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Why International Rules is the black jellybean of sport

Roar Guru
30th October, 2011
48
1031 Reads

Sometimes it is all too easy to join the mob and add your voice to a growing chorus and the International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland was hammered by all and sundry last week.

Every man and his dog had something bad to say about it ahead of last Friday night’s first Test.

So, to the detractors of International Rules, let’s put a few things in perspective.

The International Rules Series is not the highest achievement available to AFL players, and it is never likely to be, but that does not mean that the format does not have a place on the sporting calendar.

The greatest achievement for AFL players remains Premiership glory, but in the absence of State of Origin football, the closest thing to representative football any AFL player will achieve is representing Australia in the International Rules Series. And that counts for something.

International Rules is a sporting oddity of sorts, an amalgamation of Australian Rules and Gaelic football, where the DNA of both games has been spliced and brought together in a format where players from both countries can compete on an even footing.

I wonder if those who panned the International Rules Series have ever bothered to watch a match? The sport is quick, skilful and highly entertaining. As a spectacle, it is top notch viewing.

It is true that the series does not have quite the same interest around it as in years past, but all things in life will ebb and flow to some degree. Whether the downturn in interest is a sign of a terminal decline or only temporary remains to be seen, but it is worth persevering with the competition at least until the sport’s vital signs can be better established.

It is also true that the best players in the AFL are not playing in the matches and, heaven forbid, a few lesser names have even scored a spot in the Australian side, but does it really matter?

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The fact that very few top-line AFL players took to the field should not be of any great concern. No one from AFL House suggested that we would be seeing the best AFL players in action for Australia, and the sport tends to suit smaller running players rather than big key position players in any event.

The Australian side is largely a mosquito fleet while the lumbering big men have been left out.

The International Rules matches also help to answer a few of those nagging questions that sports fans can spend hours pondering.

How do the athletes in my favourite sport compare to those in other games? How would my favourite sports star fare in a different code of football? How transferrable are skills in one sport to another?

Unfortunately for AFL fans, not all of the answers were all that encouraging based on Friday night’s result.

The International Rules Series might just be the black jellybean of sport.

Plenty of people find its peculiarities jarring on their sporting palate, but to many these oddities make it all the more appealing.

Fans of the hybrid game admire its quirky charm, and are happy to defend its oddball nature to its detractors. Sure, it might not be to everyone’s sporting taste, but like a bag of jellybeans with no black ones, the Australian sporting calendar wouldn’t be the same without it.

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