From Russia, With Love

The love of the game in Russia is slowly growing, largely through the efforts of late of two of their newest clubs – the Saint Petersburg Cats and the Lazy Koalas in Moscow. After many years of work by Roger Scott and his crew to get a foothold in Moscow, a new breed has grabbed the game by the throat and is lovingly steering it to bigger and better places.

Whilst the national team has yet to reappear at the Euro Cup since their debut international appearance in 2011, the game is far from finished in Russia. During this season the teams from Moscow and St Petersburg have found the resources to compete on a reasonably regular basis – considering distance, opportunity and personnel need to be available at the same time every time to make an event happen.

Alexey Andryushin from the Saint Petersburg Cats, one of the new clubs in the nation, forming in 2014, was happy to give an overview of the 2015 season in Russia – especially from the viewpoint of the Cats as they continue the long road to stability and success.
In the first major national event for the year, the Gagarin Cup, four teams contested the event. Three were Moscow based – the Lazy Koalas, Moskali and Slavyane – and the Saint Petersburg Cats. On the day the Lazy Koalas were too good for all teams, taking out all three games to win the cup.
• SPb Cats 0:46 Slavyane
• Moskali 31:46 Lazy Koalas
• Moskali 32:14 Slavyane
• Lazy Koalas 85:0 SPb Cats
• Lazy Koalas 38:21 Slavyane
• Moskali 48:7 SPb Cats

Saint Petersburg also won a Gagarin Cup award on the day recognising their work in developing the game in the city.

In May, the ANZAC Day Cup was played for the first time in Saint Petersburg at the Kolomyagi Stadium. The visiting team representing Moscow was the Lazy Koalas. The result was certainly lopsided, but the fact that a formal game was played in the second largest Russian city behind Moscow meant a victory for all concerned.
Scores: Lazy Koalas (Moscow) 221 d Saint Petersburg 13

Most recently, the return bout was played at the Krasny Baltiets Stadium in Moscow during early September. The annual Concrete & Steel Cup was once played with nominal Moscow based teams. For the first time this event changed format to become a genuine city versus city showcase. Once again it was the powerhouse Lazy Koalas that were too good for the Cats, but purists will note that the final margin was far less than earlier in the year, suggesting that in small degrees the Cats are closing the gap and learning more and more each time they play. The 75 point turnaround between the two games is even more profound when the bigger defeat for the Cats was on home soil, yet they improved to narrow the gap playing away.
Scores: Lazy Koalas (Moscow) 166 d Saint Petersburg 33

Alexey notes that, “our training sessions usually take place at public places of Saint-Petersburg such as Tavrichesky Garden or Field of Mars, so every spectator or passer-by can easily join in and test his skills in this unusual sport for Russians. We usually conduct trainings on weekend mornings, plus from April to September (when evenings are not too dark) we have additional weekday evening training. Apart from that, we study theory during off-field sessions as well: taking a good look into rules, developing in-game tactics, analyzing AFL matches.”

“Our goals for 2016 include making Australian football a well-known sport in Saint-Petersburg by appearing in newspaper articles & TV programs, getting governmental support. We also wish to train hard and improve our individual and teamwork skills”

“Additionally, we hope to bring new people into team to make possible regular full- lineup matches at our trainings (as we are currently the only Australian football team in Saint-Petersburg and have no opponent to play with on regular basis).”

“We also hope to further develop international relations and play a couple of friendly games with our closest neighbours from Finland, Estonia and Sweden.”

Certainly Alexey, Slava Belov and the team in Saint Petersburg deserve enormous credit for bringing their club so far so quickly. At the same time, Mikhail Artemyev and his remarkable team at the Lazy Koalas have capitalised on the legacy developed by Roger Scott and his crew to grow a strong and powerful Moscow based club.

As Russia begins the journey into winter, and footy goes into a hiatus of sorts, thoughts might justifiably begin to wander towards a new national team for upcoming European events as the playing base increases in both size and talent. It would represent a great gift to the European Australian Rules football scene.

A gift…From Russia, with love.

About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. john darcy says

    Thanks Wes. Can just imagine V. Putin appearing bare chested for a training session. Although i never expect our game will seriously take hold anywhere else, i still love reading about it being played in far flung parks. Especially by non-expats. Brian Dixon did a lot of work in South Africa and there were apparently thousands doing a version of auskick. Does anyone know if the game is still popular there?

  2. Wesley Hull says

    Hi John. The game is being played at a high level now across all continents. The past month has seen the Euro Cup in Croatia with 18 national teams from across Europe (12 men’s and 6 women’s) competing for the title with Denmark defeating England in the final. A week later the USAFL Nationals were held in Austin, Texas for the best men’s and women’s teams. The Austin Crows from Texas defeated the Orange County Bombers from California in the final The New York magpies won last year. The same weekend the Asian Champs were held in Bangkok, Thailand with the Hong Kong Dragons taking the Division 1 title and the Laos Elephants Division 2. And early last month the South African national League GF was played with the warriors from Gauteng Province defeating the Blue Birds from Western Cape. Footy is alive and well across the world and now the seasons in France and the Middle east are in full swing.

  3. Wesley Hull says

    I am sure the boys from The Footy Almanac would be OK with the recommendation that anyone interested in the international Aussie Rules scene visit the World Footy News website where we write about the footy across the world…ALL Aussie Rules. We work together to help widen the coverage of our great national game.


    Happy to have this link included at the end of your posted pieces.

    Equally, would love to have you guys post some stuff with us from time to time – as you already do. I think we’re about to hear from Kaisha and Crash Thompson again too.

  5. Hi Wesley.
    I love the work your doing with the information with keeping us up to date with what’s going on with footy around the world. I see there have been thing put in place to help the game grow. It’s just ashame its not more supported . The people running the clubs are doing a fantastic job growing the game in countries that have never heard of it. People in Australia including media say the game will never work overseas . But from what I gather these clubs are doing junior development . I’m trying to convince people here that it’s not just a bunch of expats playing in comps overseas as India has demonstrated . Keep up the good work . I’m limited to help but if there is anything I can do. Let me know . Cheers

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