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Wednesday, December 12 2018 @ 02:55 am ACDT

Wolverhampton Wolverines fire up local International Rules rivalry

International Rules

The Wolverhampton Wolverines have used their off-season time wisely. Rather than wait for the season proper to start, Ian Mitchell, club president and coach, has been exploring a variety of ways to not only keep his team fit and ready, but also grow the game throughout the Wolverhampton districts and beyond.

Last weekend saw the inaugural International Rules game in Wolverhampton, England. It is a game that had been in the pipeline between the Wolverines and St Mary's GAA Wolverhampton for two or three years, but various obstacles had prevented it from taking place until now.

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According to Ian, “the link between our clubs goes back to our establishment five years ago in 2009 when both clubs were training at the same venue on the same evening. Quite often we'd end up playing 15-20 minutes at the end of the evening, invariably with the young, developing Aussie Rules players chasing the ball without getting many possessions. As we began to play our first fixtures, we'd often borrow a few Gaelic players to bolster our ranks. I played a couple of games for them as well.”

“Both clubs experienced ground issues so drifted apart a little until recently when we broached the idea of bringing the clubs closer together to mutually benefit both organisations. The International Rules seemed the perfect way to kick this off.”

“The game itself was played at Aldersley High School, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton where St Mary's home ground is. It was a sunny but cold day, with a fairly strong wind blowing across the ground. The GAA boys started very brightly, kicking three unanswered overs and a behind giving them an early ten point lead. Two thirds through the first quarter the Wolverines began to find their feet and kicked a couple of behinds and an over.”

“The second quarter saw the Wolverines take hold of the game a little more, scoring a goal from European Legion and World XVIII representative Cameron Cope. They added a couple of overs and several behinds to take the lead as St Mary's struggled against the wind to make much progress down the ground.”

“The 'Premiership Quarter' as we like to call it, allowed the Aussie Rules team edge further in front with two quick-fire goals near the end of the quarter. The Gaelic boys were finding the contact element, which is normally not prevalent in their sport, difficult to adapt to. The three-quarter time chat was probably quite different in both camps as a result.”

“St Mary's came out flying however in the fourth, playing a noticeably higher tempo game and moving the ball a lot quicker. Tired bodies saw mistakes creep in and although the Wolverines scored a goal through Luke Powell, two goals and a few overs from St Mary's set up a really close finish. With time ticking down St Mary's broke into the area on the left hand side, forcing a fine double save from Craig Degville in goal (he's our record goal kicker, golden boot two years in a row!) which proved to be vital as the Wolverines saw out the remaining minutes to take victory by 5 points.”

Final Score: Wolverines 4.4.10: 46 defeated St Mary's 3.6.5: 41

“Talk in the bar afterwards (where St Mary's very kindly filled the trophy with scotch for us!) was around joint training sessions, joint fund raisers, possible ground shares, approaching potential sponsors together to form a united front and what is possibly the most important one for us in the near future; the sharing of players. Both clubs are keen to work together on all these fronts as we can only see benefits for all concerned.”

As well as instigating this event with a view to it being a permanent fixture on the Wolverines calendar, if not the league’s, the club will also be involved in this year’s ‘Balls To Cancer West Midlands Charity Shield’.

Ian explains that “this year marks the four annual Charity Shield hosted by ourselves. It sees us playing the other two clubs in the West Mids (Birmingham Bears and University of Birmingham Sharks) in a round-robin style tournament of shortened games. It serves as an excellent pre-season run out for the Bears and Wolverines, and as a season-end tournament for the university side.”

“We have won it in 2011 and 2013 with the Bears taking the title in 2012.”

“Balls To Cancer is a charity we have worked closely with for a number of years; fundraising with this tournament, taking part in fun runs and more. We also work to raise awareness of their charity by having their logo on our kit and also, more famously, appearing on the Embarrassing Bodies show on national television where several guys had live checks for testicular cancer. The tournament date is March 22nd at our home ground, Willenhall RUFC.”

It has certainly been a busy year for the Wolverines crew. It is hoped that their endeavors can translate into increased interest in the club and the game of Australian Rules football across the region

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