Tirol Raiders’ Sean Shelton looks to move past growing pains as he chases playoff berth

Today, the Raiders Tirol will travel to Berlin to take on the Thunder in the final game of the European League of Football regular season to decide their playoff fate.

Raiders’ quarterback Sean Shelton has had a storied career in the Austrian town of Innsbruck playing for the Swarco Tirol Raiders to put it mildly. Since joining the team in 2015, he has won four Austrian Football League Championships, three Central European Football League cups and two European Superfinal Championships.

Not only has Shelton been innumerably successful in Innsbruck on the field, he has also integrated with the community off the field, making it his permanent place of residency.

So, in 2021 when the Raiders announced their move to the European League of Football (ELF) there was little doubt that Shelton, the face of the organization, would be the man leading the charge into full-time European competition.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, whose pan-European dominance had been a staple of football on the continent for years, their 2022 foray into ELF began disastrously with losses to the cross-town rivals Vienna Vikings and Cologne Centurions.

Shelton explains that these initial losses were down to a culture shock for the Raiders who had in the past gone most of the year without a meaningful challenge.

The competition level in ELF is just higher. Every team has really good football players so if you don’t come to play, you just won’t be successful.

To win here you just have to be consistent. There are no situations in this league where you can just coast. The level is just too high. And if you don’t bring your A game to the field, you are probably going to lose. That is in stark contrast to our past.

Since then, however, the Raiders have reeled off a number of dominant performances, obliterating teams in the lower half of the league. Shelton has proved game in and game out that at the age of 31 he is still one of the most dominant passers in Europe.

Shelton’s excellent Austrian receiving corps has allowed him to throw for 2,938 yards, 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions, making the Raiders one of the most productive teams in the league.

But consistency has remained an issue for the team as in their second meeting with the Vikings again resulted in a convincing loss. 

Taking into account that the Vikings are a team that the Raiders beat three times last year and the equal measure of each side’s roster, this is not just a case of one team being better than the other.

Despite these setbacks, the Raiders are still in full control of their playoff destiny and a win today will almost guarantee their fourth-place spot in the postseason due to their significant point differential.

Our start really put us behind the eight ball. You are going to lose games in this league but starting 0-2 is a really difficult situation. But going 7-2 since shows that we belong at the top of this league.

We have had our ups and downs. We really put ourselves in a hole at the beginning of the season but now we control our own destiny which is all you can ask for.

With the extensive experience that Shelton has in high-profile European competition, he is perfectly positioned to lead the Raiders into Berlin today with poise and consistency as they search for their first ELF playoff appearance.

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.