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Wednesday, July 17 2019 @ 10:41 pm ACST

The Long And Winding Road

Europe
Probably not what Paul McCartney meant when he wrote this song back in the late 1960’s, but the title certainly fits the journey for the Tyne Tees Tigers, now in their second full season as a part of the AFL Scotland landscape.

Currently, the Tigers sit just behind the reigning premiers, the Edinburgh Bloods in second place on the SARFL ladder. Four wins from five starts this season has been by far the best performance for the Newcastle-based team since their inception back in back in 2012. They spent two years playing social matches before gaining full membership status in the AFLCNE for the 2014 season.

Like most clubs, the early days featured some horrendous hidings, interspersed with some exciting wins – enough wins to keep belief and set a longer-term course.

Phil Martin, president in those early days and still so today, remembers those tough times but revels in the current success.

“A few observations on our season so far. We are currently sitting at four wins and one defeat for the season (and two more goals in the first game would have been five & zero) so are pretty happy so far. Biggest test of the season so far to come on Saturday when we visit the Glasgow Sharks (we beat them at home). Having consistent numbers this season has been key as it has allowed us to develop players in positions rather than shuffling them around to make a team up.”

Already, with just two matches to play this season, the Tyne Tees Tigers are finals bound. Phil notes that it is the “first time in the clubs history we have made the finals”. That alone makes the 2019 season both successful and also historically significant. Coach, Chris Rodger, has moulded a team with youth, experience and burgeoning talent into a winning squad.

It also vindicates the club’s tough decision back in 2017 to leave the AFLCNE and try for a new direction north in Scotland. At the time, travel was cited as a key reason for making the change. Headed across England to play in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Wolverhampton and Nottingham on a regular basis saw massive investment in transporting the team. The trips to Edinburgh or Glasgow were comparable, even more favourable, and there was also the chance to start afresh in a new environment.

Last year the club enjoyed a couple of wins and had their most successful season, but still had a tough initiation with a couple of hidings as part of their transition to Scottish footy. But the groundwork was laid, experience gained and future plans were forged.

Now, weeks away from their first ever finals campaign, the Tyne Tees Tigers can look back over the long and winding road that has brought them to the SARFL and potentially a premiership.

Whilst it might be premature to talk flags, the fact is that the Tigers have beaten both the Edinburgh Bloods and the Glasgow Sharks this season. After a first match loss to the Glasgow Giants, it has been four wins on the trot for the Tigers against all other potential flag fancies.

If all goes well, and luck comes along for the ride, a maiden flag cannot be discounted. That would be some prize for the Tyne Tees Tigers after their humble beginnings and a great story for footy.

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