Australian rules football in Scotland

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Australian rules football in Scotland
Country Scotland
Governing body Scottish Australian Rules Football League
National team Scotland
Nickname(s) SARFL
Clubs 5

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 Glasgow Sharks.

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, but eventually folded. The first lasting Scottish club of the modern era was known as the Edinburgh Puffins in 2003 with informal matches held, and invitiationals of clubs from the British Australian Rules Football League. 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 2002/2003. 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".

The Scottish Puffins have competed at some tournaments as a stand-alone team, but are represented by the Great Britain Bulldogs. There has been speculation that they may compete as a separate team at the Australian Football International Cup in future, but this has not been confirmed at any official level.

Current clubs[edit]

The following teams are active in Scotland:


Future Clubs[edit]

Grand Finals[edit]

Year Scotland
2004 Edinburgh Old Town 24.25 (269) d Glasgow Sharks 2.4 (16)
2005 Glasgow Sharks 10.7 (67) d Edinburgh Old Town 8.11 (56)
2006 Edinburgh University Bodysnatchers 11.9 (75) d Edinburgh Old Town Bloods 10.3 (63)

Haggis Cup[edit]

Year Scotland
2004 Glasgow Sharks
2004 unknown
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 Eurocup and an additional challenge match or friendly tournament across the European continent.

Eurocup Participation Scotland has participated in 4 of the 5 AFL Europe Eurocup competitions to date, these were; Milano 2010; Belfast 2011; Edinburgh 2012 and; London 2014.

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

2014 Eurocup Squad

Player Name Position Club
Ross Thomson (C) Half Back / On Ball Glasgow Sharks
David Gamble Ruck / On Ball Cardiff Panthers
Martin Bell Half Back / Full Back Falkirk Silverbacks
Alexander Clarke Half Forward / On Ball Glasgow Sharks
Daniel Collett Full Forward Glasgow Sharks
Daniel Connor Half Forward Glasgow Sharks
Michael Douglas Half Forward Glasgow Sharks
Cameron Goodall Half Back / Ruck Kingdom Kanagroos
Scott O'Hara On Ball Copenhagen Barracudas
Angus Mackintosh On Ball Edinburgh Bloods
Mark McFarlane Half Forward / Full Forward Glasgow Sharks
Chris McGookin Half Back / Full Back Edinburgh Bloods
John McIntyre Ruck / Full Forward Glasgow Sharks
Gus Thomson Half Back / Full Back Glasgow Sharks
Michael Woodrow On Ball Wimbledon Hawks
Alex Young Ruck / Full Forward Glasgow Sharks

Scotland in EU Cup[edit]

Scotland competed at the inaugural EU Cup in London on 9 October 2005 and then again at the EU Cup in Prague, 2008.

  • Scotland [15] 8.7 (70) d. France [30] 3.4 (52)
  • Sweden [10] 10.3 (73) d. Scotland [15] 2.4 (31)
  • England [22] 6.5 (63) d. Scotland [15] 4.2 (41)
  • Netherlands [8] 8.8 (64) d. Scotland [15] 4.5 (44)

Classification Match

  • Scotland [15] 3.3 (36) d. Austria [5] 2.1 (18)

Scotland also competed at the 2008 EU Cup in Prague.



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]