Playing Aussie Rules Football in London – by James Logan
Before moving over to London I was playing footy for about 5 years in the Vic Amateur league and was really enjoying everything about it, the club and mates, the training and physical aspects of the game as well as a good and competitive way for me to keep fit.
I didn’t look in to playing in London too much before I came because I had a million other things on my mind like finding a job, a place to live and travelling as much as possible. However, after a few months in and after finding my feet, the itch to have a kick came back pretty strong…so I Googled AFL teams in London and landed on the North London Lions page.
Finding a Team to Join
I had never joined a team before without having a mate or two already there or willing to join with me, so I didn’t know what to expect. After emailing the club and reading what the guys were all about, I went down to a training night at Regents Park one night after work. It was pretty easy to spot the team (the only ones with an AFL footy) and after meeting the guys I felt at home straight away.
I’m by no means a decent player, I enjoy a run and understand the game, doesn’t mean I execute well! So like all clubs, the newest guys will generally start playing the lower grades, in London that is the Thirsty Thirds. My first game took me to Reading to take on the Kangaroos. The next week I made my way in to the 2’s and have steadied there. It’s a great level in the 2’s. A lot of guys with some good run and skill and understand the game.
I’m now heading in to my 3rd season with the Lions, in that time we’ve finished 2nd at seasons end, played in a Grand Final (a shame to lose by a few goals) and then followed up last year with a Prelim appearance.
All I can say is that joining the Lions has made my time here so far that much better. The footy is good fun, the guys are great, I’ve made some really good friends and there is always something on socially either through the club or the guys, so you’re never short of something that you can be a part of.
Something else I really find great about the league is that while everyone is out to win and likes playing the game, there is no room for idiots that are out for trouble…it’s a competitive but friendly league and everyone is out to enjoy the day and hopefully a win.
There are a few teams based in and around London. Some clubs are slightly bigger than others and field 3 teams a week, others have a couple of teams that compete in different divisions.
Here is a list of teams in the league:
- North London Lions
- West London Wildcats
- Wandsworth Demons
- London Swans
- Putney Magpies
- Wimbledon Hawks
- Reading Roos
- South East London Giants
The London League has 3 divisions and the newly formed women’s league:
- Premiership (Seniors)
- Conference (Reserves)
- Social (Clubbies)
Each division has a slightly different team set up and each requires a number of EU/Non-Australian players to be on the field at any time – so it’s not a full Australian contingent (it is a world game after all).
Premiership fields a full 18 per side, Conference field 16 (usually loose a wing or flank) and Social field 14 (again a wing/flank or pocket usually gets left open).
The comp is good quality, a lot of the Premiership players are class players in Australia that are travelling or now calling London home for a few years. It’s a tough, physical and fast game.
The Social division is again like a solid reserves comp in Australia. The guys can play, move and play hard.
Social is great fun, it’s great for guys that can’t commit to a full season, want to learn the game and see what Aussie Rules is all about.
So a really solid mix of levels and teams to find yourself at home in.
As it gets a little chilly here in London, AFL is a summer based sport.
The season usually kicks off late April and finals are played in August. There is a fair amount of pre season action with a Cup day, teams travelling across the UK to play against other teams from other competitions and usually an international trip to face another AFL team based in Europe (Spain, Croatia, Germany are but a few of the Lions’ recent trips).
The season games are played on a Saturday and the Social division usually kicks off at 10:30am, Conference at 12:00pm and Premiership at 2pm. Some weeks the Social teams play at a separate ground to the Conference/Premiership, but there are plenty of Super Saturdays when all teams get together.
At most games you’ll find a BBQ or kiosk to grab some post game food and support the home club, there are also cold beers and ciders to help see you through the rest of the afternoon. If you play in the earlier games, there is nothing more fun that having a few drinks on the sidelines supporting the boys and engaging in some light banter with the other teams.
Training usually takes place on a Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30pm when the light permits. Thursdays usually see you heading back to the pub for a meal and to hear the teams read out.
Pre-season, with most grounds not having access to flood lights, training is on a Sunday and starts at 11am – yes it gets cold but it’s a good session, and again usually sees most people going for a “warming” pint after.
The Lions also hold Wednesday night fitness sessions – so you can build a base for the season or work off the pints you’ve being enjoying for so long.
For me, this is where a footy club comes in to it’s own and can make finding friends in London a sure thing. I can only speak about my experiences with the Lions, but they always make sure there is a social part of each session, game and season.
I won’t list everything, but below are a few social things the team arranges:
- Pre season road trip
- Pre season international trip
- End of season international trip (these are usually a highlight)
- Team photo (takes place in front of a historical landmark in London and is followed up by a great night out)
- Functions throughout the year (boat cruises, pub crawls, fancy dress nights, dinner functions, fund raisers etc)
- Post game beers at a local pub (usually you head over to the home teams pub and have a chat with them, enjoy a pint and then make your way back to the home pub)
- Saturday nights at the Bloomsbury Lanes (Lions home pub) – which is actually a bowling alley and pizzeria – Lions get lanes and pizza free most weeks
- AFL Grand Final night – this usually happens at the same time as the clubs presentation night…brace yourself if you plan to do the double
These are just a few that come to mind, there are plenty more things that pop up including birthdays, random nights out, weekends away with smaller groups…so always something to get involved with.
- AFL London home page http://www.afllondon.com/
- North London Lions home page http://www.aussierules.co.uk/
- North London Lions facebook: www.facebook.com/NorthLondonLionsFC
- Join the Lions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wcwAUMARHs
If you have any questions, write it down in the comments below & I’ll help as best I can.