Lazio Ducks HC Davide Giuliano on his return and facing Milano Seamen in Italian semifinals

The Lazio Ducks have reached the Italian Final Four for the second time in two years and this year, head coach Davide Giuliano has been the architect.

This is the first time Giuliano has qualified for the semifinals in Italy as a head coach since 2012 when he guided the Catania Elephants all the way to the championship game. He stepped away as a club team head coach after that and returned to the sideline this year after coaching Team Italy for five years. The Ducks defeated the Parma Panthers last week 22-20 in the Wild Card playoffs and now find themselves up against the Milano Seamen, the best team in Italy over the past seven seasons.

American Football International: You have brought the Ducks back to the Italian semifinals. How does that feel in your first year back as a head coach in Italy’s top league since 2012. Describe that feeling.

Davide Giuliano: I stepped out from coaching team clubs because of my duties as Head Coach of the National Italian team. At that moment I felt like all my energies had to be focused on developing a durable and possibly winning National Team program. I had a lot of ideas and I knew I wouldn’t have been productive if I was coaching a team club at the same time. The level of competition of the Italian Div.1 championship is so challenging that staying away for too long was not in my veins and coming back with the Lazio Ducks fulfilled all my needs of being back and competing and helping a young group of men finding their way to getting better as players and men day after day.

AFI: How important is a semifinal spot to football in Rome and southern Italy. Before last year, the last time a southern team reached this far was your team, the Catania Elephants in 2012.

DG: With the Elephants it was something different for me. I had been their head coach for more than a decade and what we’ve reached was built in years. Here in Rome I was expected to reach success now, it was something everyone expected from me and it’s been hard mostly because I had to learn the kind of persons I was dealing with during the process. While winning was a must, not easy at all but there as been a sort of mutual trust between me and the team which has helped a lot. Our season could have been better in terms of result but I feel we’re reached the most important success in growing as a group of men who work together and help each others in overcoming adversities.

AFI: You face a tough task on Sunday. The Seamen defeated you 51-0 the last time you played them. How do you prepare your team?

DG: Our team was astonished from the result of the regular season game vs the Seamen. We had to look at each other’s face and make a decision of surrendering in front of that huge loss or make an effort as individual parts of the team and understand that competing at this level is something that requires sacrifice, leadership and dedication. Our team captains had a great part in this process and the team responded as I wished. We’ve prepared this game like we prepare all our games, we know we are the underdogs but we know what we can do and what we have to do to make it as hard as possible for the seamen to get to the final.

AFI: In that game, without Michael Gentili, Tyler Johnson had only 97 yards passing. What happened and how do you fix it?

DG: I’ve been watching that game a lot and I believe I didn’t do a good job trying to make the team work without Mike, I should have trusted our Italian RBs more and execute the kind of football we’ve been working on since day one, coming out in an permanent empty set exposed the whole team and my QB to something they where not used to, I didn’t protect them enough with an easy and confortable game plan.

AFI: What will be the key to stopping the passing attack of the Seamen?

DG: That’s not an easy task indeed, they have great receivers at every position, a very good passer, an excellent and well coached offensive line and a trustable running game, they are complete and our defense will have to play the game of their life to stop such kind of an offense. As I told the team at the end of out last practice before the game, I think we’ve done what we were supposed to in order to play this game at our best. Now it’s time to compete and put everything on the field. The scoreboard at the end of the game will let us know whether we need to get ready to work harder next week or…next year.

AFI: Any final thoughts you would like to share?

DG: Whatever the result will be I must say it’s been a blast with the Lazio Ducks, I had the chance to meet and get to know a group of players, coaches and staff who work hard and has a lot of potential to get better and better year by year,  I wish I’ve been able to give them new tools and new confidence to help them in this process.


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