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Saturday, February 29 2020 @ 04:54 am ACDT

Wearside Wallabies in Tyne Tees Tigers pouch


When the AFLCNE (Australian Football League Central & Northern England) made the decision to admit the Tyne Tees Tigers for the 2014 as a fully-fledged eighth team they may not have foreseen the small football revolution that the Tigers would bring with them.

Since their admission to the league in their own right, the Tyne Tees Tigers have also managed to develop their own women’s team as well as initiating their first regional expansion team, the Wearside Wallabies.

This team, which initially will join in with localised games and events in the Newcastle on Tyne district, has tapped into the Aussie Rules interest generated by the Tyne Tees crew around the Sunderland, Durham and Washington area south of Newcastle.

It certainly appears that the admission of this team in north-east England to the AFLCNE competition, spread mainly across the north central corridor may have even greater long term benefits to the league that first envisioned.

A recent chat with Tyne Tees Tigers club president, Ian Baxter, sheds light on the expansion and the visions of a 10 year plan which are starting to come together.

“When Shaun (Bulmer), Anthony (Nolan) and myself started the Tyne Tees Tigers in 2012 we wanted to grow Australian Rules football in a sustainable fashion across the North East, with the ultimate aim of creating a local league beneath a regional Tigers side competing in a larger Central and Northern England League. The Wearside Wallabies, as our first expansion side, represent our first step towards this goal.”

“It's exciting for us because at the end of 2013 I wrote a 10 year plan (something I get a bit of a ribbing about) for the development of Aussie Rules in the North East of England… this is really just the first step on a very long journey.”

“One of the problems the sport faced in the North East with the old league was too little interest spread over too wide a geographical area. With the Wallabies being a feeder team to the Tigers it allows their players to get game with the Tigers without them having the pressures of needing to get enough players to field a full team on their own. Hopefully this leads to the development of the Wallabies in a sustainable fashion.”

“Even though I wrote a 10 year plan, one thing i hadn't considered was trying to start a women's team. After an approach by Lucy Kavanagh to see if we could shave a women's taster session, we've quickly moved to having joint training sessions with the men and are looking to field our first women’s team in this year’s Haggis Cup. This would be England’s first women's Australian Rules football team, and the credit has to go to the girls who've made it happen.”

“We haven't always achieved what we've set out to do. But we're making progress.”

“We've been fortunate to be accepted into the Central and Northern England league for 2014. And we've no illusions as to how much of a learning curve it will be for the Tigers. In my opinion it's the strongest 9 a-side league in Europe but if we are to take the next step as a group we need to be playing regular competitive football.”

“It also will help us fulfil the parts of our ethos of participation and enjoyment. What I've come to realise even over the short lifetime of the Tigers is that some players want the higher end competition and others want a more social game and environment the challenge for me is providing both. Hopefully the development of a social league (over time) underneath the Tigers will give us the best of both worlds.”

More information about the Tyne Tees Tigers and their development can be found at their website. Information on the Wearside Wallabies can be found at facebook.com/WearsideAFL.

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