Australia to host Ireland in International Rules
The 2011 International Rules series kicks off tomorrow week with the first of two games to be played at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. The second game will be played at Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast the following week.
Australia won both games in Ireland last year, in a dominant display; showing good ability with the unfamiliar round ball.
Only four players who were part of that squad will make an appearance again this year.
Most would know that the International Rules series is played with a composite of rules taken from both Australian and Gaelic football; the key compromises being that a round ball is used, with the Gaelic football field lay out while limited tackling is allowed, and a mark earns a free kick.
The game is generally played at a very fast pace, and considering that it’s a compromised game, it’s normally quite entertaining. Part of its appeal lies in the fact that it is quite open and attacking, with the rules of the game generally limiting the formation of packs.
On the other hand, the Australians will get only a few weeks to train with the round ball, and this will often show during the game, while the Irish are disadvantaged by both the tackling, and the marking rule, which can often put them in two minds as to whether they should play on or stop and assess their options.
Some may not be aware that the matches between the two countries has a long history, and in fact stems from the first Australian tour of Ireland back in 1967.
That tour comprised VFL players and included some big names, such as Ron Barassi, Bob Skilton, a very young Royce Hart and Alex Jesaulenko.
They played mainly Gaelic football, with a couple of small compromises to the rules and the VFL had wins against the two club teams that competed in the All-Ireland final that year.
Another tour was organised in 1968, this time there were also players from the SANFL, WAFL and VFA represented.
Matches between the two countries became spasmodic after that, but regular matches were reintroduced in 1984 to coincide with the centenary celebrations of the Gaelic Athletic Association, and the series as we now know commenced in 1998.
The results over this period have been remarkably close, with Australia winning six series to Ireland’s five. Australia has scored 1215 points to Ireland’s 1178 points.
The highest attendance on record is 82,127, to see the second Test at Croke Park, Dublin in 2006.