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The Clubs That Never Quite Made It - How, Why and Where-to-Now?

  • Monday, February 21 2005 @ 02:22 am ACDT
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General News Every year, a number of people take the initiative and start having a kick in their previously footy-foreign area. Some plan clubs, others plan leagues, some have huge plans of conquering the world. Sometimes these gather momentum and take flight - but sometimes they don't...

WFN takes a look at a few of the clubs and leagues that never quite made it, as well as some who haven't made it yet, but have never given up.

Football club politics can get messy. Clubs in Australia have a hard enough time keeping things under control at times.

USAFL power club the Denver Bulldogs have occasionally been criticised for placing too much emphasis on being the best side in the country, but not working hard enough on growing footy at a local level. Some of this fallout led to a group of Bulldogs players leaving to found their own club, the Rocky Mountain Saints, affiliated with the local Rocky Mountain Cricket Club. The Saints are yet to play a game against outside competition, but haven't shown any sign that they're officially dead. Ditto for the Colorado Springs Dragons - a planned offshoot of the Denver Bulldogs who were to play in the Western Region tournaments in 2004, but never made it as far as the first game.

Other clubs in the United States who have been created on paper, but never made it to the field include the Salt Lake City Seagulls, the Columbus Light Horse in central Ohio and the Columbia Basin Crows in south-east Washington state.

Some initially promising and successful clubs eventually went into recess, including the Inland Empire Eagles in California and the Lehigh Valley Crocodiles in Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Valley Crocs even produced some USAFL scholarship winners who went on to train with Essendon in the AFL - but ultimately their playing base dwindled and the team collapsed.

An area which has seen attempts to start a club on both sides of the border in the Niagara/Buffalo region - where an attempt to start a club in Buffalo was ultimately thwarted by the difficulties in finding enough people to do the hard yards in initially starting a club. As many people know, a core group of four or five guys, rather than just one, can make all the difference. The Niagara T-Devils were originally slated to join the Ontario AFL in 2005 as an offshoot of the Hamilton Wildcats. Unfortunately, these plans also seem to have put on the backburner for the near future - though they may appear as time progresses.

The Edmonton Bushrangers, over in Canada's western province Alberta, took the field for a few matches many years ago, but they've since vanished. The Calgary Kangaroos and Red Deer Magpies would certainly appreciate the reappearance of another Alberta club, but for the time being they'll have to travel to Vancouver to play anyone other than each other.

Across in Europe, there have been attempts to start clubs in Prague, where Japan footy veteran Jacob Dedek founded the Prague Tigers, and the German cities of Kassel and Göttingen, where clubs were hoping to get off the ground back in 1999. Planned (or defunct) clubs in England include the Thames Valley Magpies, the East Midlands Eagles, the London Irish Rovers, the Lea Valley Saints, the Liverpool Blues, the Birmingham Crows and the Salisbury Tigers. Some of these played a few seasons in the BARFL, some didn't even make it to the first bounce.

In Holland, there were plans to start a national side, possibly to compete in the AFL Germany, but these were ultimately fruitless - partly because this was before the AFL Germany started actual league play. They even got as far as having a 30 player-strong club in the Arnhem Riverhawks, but this eventually collapsed through lack of anyone to play against.

The Zagreb Giants in Croatia have never made it as far as playing a match, but they've never given up either. There are now hopes that a number of players from Australia may make an appearance in Croatia in 2006 to help it off the ground.

It's a big list of potential clubs, and there are more that aren't even named here - but it's important to realise that there are many other clubs who have succeeded. It's a fact of life that not all clubs succeed, but hopefully those that try again next time can learn from the experiences, both good and bad, of the people who've done it all before.