International rules is back on the up

Pat Hornidge Roar Rookie

By , Pat Hornidge is a Roar Rookie

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    Australian team during the singing of the national anthems during game one of the International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland at Adelaide Oval on November 12, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

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    A few years ago, when it was at its lowest point, I felt like I very much in the minority when I said that I liked and enjoyed International Rules – both the concept and the game itself.

    I feel now though, that the game is slowing recapturing the public’s imagination. In some ways both the AFL and the GAA should be congratulated on that, but most of the praise should go to the players and coaches who have given themselves fully to the game.

    Now the crowds must follow. The 25,000 at the first Test this year isn’t a bad base to build upon, but it does look insignificant when compared to the regular 40,000-plus crowds that the games were getting only ten or so years ago.

    I’ve been reading online that, even in Adelaide itself, a lot of people did not know that the match was on over the weekend. I knew it was on sometime, but didn’t know the exact time or date and it was only through listening to the radio on Sunday morning that I remembered that it was on.

    And, as I said, I am a fan of both the concept and the game. So somewhere, it seems, the AFL’s advertising for the game was both misguided and missing.

    Whether this was because they are still not fully recommitted to the game after some of the controversies of the past, or because of some other reason can’t be known. But really, advertising and PR are two of the AFL’s strengths, so they really have no excuse for not promoting the two Tests heavily.

    The game itself on Sunday was high quality on both sides. It was a great exhibition of the code. This is despite the weather being very warm during the day. The performance of Nat Fyfe particularly stood out, with some reports saying that his Brownlow odds for next season have shortened substantially since the game.

    It clearly also meant something to the players, with various spot fires breaking out during the game. There was nothing over the top, as there has been in past games, but there was just enough to show that there was more than simply pride on the line.

    The reaction to Fyfe’s goal by the Australian players was also revealing – they enjoyed the moment.

    Nat Fyfe Fremantle Dockers AFL 2015

    (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

    And the reaction online has been overwhelmingly positive. Over the last couple of series, the general reaction to the games seems to have ranged from non-interest to outright hostility. But something seems to have changed this year.

    It’s hard to tell why. Maybe it is because it hasn’t been in Australia for three years, so people have missed it, or maybe it was due to the amount of big name players taking part this year.

    Whatever the reason, it seems that the goodwill towards the game and the code is back. From this, crowds can build up again, and more players will want the exposure that playing in a representative game brings them.

    I was very surprised to read that the history of International Rules goes back to 1967, with players such as Ron Barassi, Royce Hart, Bob Skilton and Alex Jesaulenko taking part in a world tour during which they played Gaelic Football against various sides in Dublin and New York.

    Taking the series to New York has again been brought up as an idea to spread interest in America about both the AFL and GAA. This idea could expand even further, by having a New Zealand Test when the series is in Australia.

    Having international rules as a truly international sport makes sense if the AFL wishes to expand its influence across the world.

    Whether the AFL sees this potential remains to be seen. It does appear however that International Rules is back on the rise, with support from players, fans and sporting bodies alike.

    If this momentum is seized upon, and the prestige and everything from these games continues to grow, then we can look forward to a unique spectacle at the end of every season.

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