History of Great Britain Lacrosse

British Lacrosse Is Born

The Great Britain lacrosse team was first formed in 1883 where they played against Canada. They were beaten 12-1, but register the first goal. They played the following year against the USA in Belfast, recording GBs first win 5-3. The GB team formed again in 1908 for the Olympic Games in London. Only a men’s squad played, and they were defeated by Canada. Captained by Hubert Ramsey, the GB team had pulled level at 9-all in the 4th quarter, only to be undone by a run of five goals from the Canadians. They lost 14-10.

Lacrosse returned to the1928 Olympics in Amsterdam as a demonstration sport. GB competed alongside Canada and the USA in a men’s tournament. GB won a tight game against the USA 7-6 before losing to Canada 9-5. With the Olympics returning to London in 1948, lacrosse was once again an demonstration sport, this time GB competing against the USA. The match resulted in a 5 all draw.

The 1950s and 60s Touring Team

In 1954, an entrepreneurial group of women set sail for a two-month tour of the USA to promote lacrosse. The game had taken root in the British Isles in 1913, so the squad consisted of some very strong players. The group toured the USA, playing universities and clubs and delivered many coaching clinics.

Two test matches were played against the USA. They won the first one against the 1953 team 15-5, and followed that up with an 8-4 victory against the 1954 team.

In 1957 the USA team travelled to Great Britain. A much closer game resulted in a 4-4 draw, with captain Joan Reeson scoring all of GB’s goals.

In 1960, the British team returned to the USA for another two-month tour involving coaching clinics, local matches, sightseeing and two test matches. The GB team were victorious in both. They won 15-3 vs the 1957 USA team and 16-5 vs the 1960 team. The team was led by Elizabeth Constantine and included veterans Georgie Coombes and Elizabeth Carling who were part of the original 1954 touring squad.

Early 1970s – The Rise Of The USA

1972 heralded the arrival of the Australian team in Great Britain, and a first-ever meeting between the two sides. The British came out on top, winning 14-3. There was real excitement over how the game was growing. The British “Pioneers” team had toured Australia alongside the USA team in 1969, so it was fantastic to see the resulting growth in the game in Australia. In 1973 the GB team once again toured the USA, winning 8-7 vs the 1972 USA team and 6-4 against the 1973 cohort. The games between our two nations became ever tighter. The USA visited Britain again in 1975. This time completing an unbeaten tour of the country, including their first ever victory against Great Britain, with an 8-6 win.

The Journey To World Number 1 Team

Celia Brackenbridge took on the GB captaincy ahead of the 1978 tour to Australia. She had a mission to make her squad #1 in the world. Over the next 12 months they took on Australia in a 5-test series and hosted the USA in a 3-test series.

A 1978 month-long tour of Australia saw the team compete against local State sides, attend welcome dinners and banquets, do some sightseeing, and play the all-important five tests against the Australians. GB won the series convincingly 5-0, with 12-4, 5-1, 5-0, 7-4 and 10-2 victories over the hosts. Vice-Captain Sandi Procter finished the series as top scorer. The team even had to deal with one of their top attackers, Sue Wilson, having her appendix out after the first test!

In 1979 the USA team arrived in Great Britain as clear favourites to take the series. The team boasted several returners from their victorious 1975 team and the USA ranked #1 in the world. A close first test ended in a 4-4 draw, with GB struggling to play against the American zone defence. The Americans had to learn to adjust to the local conditions, especially picking up the ball in the British spring mud! Brackenbridge led the way with two goals for the home side, with Sandi Procter as the provider for all four goals.

The second test, also a tense affair, saw Great Britain score two goals from Brackenbridge and Maddison in the final minute to pull away and win 8-6. With five different scorers, the home attack proved hard to contain. The third test sealed the series for Great Britain, with a final score of 8-4. The team pulled ahead to a 4-1 lead, and while they were pegged back to 4-3 at half time. A second-half hat trick from Sandi Procter (in her final game before retirement) put the game out of reach for the USA. Having defeated the USA and Australia comprehensively over the previous 12 months, the British Lacrosse team was finally ranked #1 in the world.

Los Angeles 1984

Great Britain was invited to compete in the Jim Thorpe Memorial Pow-Wow Games, hosted alongside the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. As there was limited men’s lacrosse at the time in Wales and Scotland, the England team went to the men’s event. A British women’s team was selected, though sadly the women’s tournament was cancelled after a sponsor withdrew.

Return Down Under

Disappointed not to have competed in 1984, the women instead toured Australia in 1985 for another 5-test series. The team, led by Janet Guilbride and Lois Richardson, and with Vivian Jones to lead the attack, travelled for a month in the summer of 1985. They played a test series interspersed by matches against Australian State sides. This would be a different proposition from the 1978 tour. Australia had only narrowly lost the final of the 1982 World Cup in extra time. The team would go on to win the 1986 edition of the tournament. Goalkeeper Barbara Dootson was the only remaining team member from the all-conquering squad of the late 70s.

A New Dawn For Team GB

As the global lacrosse community grew and the World Events increased in importance, the Home Nations turned their focus to competing individually. As a result, the women ceased to compete as a united British team following the 1985 tour.

All of this has now changed. World Lacrosse is taking the sport on a journey which we all hope will culminate in lacrosse re-joining the summer Olympic programme in 2028 at the Los Angeles games. The first competition on this journey was the participation of women’s lacrosse at the 2017 World Games in Poland. As the Home Nations don’t compete in the World Games or the Olympic Games, a Great Britain team was once again formed.

2017 World Games Squad

Inheriting England’s world ranking of 4, they were led to the tournament by coach Nicky Budd and captain Emily Gray. They defeated Japan 9-5, with goals coming from across the team, with a brace each from Iona Dryden and Laura Warren. However they lost their other group game to newly crowned World Champions USA, going down 14-6. Emilie Chandler had a superb performance in goal, with a tournament-high 12 saves. The team faced the USA again in the semi-finals, losing 18-5, with Sophie Whitehead grabbing two goals for GB. The team played Australia in the Bronze medal match, and went into the final quarter tied at 8-all. Unfortunately they lost a close game 10-8. Claire Faram, Emily Gray, Sophie Morrill and vice-captain Ailsa Stott all grabbed two goals each.

The Olympic Journey Continues – Sixes Is Born

In 2021, the IOC formally recognised World Lacrosse as a full member, and World Lacrosse launched a new proposed Olympic format for the game: World Lacrosse Sixes. British Lacrosse men’s and women’s teams will compete in the 2022 World Games. They will play the new Sixes format and both teams are real medal contenders.

Exciting times lie ahead with a new future for lacrosse teams competing as Great Britain!