West London Wildcats Thriving at Dukes Meadows
Aussies play by their own rules in the BARF League
The West London Wildcats may share the grounds of Chiswick RFC in Dukes Meadows but that’s where the connection ends as the Wildcats play their game by very different rules – British Australian Rules.
Winners of the BARF League premiership, with a 10-goal thrashing of the Wimbledon Hawks in the grand final, Chiswick’s Wildcats provide a perfect opportunity for homesick Aussie to play or support their country’s much loved sport. After recent humiliations in rugby and cricket it will be reassuring for natives from that sports mad country to know there is still one game in which they are unbeatable.
Defender, Bernie Pedlow, said "I didn't even know anyone played footy over here," said Pedlow. "I went for a run one day and saw some blokes kicking a red ball. I thought, 'Is that rugby?' But then I realised they were kicking it properly."
"Everyone goes home and talks about their experiences in London and that's how people get to know about us," said Bob Appleton "Boys seem to come over with their boots these days.
West London Wildcats was a foundation club of the BARFL when the competition began in 1990. Renowned from the start for having a rough and ready band of players, the Wildcats took little time to establish themselves as a force, making their first grand final in 1992. Their victory over Wandsworth sparked weeks of celebration, which included a trip to the Greek island of Corfu.
With players continuing to sign up in droves, the Wildcats formed a second reserves team, the Ealing Emus. The Emus have yet to make the finals but such has been the Raiders' dominance that last year, they won their fourth premiership in a row.
"The footy club becomes your community when you're living in such a big city so far from home," said Tatterson. "A lot of people think, 'Aren't you meant to be over here getting cultured and broadening your horizons?', but everyone gets involved in the footy club for different reasons. You can use it as a way to meet people or just to keep fit. Some blokes take the footy quite seriously and others just come down for a social kick around.”
To boost their already growing membership, the Wildcats also recently added six netball teams to their line-up. The girls chose to be known as the Wild Kittens.
Tatterson said finding facilities for the netballers had been one of the club's easiest tasks when compared to the task of securing sports grounds big enough to accommodate a game of Australian football during the English cricket season.
Recruiting non-Australian players is another big challenge for BARFL clubs. Current rules stipulate that for matches in the premiership division, each team must have at least nine European Union players on the field at all times. The rule is part of the BARFL's stated aim to one day have an Englishman playing in the AFL.
June 21, 2005