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Wednesday, January 16 2019 @ 10:19 am ACDT

Developmental Eagles To Fly In Scotland

Scotland’s newest Australian football club, the West Lothian Eagles, has been granted the opportunity to compete in the SARFL, AFL Scotland’s national league, for the 2018 season on the agreement of being a developmental club. Whilst the club would be a touch disappointed that they did not receive full admission for 2018, they have received a great opportunity to build throughout 2018 ready for possible full inclusion in 2019.

In many ways, their fate is in their own hands. Given a set of criteria by AFL Scotland, the club has already agreed to the opportunity and immediately implemented goals and targets around issues such as player numbers and retention, non-playing personnel, financial stability and all other aspects of club operation.

Kirsty Gray from AFL Scotland confirmed that, “West Lothian Eagles have been voted in as a development team for this year, to help them get established [and] their players to develop with a view to them then graduating to be full league members next year. Both the Tyne Tees Tigers (see Tigers Migrate North Across Border) and the West Lothian Eagles will be good additions to SARFL and we are looking forward to the season ahead.”

West Lothian Eagles club president, Ross Barker, stated in his address to the club after the AFL Scotland AGM decision that, “Our committee has decided to accept the offer put in place by the AFL Scotland committee. This means we will be joining the league as a development member. We get five games in the year and we have to field a team in each game in order to join the league next year. Although our points don't count, this will be the most important season for the Eagles as the pressure we have on our shoulders needs to be carried through each game. So this will also be a season where players will be able to prove themselves.”

In short, this means that the West Lothian Eagles will play five matches against the existing SARFL teams across the season (Bloods, Sharks, Giants, Kangaroos and Tigers) as well as competing in February’s Bawbag Cup (dodgy name, important tournament) against the Kingdom Kangaroos and Tyne Tees Tigers as well as the Haggis Cup in April. Whilst not full members of the league, Eagles players can train with and be selected to play for the national Scottish Clansmen team, giving the Eagles a bona fide talent pathway for players.

The opportunity laid out in front of the Eagles gives them the perfect chance, and specific guidelines, to gain more playing experience across the season and hit the ground running as a fully-fledged team in 2019. Whilst many would have been delighted to be awarded full playing status immediately, this might now be a blessing in disguise for the Eagles, allowing them to be even stronger.

Rightfully, AFL Scotland has heeded the warning signs attached to the demise of previously developed clubs in Aberdeen, Falkirk and North Lanarkshire. Rather than risk similar setbacks for clubs and the league, AFL Scotland has now taken a cautious approach to the development of a new cub – and that might just be the most valuable gift received by the Eagles in the longer term.

So, for the time being, regardless of their status, we will just have to say…Mon the Eagles!
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