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England Lacrosse: How I Became a London Raptor

Editor’s Note: Find the London Raptors on social media on Instagram and Facebook by their handle @londonraptors. Use #londonraptors and #goodblokepolicy to join the conversation!

The Raptors are on the hunt. No, I’m not talking about the next Jurassic Park movie. I’m talking about the newly formed London Raptor Lacrosse Club across the pond in good ol’ England!

England is a land full of ancient history and actually has a proud lacrosse heritage that started over 140 years ago when a few Canadians and Native Americans put on an exhibition game to the general public to showcase the ‘Creator’s’ game. Since then hundreds of clubs and universities across the United Kingdom have fermented strong legacies churning out thousands of lacrosse players who have passed on their passion to subsequent generations.

Here’s a quick league structure recap: England Lacrosse Association (ELA) is split into two senior men’s leagues NEMLA (Northern England Men’s Lacrosse Association) and SEMLA (Southern England Men’s Lacrosse Association). Both have a premiership division and then lower divisions/tiers, with teams vying to be promoted to compete at the highest level.

At the end of each season the premiership champion from both leagues compete to be crowned best in the country. There’s also a side cup called flags for both north and south leagues, kind of like the FA Cup in England soccer (football) where teams from all divisions compete to be crowned champions.

Now that we’re all caught up with English Lacrosse Association league structures (you’re welcome to all those who love context, even though I haven’t even mentioned the league restructuring of local divisions within the differing leagues!) back to these London Raptors!

The London Raptors were founded only 7 months ago back in March 2018 around a breakfast table by a few good blokes who saw an opportunity to have a centralized London club in the inner city. Other existing London clubs are scattered around the commuter belt in suburban areas at least an hour’s commute outside the city centre.

The plan was for the Raptors to host intense and organized training sessions at a fantastic facility near London Bridge at Bacon’s Field Community College in Canada Water (another reason as to why I couldn’t resist playing, having not only my birth country the name of the area but the team name of my city of birth Toronto!), while at the same time putting a highly competitive squad on the game sheet roster each week.

Before these founding members went public in the lacrosse community with this idea they did what any Raptor would do, they went scouting, not for prey, but for those worthy to join the pack. Recruiting was a crucial component to having this club not only approved by the ELA and SEMLA but to be positioned in the higher tier divisions.  Staying true to Raptor style, the founding members recruited together as a pack.

Personally, there were four Raptors who tactfully poached me from my former premiership club Hitchin who I rejoined again after seven years when I returned to England earlier in January this year. Cornering me on the Hitchin train station platform heading back to London after a hard-fought game, one of the opponents who just happened to be my good friend and fellow England box national teammate DC. The four Raptors did what they believed would be the best method to get me on board. Boasting my playing abilities, good looks, and desire to be a part of a close knit lacrosse family in central London where I now lived and worked.  Needless-to-say they didn’t have to do much convincing, right then and there I was London Raptor.

Fast track to the preseason in the summer and early fall, and the London Raptors had recruited more than 30 players (closer to 40 now) attending trainings to pool from to select for the first team. Clearly a second team is in the works for the start of next season, however focus was all on the first official game for the club against Bath that would decide which division we were to play in (Division I or II) and also double as a flags playoff game. We prepared for this game with intense training sessions on our amazing 3G ground and a half exhibition game (the away team realising the field was only booked for an hour!) against the Premiership winners last season Hampstead, coming out with a 7-3 loss result. We were confident for our upcoming match versus Bath and thrilled to see our potential and the unbelievable progress we’ve made from the clubs inception only four months earlier!

We traveled together as a Raptor pack of good blokes on the train from London to Bath only to arrive to the great English weather of rain. Hungry for victory we came out of that game winning 19-1, securing our spot in Division I and putting us through to the flags quarter finals. No longer would there be any doubt in the lacrosse community here in Great Britain, the London Raptors are here to stay and they’re on the prowl.

Next game was the official season debut against Spencer 2’s on their home ground. It was a game where we could prove our worth and see how we stood up to the previous years’ Division 1 winners. The Raptor hunt was on its way down to the southern suburbs of London on a beautiful rare sunny day to test all the hype which questioned if we weren’t just all talk. With a convincing 12-7 win. we proved not only to ourselves but to the rest of the leagues we meant business.

Full of pride and confidence, we went into our next weekend match against the newly relegated premiership team Reading.  It was a nail biter to say the least. Having a two-goal lead with three minutes left and then finishing with 8-7 loss, it was a tough pill to swallow. Although we did not lack in effort, we underestimated our opponents and didn’t play together as the same team the previous week. Perhaps it was our overconfidence or us faltering on our cohesiveness we have been building upon. Regardless, it was a humbling experience for us all and a much needed one at that as we may have been getting a bit ahead of ourselves. With it being only our second game together it was clear that success doesn’t happen overnight. In order for us to achieve our lofty goals, we must work harder, train better, but most importantly be team players and standby our good bloke policy.

I started thinking on the tube ride home after our Friday night training session the week after our first official defeat. I can safely say that we knew what we needed to do to get better. We had another high intensity training session the following week focusing on our offensive motion and how to implement it during game time.  The next day, this past Saturday, we cruised to an easy 22-4 victory over Spencer 3’s. Although we could have had more goals, we showed great restraint and focused on our offensive game plan. We have another bye this coming weekend and then some great upcoming matches against some good opponents. One match to look for is the Quarterfinal Flags match against Spencer first team. Reflecting on the last 4 months and where we started as a club to where we are now. There is no doubt in my mind that it will take a lot of effort and commitment, but the London Raptors will achieve the goals that have been set out in front of us. We are here to stay and I’m proud to be called a London Raptor.