International Rules is much ado about nothing

John Bushby Roar Rookie

By , John Bushby is a Roar Rookie

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    Nathan Buckley Australian team captain looks dejected after losing the first game of the International Rules match between Australia and Ireland at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne on October 8, 1999. Slattery Image Group

    The International Rules Series is upon us once again, but who cares? This hybrid game is a well intentioned concept that has outlived its original aim. To some AFL fans, it’s a gap filler for the months between the real football battles, but to others there’s more interest in watching the draft trade and the first running sessions around the Botanic Gardens.

    Why should AFL fans be expected to embrace a game of compromise?

    They know the Irish are amateurs who play their Gaelic football with all the courage, skill, flair and enthusiasm they can conjure. This is the essence of its appeal.

    The fans also know that the Australian players spend most of the Series attempting to adapt to new ball skills in a limited and unsuitable time frame.

    The result is a gutsy attempt by the competing sides to make a potential farce into an attractive display. It is to the credit of each side that the games reach the standard they do.

    But it all lacks grunt.

    Ask the average fans of both football codes what they can remember after these years of battle and the infamous “punch-up” would win hands down.

    Ask any coach or official of clubs having had players involved and the answer would probably be the fear of injury.

    Just as Cats fans may ask what Gary Ablett has to do to win a Brownlow or Norm Smith medal, the relevant question here might be why have this hybrid series at all?

    Even if the Irish League are well compensated for their efforts, what reason exists for them to go to all the trouble?

    The AFL, on the other hand, may have the advantage of searching for adaptable talent in a relevant competitive environment. Although I accept we provide the occasional NFL kicker, it is inconceivable that a professional AFL footballer will switch codes to play amateur Gaelic football in Ireland.

    The Irish must surely see the risk of losing talented young players.

    What advantage is there for the Irish to continue in this Series? Their own game is, as AFL is to Australia, their OWN game.

    The difference to Australia is that AFL does not produce players that are suitable to be poached by other codes.

    Furthermore, both sides have had the Gods smile on them with injury. Sooner or later long term injuries can be expected.

    Will this Series be the last?

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