Updated: Jan 13, 2019
The West Lothian Eagles are Scotland's newest Aussie rules football team! Unlike the famous West Coast Eagles in Australia, players and staff are recruited on the basis of wanting to turn up! All fitness levels, male and female - The Eagles train all winter at 15:00 every Saturday in Howden Park, Livingston. So if you want to see what the fuss is about you are encouraged to kick a ball and have a laugh with West Lothian Eagles.
You've probably seen the odd clip of professional Australian Rules Football (AFL). It's the number one football code in Australia, where the rugby players call it “aerial ping pong”, due to the amount of time players spend airborne. AFL is a fast-paced, skilful and exciting sport which fosters a great community and team spirit. As a minority sport AFL has grown well over the last few years. Indeed it’s one of the fastest growing sports throughout Europe currently.
Mikey Allan, Head Coach and creator of the West Lothian Eagles, as well as being a Scotland International and qualified umpire, lives in East Calder. The Eagles play Aussie Rules on a rugby pitch in a 9-a-side format, although there is also a league for the original 18-a-side format played on a ground of more Australian dimensions! A maximum of 15 players are allowed to be included in a 9-a-side squad on game day and there are rolling substitutes known as interchanges. The ball is regarded as being in play pretty much all the time, so action comes thick and fast!
The most iconic feature of Aussie Rules is the spectacular mark, or “speccie”, one of the few ways to take the ball out of play. When a player catches the ball in the air after it has travelled more than 15 metres then play stops briefly while a free kick is awarded. For this reason you'll often see players jumping high and contesting the ball in the air.
The goals have four tall upright posts, with no crossbar. Since points are scored any time the ball passes between the posts, high kicks are preferable because there is no chance of stopping a score no matter how tall the goalkeeper is! Six points are awarded for a goal (between the middle posts) and one point for a behind (between a middle and outer post). The ball is shaped similar to a rugby ball and is handballed or kicked to your team mate, but never thrown.
There is a Scottish league and West Lothian Eagles hope to build a team to enter the league. In the meantime, The Eagles will play their first game - a friendly against Fife team The Kingdom Kangaroos - in the first week of December. In the spring there is the Haggis Cup to look forward to. This takes place in Edinburgh and teams from all over the UK compete in a mini tournament for this prestigious award. The men's Scottish National team are call the Clansmen and women's called the Sirens who are run by AFL Scotland. Eagles coach Mikey Allan played for the Clansmen at these championships and has many years of experience at the highest level. In October the AFL Euro cup took place in Portugal where Croatia defeated Ireland in the Men’s final and Ireland defeated England in the ladies final. This was quite a comedown for Ireland since Gaellic Football has many similarities to Aussie Rules and there are regular intra-league tours.
Aussie Rules – Quick Facts
A full-size, 18-a-side Aussie Rules match is played on a very large ground, so it needs plenty of umpires. 9, in fact! Two goal umpires, four boundary umpires, and three field umpires. Field umpires need to be very fit, and there are increasing numbers of women umpires at the highest level.
"Up There Cazaly" is a 1979 hit tune in Australia celebrating the marks of a famous player. The song is often heard at matches.
Scotland is just one of 80 countries outside Australia where Aussie rules are played. The Australian Football League encourages and supports teams wherever they can be found.
The “Wooden Spoon” is the common term for the team that comes last in Aussie Rules competitions, and yes, there is a Wooden Spoon award even in the Scottish league.
For more information see West Lothian Eagles facebook page:
Published in Konect November 2016
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer