A bunch of Aussie league fans have banded together to start their own club. FInd out how you can get involved in the sport of your choice this summer. WORDS: Tom Sturrock
London can be a lonely city for those who arrive here with no mates, no job and nowhere to live.
These factors ensure plenty of wide-eyed newcomers return home in a year or so, disenchanted with western Europe’s biggest city.
It was with this in mind that a bunch of rugby league-loving Aussies put their heads together and founded the Hammersmith Hills Hoists, a new rugby league club smack-bang in the middle of London’s major expat hub.
Co-founder Marc Harris, 25, recalls how an idle suggestion at the pub quickly developed a momentum of its own.
“This idea that started out over a couple of beers pretty quickly turned serious – we’ve put in a lot of time and effort, starting it all from scratch,” Harris says.
“It’s all set to go – the season runs from April to September and we’re ready to play. We’re training weekly and we’re looking to organise a couple of trials before it starts.”
The Hills Hoists will play in the London Merit League, which, until now, offered few options for those living in London’s inner neighbourhoods.
“If you work in the centre of London, you don’t want to finish work and then have to jump on a train for a couple of hours to get out to the ground,” Harris says.
“Being in that Hammersmith area, it’ll be mostly Aussies and Kiwis playing. Certainly we’ll be pretty easily identified in our replica Australian jerseys. Hopefully it’s just another sport we can beat the Poms in.”
In order to keep costs for players low – it’s free to play – the Hills Hoists’ founders approached local businesses for support.
“We went down to the Shepherd’s Bush Walkabout with our laptops and gave a real presentation to show them what they could get back out of it,” Harris says.
“They agreed to help us out, which was great of them, and in return we’ll be having functions there after every home game.”
The London experience
With 40 players already on the roster, the Hills Hoists are shaping up as a major success story. But for Harris, the club is as much about helping people build a network in a new city as it is about playing sport.
“London is not an easy place to land if you don’t know anyone. It can be tough when you’re starting out. A lot of people find themselves a bit lost, a bit lonely,” he says.
“Hopefully, we can give people a bit of an avenue into meeting people and making new friends. You never know who you might meet – you might meet someone who can help you get a job, or someone you can then go travelling with.”
Amid the intoxicating loneliness of a big city, the Hills Hoists sound pretty damn appealing.
» If you want to play for the Hills Hoists, or offer your support, get online. Go to hillshoistsrlfc.com for info.
Fancy starting your own club?
Do your research
Whatever your sport, the internet is your friend. Get online and find a local league and figure out whether it’s plausible for you to enter your own side. Also find a place you can train – it’s got to be easy for people to get to.
Recruit, recruit, recruit
Even if you think you’ve got enough players from scratch, do whatever you can to expand your roster. Rope in your work colleagues and friends of friends. Start a Facebook page. The bigger your player base, the better.
Consider the costs
Hopefully it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get started. Borrow equipment. Train in parks if possible. Hit up nearby pubs for support, and hold regular functions in return.
Sure, sport is worthwhile for fitness purposes alone, but the big bonus is the instant network it provides. Get the team together regularly for drinks or a BBQ – it’ll keep the players keen.
Choose your summer sport
There are teams all over London – there’s a side in Shepherd’s Bush (shepherdsbush.play-cricket.com) and another in North London (northlondoncc.hitscricket.com). For more, check out lastmanstands.com.
The British Australian Rules Football League season kicks off in May. There are sides in North London, West London, Putney, Wimbledon and Wandsworth. Go to aflgreatbritain.com.
There are so many social teams to choose from, you just need to find one that’s convenient. Log on to onenetball.com to track down a team near you.
Now we’re officially in spring, it’s a great time to get back in the pool. Find a list of London water polo sides at londonwaterpololeague.org.uk.
The season is already in full swing, but if you’re keen – or want to get a head start on next season – you’ll find a comprehensive list of London clubs and leagues at londonrugby.com.