Austria: A new Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants team looking for redemption against Danube Dragons

Back in late March an opening weekend of football in Austria presented looks at key teams outside of Swarco. The Vienna Vikings – who would later go on the beat top-dog Swarco Raiders – did away with the Mödling Rangers in a 41 – 7 blowout but a second game against two strong Austrian underdogs in the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants and SsangYong Danube Dragons proved for a more compelling competition.

The Dragons got off to a quick start and refused to take their foot off the pedal as Dragons QB Chad Jefferies led the team to a 35 – 16 victory. Although an impressive performance from Jeffries and the Austrian receiving corps shot the scoring up the game was not as one sided as the final result suggests. Graz QB Conor Miller and the offense operated at a high level multiple times throughout the game but had trouble finishing and posing as a consistent threat to the Danube defense.

Since the two teams first meeting, both have had varying levels of success; both have fallen to dominant Viking and Raider teams respectively but have also put on impressive performances against Prague Black Panthers and Mödling Rangers showing that they operate somewhere in the middle of the league.

Another crucial development in Graz since the first game was the decision to part ways with Head Coach Martin Kocian after six years at the helm. In an interview with ORF, board member Christian Weissina stated that the reasons for this were “not always big problems, but small problems, small cogs that have to click into such a construct. Not everything is always up to the head coach”, showing that Graz management felt the team was underperforming as a whole. What this change will do to the rest of the team is still anyone’s guess but it is worth noting that the Giants claimed their first win of the season in a dominant performance against the Rangers days after the departure of Kocian.

One final consideration that must be made in the rematch is the time the Giants have spent on the field together. The Graz defense is led by stud linebacker Thomas Schnurrer who led the Austrian Football League in tackles back in 2019, but you would be wrong to think that the rest of the team holds the same pedigree. In 2020, the defense had eight new starters, most of whom were born in 2001 and a group of fresh imports who have never played together. All this combined with severely limited preparation teams were afforded in the run up to the season leads to the logical assumption that this team will not be the same one that started the season when it is all said and done.

Both teams have a lot riding on the upcoming game; Danube hoping to keep their playoff aspirations alive; Graz eager to show the league they are a top Austrian team and deserve to be acknowledged as such. Either way, all signs point towards a completely different game than the one we were shown in week one.

Make sure to catch the game on this coming Saturday.

Feature image photo: Kunzfeld & Kunzfeld Photography



Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.