Enter the Bats
After the University of Technology Sydney competed at the 1998 and 1999 Australian University Games, student Marty Lynch set about forming an Australian Football Club for the university for the 2000 Sydney AFL season.
The Bats nickname might be thought to have been appropriately adopted in testament to the colony of flying foxes that live around the club’s Eastern Suburbs base, however it was actually due to a sponsorship agreement with Bacardi Rum.
The club adopted a black guernsey with green ‘slashes’ descending from the top and bottom of the jumper with a red Bacardi logo across the abdomen. This jumper was used through until the early 2010s as the guernsey of the senior Bats teams.
The Bats enjoyed success in their very first year – taking out the Division Two premiership in 2000, with both the club’s first and second teams playing in the category.
The following year, the club expanded to three teams in the 2001 season and stepped its senior sides into the First Division.
Meanwhile, UTS fielded a separate women’s team in the Sydney Women’s AFL Competition. Sponsored by the Cornstalk antiquarian bookshop in Glebe, the team would play in the women’s competition for five seasons before folding in 2006.
The men’s teams would enjoy more success in the early years of the club. The C-Grade Bats took out the Division Two premiership in 2002, followed by the B-Grade reaching the reserves preliminary final in 2003 and going one better for the reserves premiership in 2004.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the Bats would taste senior-level success again, taking out the Division One senior and reserve grade premierships in what remains the club’s most successful season to date.
Division One powerhouse and the Bondi Shamrocks begin
With the Bats coming off a double premiership in 2006, naturally the club wanted more success.
But instead, 2007 was a near miss for the Bats, with the reserves claiming a flag while the seniors fell short to miss out on a grand final berth.
Instead, 2008 marked the return of double success, with the seniors claiming both seniors and reserves flags against Manly-Warringah.
2009 would mark the senior side’s best year to date, going through the entire Division One season undefeated and running out 99-point winners over East Coast Eagles in the Grand Final. The club’s on-field success was due in no small part to the growth of the club’s reputation off it. For the first time, the Bats had fielded four teams in the AFL Sydney competition and all grades played finals.
That success was replicated again in 2010 with the Bats going back-to-back to win their final season in the AFL Sydney first division by 27 points over Sydney University.
Despite several attempts to re-establish a women’s presence, UTS was unable to do so. Meanwhile the Bondi Shamrocks established themselves as the female football force of the eastern suburbs in 2008 – chock-full of Irish expats – creating a unique antipodean presence in the AFL women’s competition of the time.
After first testing their skills in a composite rules match in 2008 against a Sydney Women’s AFL representative side, the Shamrocks played their first season in 2009.
Fun and learning were the key priorities for the team in its early seasons, as well as getting to grips with the culture and traditions that Australia and this game has to offer. Based in ‘County Bondi’ – the affectionate home of Irish expatriates in Australia. Adding to the multinational flavour of the team, New Zealander Lisa ‘Kiwi’ Roper coached the ‘Shammies’ in their first season, and worked hard to impart the traditions of her adopted game to the new club.
Premier Division and Shamrocks success
After years of dominating in the First Division competition, the Bats were elevated to the AFL Sydney Premier Division for the 2011 season.
As with many football clubs that jump a division, the elevation to the top flight of Australian Football in New South Wales presented a steep learning curve.
The Bats struggled to get off the bottom of the ladder for its first few seasons in the Premier Division, but went on to achieve its best ever finish in the top level in 2016 with a in fourth position finish.
Fortunes were far better for the women’s team – now known as the UTS Shamrocks – which went through the 2016 women’s Division One season undefeated enroute to a famous extra time grand final victory over the Wollongong Saints.
That result saw the Shammies elevated to the Premier Division for the 2017 season – marking a new chapter in a decade of success for the women’s team. Meanwhile the Bats’ men enjoyed premiership success in the C and D grades – claiming First and Fourth division flags on the back of Fifth (2015) and Fourth (2014) division flags in recent years.
Under the Bats Banner
In 2019, the Shamrocks nickname was retired for the women’s team, signalling the start of an exciting new era where all of the club’s teams would play under the Bats nickname.
After the challenges of 2020 with the onset of COVID-19, the club welcomed a new-look coaching panel to its ranks with Kyle Emley (Men’s) and Miguel Limson (Women’s) taking the helm of the club’s footy program for 2021 – with solid early season form seeing both sides knocking on the door of the top five before the second NSW lockdown.
The future is bright for the Bats.