It is with some excitement that London will see for the first time in its history a Women’s league in Australian rules football (AFL) for the 2015 season.
Last year, five ladies AFL games were played in London and across the UK with a mix of players from Europe and Australia.
The leading club in the UK is the Tyne Tees Tigers with their coach Ian Baxter, also the coach of the England ladies team, who has put a great amount of effort in to helping and building the women’s AFL footy in the UK.
London AFL clubs are getting behind their ladies
In the Capital, it is within the Wimbledon Hawks Club that the first official London ladies team has been established. The Hawks were host to two of the exciting exhibition games and already have a team of women committed to play. In increasing their efforts the club has also welcomed four ladies on to their committee, to help them expand the club and build the ladies team, the Wimbledon Hawks Ladies.
In addition, the South East London Giants, with the drive of their club president, endeavor to set up their own ladies team.
More recently, the Wandsworth Demons and the North London Lions have also jumped on board and are committed to building a ladies team for the season. These latest members have allowed for the ladies to have their own committee in which they each represent their club with the creation of the AFL London Women’s League.
The goal everyone is working towards is to run the first year of the league as smoothly as possible and seeing more teams joining in the future, matching the men’s own league. To do so, all the London clubs with the support of AFL England are putting a great deal of effort in to recruiting for, organizing and scheduling games for these ladies teams.
So far for most of the clubs the trainings are joined with the men’s. The prospect of men and women playing a sport such as Aussie rules football together may seem unusual; however the men are extremely supportive of the ladies development, fully integrating them in to the drills, this allows the ladies to take easily to the sport and quickly pick up the skills. The end goal will be to have training sessions devoted to only the female players, with their own dedicated coach.
Getting the British locals involved
One of the biggest barriers to establishing a full women’s league by the end of next year is finding enough female players committed to playing AFL footy in London all season long. This is due to the sport still being highly unknown on this side of the planet.
Also, the girls that are familiar with the sport are only in the country for short periods of time on visa’s, which poses an issue to recruiting long term players. Therefore another key aim this year is to promote the sport amongst British & European females within London and across the UK and Europe.
To kick start this, all the London clubs, in a joint effort, hosted a Ladies Taster session on the 8th of February on Clapham Common. This session’s aim was to familiarize females with the sport by teaching basic skills, and also make evident the family-feel that the clubs have; hoping to plant seeds across all corners of London to get more female teams set up within the current men’s club. Due to the great success of that first session, discussions are currently being held in the hope to organize another one.
However, due to the lack of women’s teams at present in the UK, playing AFL footy in London also means travelling to various parts of England to participate in exhibition games and play with the other clubs that are able to field ladies teams, namely Tyne Tees Tigers in Newcastle and hopefully this year Birmingham University. This can be difficult both on pockets and schedules, so having several ladies teams playing in London would make playing the sport easier and more regular. But on a more positive note, the four Ladies teams will be able to confront each other for the first time on the 18th of April at ‘The Shea Sport Cup’ hosted by the London South East Giants.
Women’s AFL from London to Europe
Having the league running in London will not just bring a fantastic boost to Aussie rules in the UK but also in Europe. In October 2014, the Axios European Cup was held in London with a record of five ladies teams playing; Ireland, England, Scotland, Denmark and France, with England and Denmark making their debuts as official teams. Having a women’s league within London will assist in getting things moving in Europe and will certainly be leading the example to fellow European countries. As Australian travelers flock to Europe in their thousands, it means that they can play their favorite sport all across the continent, no matter their gender.
How you can be a part of it
Being part of an AFL footy club is the best way for Aussies to stay close to home while making new friends from all over Europe, and is a fantastic unknown sport for non-Aussies to try out and learn to love.
So grab your boots, shorts and singlet and come down for training sessions wherever you are in London.
North London Lions
Contact: Adina Lieblich – [email protected]
Home Ground: Albert Recreation Ground, 147 Dunsford Road, N11 2EL (Closest station Bounds Green)
Training Ground: Regents Park – Meeting at the Hub
Preseason Training: Sundays at 11am
Season Training: Tuesday & Thursdays 6pm
South East London Giants
Contact: Marianna Graham – 07742802536 – [email protected]
Home Ground: Peckham Rye Common, Dulwich, SE15 3UA
Training Ground: Victoria Park, Bethnal Green (meet at Bandstand) Peckham Rye Common, SE15 3UA
Preseason Training: Sundays at 11.30am alternating between Victoria Park & Peckham Rye
Season Training: Tuesdays – Victoria Park from 6.30pm | Thursdays – Peckham Rye from 7pm
Contact: Kate Grabowski – 07776012401 – [email protected]
Home Ground: Clapham Common
Training Ground: Clapham Common
Preseason Training: Sundays at 12.30pm – meet at The Alexandra, Clapham Common
Season Training: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Contact: Lisa Wilson – 07572693407 – [email protected]
Home Ground: Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Ground Marina Avenue Motspur
Training Ground: Clapham Common (North West Corner)
Preseason Training: Sundays at 11am
Season Training: Tuesday & Thursday at 6.30pm
IMAGE: AFL is a women’s game as well. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)