Australian rules football in Scotland

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Australian rules football in Scotland
Governing bodyScottish Australian Rules Football League
National team(s)Scotland

Australian rules football is played by a five-team league in Scotland, with clubs in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy, Falkirk and Edinburgh. The current Premiers are the Greater Glasgow Giants.

Early history[edit]

There are rumours of a competition near the River Clyde during the early 20th Century, famously referred to in A Game of their Own, where a number of expatriate Australians were based in Scotland either as Ship Workers or Soldiers. Had this league existed, and there is no proof it ever did, then it had died out around the time of the First World War.

An "Edinburgh Australians' Club" existed in the years between 1870 and the First World War as large numbers of Australians were studying in Glasgow and Edinburgh, including some who had played Australian rules football with clubs in the Victorian Football Association, and at one time four Australian test cricketers. On Saturday 14 April 1888, the Edinburgh Australians, having travelled down to England to play an Australian Rules game against the University of London at Balham, lost the match two goals to four. There are early records and photographs in the University's Student magazine and the perpetual Cup donated by the Australians to record champion athletes, which is still on display at the University. Arthur Shrewsbury, organiser of a tour of Scottish and English rugby players, who had toured Australia in 1888 playing under both rugby rules and Australian rules football, suggested that the Edinburgh Australians team at the University of Edinburgh should travel down to England to meet the Australian team in a series of demonstration matches in Lancashire and Yorkshire, although this plan did not eventuate.[1]

Champion Australian Rules players who were members of the Edinburgh Australians Club over the next decade or two were Victorian premiership players RH Morrison, AB Timms and GF Read (Geelong); Colin Campbell and 'Gus' Kearney (Essendon). Other prominent players were J (Jos) Adams (Melbourne, Essendon and Geelong), J Pender, AE Syme (Essendon); FJ Clendinnen and AW Marwood (Melbourne).

In addition there were many prominent Public School players such as WC and CC Macknight, SW Pitcher, WE O'Hara, DA Robinson, DGM Teague, W Scott, LG Pearson, HW Bryant, (son of 'Jerry' Bryant the publican who organised one of the first games in Melbourne), CS and CG Ryan (Melbourne Grammar), CG Timms, I Glassford (Geelong College), D Gordon, J & P Russell, AH Rutherford, RC Irvine (Geelong Grammar), GM Munro, R Fetherstone, CL Carter, T Fitchett, HF Lawrence (Wesley), Ramsay Mailer, HE Jackson and DJ Macrae (Scotch College). Testimony to the existence of the Edinburgh Australians Club are early records and photographs in the University's Student magazine and the perpetual Cup which the Australians donated to record champion athletes and which is still on display at the University.

Scottish involvement in early years of Australian rules in Melbourne[edit]

Scots living in Melbourne and Victoria in the mid-19th century were greatly involved in the formation of the rules of the game, as well as the formation of a number of early clubs. The very first competition and trophy in 1861 was the instigation of the Royal Caledonian Society and known as the Caledonian Challenge Cup. One club formed by Scots was the still-existing Essendon Bombers in the elite Australian Football League in Melbourne, Australia.[1]

The now-defunct Glasgow Redbacks wore black jumpers with a red diagonal stripe across the front, the same as worn by Essendon Football Club. This is said to recognise the Scottish roots of Essendon, which was formed in 1871 by a Scots family who had moved to Melbourne.

Thomas Leather is the first known Scottish born player to have appeared in the Australian Football League and Sean Wight the most recent.

