With the 2018 season fast approaching, we’ll be taking a look at each of the countries in our AFL Europe community to get a snapshot of how Aussie Rules kicked off in their country, some of their highlights, and their goals for 2018. Next up is Scotland, who’s Scotland Aussie Rules Football League (SARFL) has a rich history and who regularly compete in AFL Europe tournaments. Scottish players also represented the Great Britain Swans at the AFL International Cup in Melbourne last year. Check out what president of AFL Scotland, Kirsty Gray, had to say about how far they’ve come.
Give us a snapshot of AFL in Scotland:
AFL in Scotland is a growing sport with a small but passionate community of players, coaches, umpires and supporters. The league has grown into an established competition with teams competing annually for the coveted SARFL premiership. Our clubs are the Edinburgh Bloods, Glasgow Sharks, Greater Glasgow Giants and the Kingdom Kangaroos from Fife. A new team are also establishing in West Lothian (the West Lothian Eagles) and are hoping to join the league in 2018.
At present, there is a men’s SARFL competition only, however it is an aim of AFL Scotland that the competition will expand to include both a SARFL Women’s and juniors competitions. There are around 150-200 players in the men’s competition and around 20 women players in Scotland at present. Junior coaching and competitions are being established in the Fife and Greater Glasgow areas.
West Lothian Eagles and the Kingdom Kangaroos
What’s the history of AFL in Scotland:
The SARFL (Scottish Australian Rules Football League) was started in 2003 by a couple of enthusiastic guys (Andrew Butler and Richard Prentice) who had moved to Scotland from London, where they played with the North London Lions. Michael Tonner, current Vice President of AFL Scotland, was also heavily involved in the early stages of SARFL’s development. Teams were established in the Glasgow and Edinburgh areas and latterly Aberdeen. The inaugural SARFL season was held in 2004 with a league consisting of two sides in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. The Scottish national team was set up, originally called the Scottish Puffins and then re-branded as the Scottish Clansmen in 2010.
In 2008 the Scottish league had difficulty in operating on more than a social match level and was relaunched in 2009 with the Glasgow and Edinburgh playing bases consolidated to one club in each city. They were joined by a new club in Aberdeen. The league has continued to grow and despite set-backs, such as the folding of the Aberdeen Eagles, is going from strength to strength, with new teams forming, the number of players increasing and the level of competition at SARFL level intensifying each year. Two clubs founded by Douglas Hunter, firstly the Kingdom Kangaroos in Fife and then the Greater Glasgow Giants in Glasgow, have become established teams and are providing strong competition for traditional rivals the Glasgow Sharks and Edinburgh Bloods. The SARFL Grand Final in 2017 saw the Giants and Kangaroos compete for the premiership. Greater Glasgow Giants emerged as 2017 premiers and are looking forward to their first appearance at the AFL Europe Champions league in April 2018. Unfortunately after promising starts, clubs in Falkirk (the Falkirk Silverbacks) and North Lanarkshire (the North Lanarkshire Wolves) have folded in recent years although we hope that footy will establish again in these areas. Newcomers, the West Lothian Eagles, are building well and hope to enter the league this year.
The Haggis Cup is another big part of AFL in Scotland. An annual invitational tournament for teams across the UK and Europe, the Haggis Cup has been running since 2004. Last year’s tournament in Glasgow saw a full women’s tournament for the first time which was a fantastic development, with the Nottingham Scorpions emerging as winners. The Wandsworth Demons took out the men’s competition on a great day of footy and sunshine.
Other memorable moments of AFL in Scotland include the 2011 Euro Cup in Belfast where the Clansmen finished 6th and Euro Cup 2014 in London where the Scotland women entered for the first time. 2012 saw Scotland hosting the Euro Cup in Edinburgh and we’d love to host the tournament again in the near future.
Scottish Clansmen at the 2017 Euro Cup
What were some of the highlights of AFL in Scotland in 2017?
2017 was a good year for AFL in Scotland. It started off with a rare glorious day of sunshine at West of Scotland Rugby Club for the Haggis Cup, with men’s and women’s tournaments running for the first time. The after party at Malones Glasgow was also a highlight! The SARFL league competition in 2017 was very competitive and close with a good standard of footy on display throughout. There were close games won and lost by a few points and shock results throughout the season with the Kingdom Kangaroos home ground becoming something of a fortress for the Fife team. The Greater Glasgow Giants emerged as SARFL premiers in new head coach Ross Thomson’s first season at the helm. There were positive developments in the women’s game aswell with nine Scottish women selected for the GB Swans inaugural International Cup 2017 squad. The Swans had a great tournament, finishing 3rd and only losing to finalists Ireland and Canada.
What are your top three goals for 2018?
Our three top goals for 2018 are to grow the game in Scotland at all levels; to start building towards a SARFL Women’s competition and to improve performances and placings at the Euro Cup.
Scottish Sirens at the 2017 Euro Cup
Who’s a player to watch in 2018?
There are a few exciting players emerging in the Scottish League. One of these is Liam Dolling, a young player who made his debut for the Clansmen at Euro Cup 17 and put in some impressive and promising performances. Liam has been named in the GB Bulldogs UK based training squad along with other Scottish based players Keir Wotherspoon, Matthew Goodman and Alexander Clark.
Another player to watch is Kieran McRedmond. Last year’s Player of the Year for premiers the Greater Glasgow Giants, injury concerns restricted his playing time. An Australian now based in Glasgow, he could be in for a big season if he can remain injury free.
Ties between Scotland and the GB set-up have been strengthening over the last couple of years. As well as having nine of our women in the GB Swans squad for the International Cup in Melbourne, GB Swans then assistant and now head coach Ian Mitchell coached the Scottish Sirens (our women’s national team) at the Euro Cup in Bordeaux . Mitch will continue as coach this year. Ross Thomson has also taken up the role of Scottish based scout for the GB Bulldogs.
Scottish GB Swans Players at the 2017 AFL International Cup
If you’re interested in playing AFL in Scotland, send us an email at email@example.com for more information of how you can get involved.