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Tyne Tees Tigers – Good To Go For 2014

  • Thursday, June 20 2013 @ 06:49 am ACST
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“We were in a Newcastle bar… the Shark Bar... at what was supposed to be a sports networking event: free food/free beer. We'd previously discussed the possibility of a club via email over the preceding few months but got nowhere. Hardly anyone else turned up to this networking event so we got stuck in to the free beer! By the end of the night we had agreed to start the club, picked a training venue and date to start training and the Tigers were officially born.”

Such is the story of the birth of the Tyne Tees Tigers Australian Rules football club in the north east of England. The gathering of Ian Baxter, Anthony Nolan and Shaun Bulmer to pursue a means to keep their favourite sport alive in the region has led to the Tigers having served a local “social club” apprenticeship, and they are ready to join the AFLCNE (Australian Football League Central & Northern England) for the 2014 season.

Whilst not technically a “new” team, as they have been in existence in one form or other since 2007, they are quite definitely a new club in a variety of ways.

Ian continues the story by explaining that “the Tyne Tees Tigers are a regional team representing the whole of the north east of England. There had previously been a league in the North East (started in 2007) but with a voided season in 2010 due to regularly forfeited matches (forfeited games because teams simply couldn't muster 9 players to play), the competition ultimately ground to a complete halt in 2011. Clubs and players were lost to the footballing wilderness. The Hartlepool Dockers and Gateshead Miners were part of that previous league.”

“We started in 2012, just training in Newcastle with a small group of players from the previous Gateshead Miners. We were playing matches in the autumn/winter with the occasional ring-in from players who had played before in Hartlepool."

"This year Hartlepool has restarted training after several years in hibernation, as we look to re-grow the game in the region. I've spoken to the people involved in the previous clubs to try to understand what went wrong and learn from the mistakes that were made.”

“The Tigers are a regional representative side and we will be competing in the AFLCNE (Central and Northern England league) as of next season, 2014. We will draw on players from our two constituent clubs, the Newcastle Miners (we kept the old Gateshead name [Miners] to reflect the players that had come from that team) and the Hartlepool Dockers."

It is pleasing that the AFLCNE will boast another club in its ranks, but the Tigers are not turning their backs on the localised competition from which they have grown. They will continue to stay true to the feeder clubs, both current and historical, which have provided the bedrock on which the Tigers now exist.

Ian explains that “we will also be playing games between the constituent clubs. These will be social games with the emphasis on introducing new players to the game and promoting the game in the region.”

“Hopefully over time new training areas will be introduced, with a view to growing the sport in a step wise manner. The players in these new areas would also be able to play for the Tigers without having the pressure of getting sufficient playing numbers to field their own teams as they start up.”

“To give an idea of how this will work, on the Saturday just gone [June 15th] we played the first Newcastle Miners vs. Hartlepool Dockers game of the Tiger’s era. We had 19 players on the day. Because Newcastle is slightly ahead in their development, 14 were from Newcastle and 5 from Hartlepool.”

“Rather than declaring the game forfeit, as would have happened in the old league, we simply divided up the numbers and played a 9 a-side game (10 vs. 9). For the record Hartlepool won, defeating the Miners 85 points to 64, in what was a very close game with only 8 points between the sides until about half way throughout the final quarter.”

“Most pleasing for me was that six guys played their first ever game of Aussie Rules and only four of the 19 had played in previous NE league, showing that our strategy to encourage new players to the game is working.”

The Tyne Tees Tigers will be a welcome addition to the AFLCNE, and the wider community of Australian Rules football across England and, indeed, Europe. Ian and his crew will continue to develop their team by seeking sponsorships, developing a wide range of community links and simply training these players to be a force to be reckoned with from round one next year.

Good Luck to the Tyne Tees Tigers.

Photos courtesy of Zoe Vicarage.