Modern era[edit]

During the 1990s the Caledonian Sharks were set up by John Boland, with the travelling restraints at the time club games lessend over the years until a period of inactivity until being adopted and rebranded as the Glasgow Sharks by Andrew Butler in 2003. The Edinburgh Puffins and modern SARFL came about through the work of Andrew Butler and Richard Prentice, former players with BARFL side, North London Lions. Butler and Prentice began plans for the SARFL in the winter of 2003. Intra city friendlies began in early 2003 and a combined rules match against Edinburgh Gaelic side Dunedin Connolleys. The Puffins made their debut in the 2003 Northern Cup tournament staged in St Helens. The side remained unbeaten against the then St Helens Miners and Wandsworth Demons. Later in 2003, the Puffins staged a home and away series against Oxford University winning both hard-fought games. The inaugural SARFL season was held in 2004 with a league consisting of two sides in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. The Puffins name, originally conceived by inaugural Edinburgh Puffins coach Gavin England was subsequently conferred upon the Scottish national team. Later in 2010 the Scottish Puffins were rebranded as the Scottish Clansmen.

In 2006, Glasgow and Edinburgh considered competing in the BARFL Regional competition, though travel problems saw them continue an expanded SARFL local competition with the Glasgow Redbacks and Middlesbrough Hawks from northern England joining the league. The Hawks left the league in 2007 to join the northern division of Aussie Rules UK, and the Scottish league had difficulty in operating on more than a social match level in 2008.

The league 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, named the "Aberdingoes".

Current clubs[edit]

The following teams are active in Scotland:

  • Edinburgh Bloods 2003–present
  • Glasgow Sharks 2003–present
  • Aberdeen Eagles 2009–2013 (known as the Dingoes until 2011)
  • Kingdom Kangaroos 2013–present
  • Glasgow Giants ARFC 2015–present
  • Falkirk Silverbacks 2015–2016
  • West Lothian Eagles 2017-present


Haggis Cup[edit]

Year Scotland
2004 Glasgow Sharks
2004 Glasgow Sharks
2006 Dublin Demons
2007 Edinburgh Bloods
2008 Edinburgh Bloods
2009 Aberdingoes
2010 Dublin Demons
2011 Glasgow Sharks
2012 Edinburgh Old Town Bloods
2013 Edinburgh Old Town Bloods
2014 Glasgow Sharks
2015 Huddersfield Rams

Scottish National Team[edit]

The Scottish national team, The Clansmen, compete in 1–3 events per calendar year. These events are typically the Tri-Nations Championship, the AFL Europe Euro Cup and an additional challenge match or friendly tournament across the European continent.

Euro Cup Participation Formally known as the EU Cup, for which Scotland participated the inaugural event in London 2005 and again in Prague 2008. Since becoming the Euro Cup in 2010 Scotland has participated in a further 6 of the 8 AFL Europe Euro Cup competitions to date, these were; Milan 2010; Belfast 2011; Edinburgh 2012; London 2014; Lisbon 2016 and; Bordeaux 2017.

The Scottish Clansmens strongest Euro Cup performance was in Belfast 2011, winning their group with wins over Spain and Finland and finishing 6th over all in the tournament.

Scotland in Euro Cup

Edinburgh 2012

Pool Stage:

  • Scotland (45) d. Norway (2)
  • England (49) d. Scotland (17)
  • Denmark (40) d. Scotland (16)

Scotland progress to the Bowl Semi-Finals

  • France (36) d. Scotland (21)

Bordeaux 2017

Pool Stage:

  • Ireland (79) d. Scotland (8)
  • Netherlands (37) d. Scotland (36)

Scotland progress to the Plate Quarter-Finals

  • Scotland (63) d. Russia (5)

Scotland progress to the Plate Semi-Finals

  • Scotland (33) d. Jerusalem (19)

Scotland progress to the Plate Final

  • Czech Republic (36) d. Scotland (6)



ESPN (UK) and British Eurosport are the current holders of the British rights to the Australian Football League (AFL). ESPN shows three live games each round of the season including the playoffs and the AFL Grand Final. Eurosport shows one game a week but the coverage is delayed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Football's Forgotten Tour, 2003, J Williamson, ISBN 0-9581018-0-9
  2. ^ Scottish ARFL bounces back in 2009

External links[edit]