FORMER Moray footballer has landed a dream chance to play in the World Cup – in the sport of Australian Rules football.
Andy Smith will head Down Under next month to the home of Aussie Rules after being selected by the Great Britain Bull Dogs team to play in the International Cup, the sport’s version of the World Cup.
The former Milne’s High pupil, now 30, was brought up on a farm near Garmouth and played Scottish League football for Elgin City, before a new job took him to his current London home.
Australian Rules football is a thriving sport in the capital due to the number of Aussie exiles living there, and Smith used skills gained from playing Gaelic football at university in Aberdeen to get himself involved with the Wandsworth Demons club in London four years ago.
“I’m quite new to the set-up and really looking forward to my first World Cup and first ever trip to Australia,” said Smith, who works in digital marketing down south.
“We had various training and fitness assessment weekends, so making the final 26 is a really special moment for me and I’ve a lot of work to do in the gym and in the track to get into the starting 18.”
Smith said Australian Rules is becoming so popular in the UK, it has just been accredited in England for GCSE PE in schools. Efforts to expand the game over here have seen various nine-a-side leagues, with mostly non-Australians, including Scotland, who also have an international ‘nines’ team playing other countries.
It is a tough sport, he added, played 18-a-side with man marking throughout. Matches are made up of four 25-minute quarters, and Smith’s club play on a pitch which is 130m long and oval-shaped meaning a lot of running and very physical play.
Smith’s parents and two older brothers and family still work in Moray, and he very much considers it to be home ,despite his new base in London.
Football with a round ball was all he knew during his youth, and he played for Elgin City from primary school age right through the ranks to reach first team status as a teenager, just after the club joined the Scottish League.
Full story in Northern Scot print version.