For this installment on international footy I talked to Dan Prigmore, the Vice President of the West London Wildcats, winners of the 2013 AFL London Premiership.
Dan Prigmore is the current Vice President of the West London Wildcats, and also its co-senior coach for the last three years. He played footy as a kid, and when he left Australia for England he didnt want to miss out on his footy. The Wildcats ended up as his destination purely through geographic coincidence. Now he says he cant see himself anywhere else.
The West London Wildcats are one of the oldest Australian football clubs in England, and amongst the oldest continuously running overseas Australian football club in the world. They were BARFL founding members in 1990 and will celebrate their 25th anniversary next year. They also have a netball club – the Wildkittens.
The Wildcats are obviously based in West London, an area which encompasses discricts such as Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith, Fulham, Putney, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing, Barnes and Richmond. Dan says they get even more players from outside these areas who come to play and socialise.
The Wildcats won their first flag in 2000, after five second place finishes in 1992, 1994-96 and 1999. Since 2000, they have been premiers in eight of the last thirteen years, runner up in two more. In their history the Wildcats have never finished the season lower than fifth. With nine flags that makes the Wildcats one of the most successful clubs in the UK area, but still behind their seconds who have won topped the league twelve times.
Dan says this years flag was sweet.
“This year was a very tightly contested match throughout the day against a team that we get along very well with on and off the field (we are the only two club’s in London to have a joint social event during the season) We managed to just hang on in the last quarter kicking into the breeze, and to share it with a couple of the boys in their 30’s who were playing in their first ever premiership was a great feeling!”
The Wildcats football club consists of three teams, the senior Wildcats, the Shepherds Bush Raiders (who play in the Conference which they have won 12 times) and Ealing Emus (who play in the Social Division which they have won twice). Dan says that despite a squad size of about 150 players, more players are always welcome to fill the three teams as it is inevitable that many players are unavailable each week due to travel commitments.
All matches are played on a full sized oval. Matches are typically played as 18 a side, although preseason games are usually 9-a-side to match the rest of Europe. Premiership matches run for 25 minutes per quarter, Conference matches are 20 minutes per quarter, and the social division runs at 15 minutes per quarter.
West London competes with a maximum of 6 teams in all grades, and the club will play a maximum of 10 home and away matches per season plus finals.
Dan says that running a team in England is busy and rewarding. There is always a turnover of players, as most Australians that come to the Wildcats are on a two year visa, which means they turnover roughly 50% of their players at the end of a season.
There is a required ratio of Australians to others on the field, and this means that Dan gets to see players from England, Scotland and Wales be introduced to the game and develop their footy skills and love of the game.
Dan tells me that the biggest challenges include player management. Theres so much to do and see in Europe that players frequently take off to visit festivals and tourist locations on the continent, which makes list maintenance somewhat problematic at times. Dan says, the league helps compensate for this by ensuring that there are a reasonable number of byes which allow for travel, especially for major festivals and events.
The Wildcats are currently advertising for players and coaches for the current season, and if you’d like to be part of the most successful football club outside of Australia then vist the website at www.wildcatsfc.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on their email newsletter.
Please note there is no audio available for this interview.