Thrilling end to first Israel Cup

AFL Israel's inaugural Israel Cup on June 25 saw Jerusalem beat the Tel Aviv Cheetahs by one point.

Alon Fink wins a contest for possession for Tel Aviv in the game versus Jerusalem.
Alon Fink wins a contest for possession for Tel Aviv in the game versus Jerusalem.

AFL Israel’s inaugural ‘Israel Cup’ on June 25 could not have gone any better, producing a nail-biting contest in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Tel Aviv’s Sportech South Park.

Australia’s Ambassador to Israel, Dr Ralph King, was among the satisfied fans in the stands, who had the opportunity to watch a Tel Aviv Cheetahs team comprised mostly of Israeli-born players, take on a Jerusalem side of Aussie ex-pats and gap-year students, with Israeli Beasts national team members, Alon Fink and Ofer Beer, added to their squad.

Such was the Aussie flavour within the Jerusalem squad, that all their players wore AJAX Footy Club guernseys for the tournament, which was sponsored by AFL Israel, the Australian Embassy, the Trans Tasman Business Circle led by Johnny Weiss, and the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce.

Coby Felbel in possession for Jerusalem versus Tel Aviv in the first Australian rules football ‘Israel Cup’ event at Sportech South Park on June 25.

It was a close battle from the first bounce, as Jerusalem got on an early roll, before the Cheetahs rallied and took the lead.

In a high-scoring game, and facing a 2-goal deficit with just a few minutes remaining in the final quarter, Jerusalem found an extra gear when it counted most.

Jacob Jones, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) for kicking 7 goals, took a contested mark and kicked a major from straight on to get Jerusalem within 5 points.

Then Jerusalem won the centre clearance, and got the ball to the forward pocket, where Coby Felbel grabbed it and booted the winner right on the siren to earn his team an 18.15 (123) to 18.14 (122) victory.

Felbel was named Best on Ground for Jerusalem, while skilful midfielder Shir Maran was the Cheetah’s best, while Tel Aviv’s captain Shir Shalev, and forward Ilan Cohen, were other notable contributors.

Ezra Finkelstein – whose parents made Aliyah from Melbourne – has trained and played for Tel Aviv for the last two years, but on this occasion, played for Jerusalem.

“When Coby kicked the winner, we all ran towards him, and then celebrated by singing the AJAX team song!”

Before the match, all players put on yellow armbands in solidarity with the remaining Israeli hostages and in memory of the dead, Ambassador King offered words of tribute, and a minute of silence was observed.

During the half-time break, junior players from Giloh, near Jerusalem, enjoyed playing a mini match.

AFL Israel co-founder Ido Schnitzer described the inaugural tourmanet as “a fairytale start to what we hope is a longtime tradition”.

“It felt like a true milestone event for the sport here in Israel, mostly in regard to the on-field playing level.”

AFL Israel has more things planned to continue the sport’s development within Israel.

On July 17, it will host the first Holy Land Footy Classic – a new event that will unite Israeli players, and visiting Jewish Australian players from Melbourne.

And from October 5, the Israeli Beasts will compete in the 2024 AFL Euro Cup in Germany.

Action from the inaugural Israel Cup game on June 25 in Tel Aviv.


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