made of players from all over the country. How do you train together or come up with a plan that is cohesive?
This is becoming increasingly tough, especially since we also have players playing in Australia. Historically most of the team was based in Ontario so we could organize training regularly. But AFL Canada have allowed us to invest in technology that's making it easier for us to implement our gameplan before we get to Australia. It does feel weird not being able to train together every week, but it's encouraging that we have a squad of players spread out from Delta, BC to Cape Breton, NS.
What does the next few months look like for you and your team as you lock down final preparations before heading to Australia?
Everyone is in-season now so we back off slightly and just let them play. We'll conduct webinars sporadically so that all the players start to get familiar with our terminology and we'll have a full week together before our first game in Melbourne.
What’s your expectation for IC17?
We want to continue improving as a country and so for us that means pushing into the top 4. We finished 5th in 2014. More than that, though, is we want our 30 guys to have a truly life-changing experience. 3 weeks at a world cup-style tournament competing against countries as diverse as Pakistan, South Africa, Croatia and Tonga is just something so unique that it's hard to put into words. They'll get to wear the maple leaf on their chest - something they'll get to tell their grandchildren about - and that's the most special part about what we do.
Team Canada departs on Jul.28. Their first game is Aug.5.