PAKISTAN coach Matt Embling says he side can’t wait to get to Bendigo for Friday night’s AFL International Cup match against arch-rival India.
The Shaheens and Indians will both be chasing their first win at the biennial tournament following losses in their opening two games against Germany and Japan.
Embling, who is an assistant coach with Collingwood’s AFL team, said he was relishing the opportunity to coach the visiting Pakistanis.
“It was a bit daunting at first; having done AFLW and VFL coaching, but it’s probably been the most rewarding,” he said.
“Just to see the improvement in the boys has been fantastic.
“And their attitude to their football – they just love it.”
Pakistan and India are competing in division two of the competition in pool two against ladder leaders Germany (2-0) and Japan (2-0).
The Germans are competing at International Cup level for the first time.
China (2-0), Croatia (1-1), Indonesia (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-2) are contesting pool one, with an eventual division two premier to win promotion to division one at the next tournament in 2019.
In division one, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland lead the way with two wins.
Nauru, which played a pre-season practice match against Bendigo league team Strathfieldsaye in February, is in eighth-place with no wins from two games.
Embling was delighted with how Victorians had embraced the 18 men’s and seven women’s teams competing in the cup competition and was certain Bendigo was no exception given its response already in hosting the visiting Indians.
The 7.30pm clash at the Wade Street Oval will pit two of world sports’ fiercest rivals.
Embling described the build-up as huge.
“I’ve been joking with a few of the guys that my job is on the line if we don’t win – no pressure – just like (former Gold Coast Suns coach) Rodney Eade,” he said.
“But in all seriousness the guys are really looking forward to the game, they’re to show their wares.
“A Friday night under lights in Bendigo should be a real good experience for the guys.”
Most of the International Cup teams contain a mix of players, who have travelled from their homeland, with a sprinkling of Australian-based players.
About 850 non-Australian players have travelled to Melbourne for the tournament.
Embling likened a top-end division one clash as equivalent to a Loddon Valley league standard game.
“New Zealand has a couple of AFL international rookies playing for them at the moment,” he said.
“Division two is probably a low-level reserves; you have a top five or six who are really quite handy.
“The Germans had a 2013cm ruckman. I worked with (St Kilda’s) Jason Holmes a bit and he kicks it as well as Jason does.”