International Rules is much ado about nothing

John Bushby Roar Rookie

By John Bushby, 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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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • Roar Guru

      October 22nd 2008 @ 8:48am
      Pippinu said | October 22nd 2008 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      I sort of half agree with the gist of this article, but with a couple of provisos:
      1. It’s worth mentioning that Croke Park normally sells out for these games, and in Australia, the attendance is not to bad, that in itself means that it warrants some attention; and
      2. You said yourself: ” It is to the credit of each side that the games reach the standard they do. ” The fact is that this silly, hybrid game is actually an entertaining game in its own right. It’s worth a bit of a look for that alone. The pace of the game is lightning fast, the amateur Irish players themselves are lighning fast, and that alone is of interest.

      Bugbear: Get rid of the behind posts – we don’t need them in this type of game at all. Stick with just unders and overs.

      I also agree that if the pace of recruitment of young Irish players quickens up, the GAA will certainly want to call off all ties – unless they have a rethink as to their philosophy on that aspect.

    • October 22nd 2008 @ 9:19am
      Michael C said | October 22nd 2008 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      The notion of ‘making a compromise’ is actually not a bad notion.

      after all – – it was this notion that ensured that from 1858 onwards, the a home grown code almost exclusively occupied Melbournians ‘football’ aspirations and endeavours pretty effectively to today.

      So – if we celebrate the ‘spirit’ of that compromise then we celebrate the spirit that gave us our great game.

      The point of it all – – yep, certainly – don’t take it all too seriously. I don’t know how many fans rock up and head home heart broken should Australia lose. It seems more of a thrill to sing the anthem at the outset than to concern with the result at the end of the day.

      For each code though – the chance to represent the country is a pretty cool thing when otherwise there is none. Obviously, it matters more for some individuals than others – – as illustrated back at junior levels where some talented multi code athletes may opt for a sport with more definitie national opportunities – – or not.

      For the Irish – – the AFL is the lesser of evils. The GAA has much more say with the AFL than they do with the IRB, or FIFA/EPL. For the GAA, far better to lose the odd player to the AFL – – and the reality is only a very small number succeed – for others, they can have the chance and return home perhaps better for the experience – and BACK to the GAA.

      But – – for those of us going……….sheesh, without it, we might even be tempted to go to something like the soccer…….heck, I made that mistake 2 years ago………..and sure as heck the IR matches are more entertaining than what I got served up that day – – – so, perhaps, strategically – it IS important for the AFL to provide a limited playing focus via the buildup through October culminating in the 2 matches – – – because, otherwise, October is the doldrums month of sport and if the AFL pulled out of these matches – then they allow perhaps the HAL a free reign. Realistically – – that would be silly to do.

      Let’s see how we go then, the HAL has failed to hit 40K 3 rounds out of 8 so far this season – – that get’s put in perspective if the AFL dawdles along with a half derided half serious half muck around game at the ‘G that draws 50-60K and one at Subi that draws 40K. Crowds aren’t everything – – but, if the concept is working well enough – – why not!!

      btw – I’m just touching wood that Boomer goes well as captain…………….and doesn’t get injured. ;-(

    • October 22nd 2008 @ 9:34am
      JohnB said | October 22nd 2008 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      The parochial games in Ireland (Gaelic football, hurling) face competition from soccer and rugby, and I imagine the same sort of arguments about the long term future of their sports which don’t offer an international element get made as occur here when talking about Australian rules and to a lesser extent rugby league. That offering of some form of international competition (especially in an amateur sport) may be enough to make the series attractive from an Irish administrator’s perspective. The only Irishman I’ve talked to about this game (more accurately, he talked to me about it – I have no interest in it and so wouldn’t have been raising the topic) was a very good all-round sportsman who had played Gaelic football and hurling and various other things at a decent level. He liked the hybrid game as a game and enthusiastically looked forward to it coming up each year. Of course you can’t make an argument from one example, but perhaps there are others in Ireland like him

    • October 22nd 2008 @ 9:38am
      Koala Bear said | October 22nd 2008 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Yep, I have to agree with this article it lacks credibility and I would also add that the recent IC lacked creditability as well. Although it was a nice notion to enter the Peace Team; that was a beautiful concept.. Alas, the AFL did not go far enough with not including an amateur Marn Grook Australian NT indigenous team.. That was a disgrace… 8)


    • October 22nd 2008 @ 9:45am
      Michael C said | October 22nd 2008 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      JohnB –

      ‘perhaps there are others in Ireland like him’………..

      well, they’re back again……….which suggests there are others in Ireland like him,

      they’ve drawn 80,000 or so to Croke Park………which suggests there are others in Ireland like him.

      – – – –

      KB –

      you’re bored – aren’t you?

    • October 22nd 2008 @ 10:20am
      Koala Bear said | October 22nd 2008 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      KB – you’re bored – aren’t you?

      LOL 😀 MC, hmm… maybe; but I do remember it was you who said that you blog to keep your sanity while fulfilling your day to day mundane work responsibilities… 😀


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