Contributed by: Sean Finlayson
For the first time ever, an Australian women's team have followed the footsteps of the men's Australian International Rules team, setting out to do what the men have since 1998, test their wares against the Irish Gaelic footballers. The team has just completed a tour of Ireland, with very one sided results in favour of the home side resulting in Ireland taking the inaugural series easily - though not surprisingly given a critical rule difference compared with the men's series.
As reported by WFN, the tests were first agreed upon in Singapore in March this year. Since then, Australia assembled a team consisting mostly of Victorian Women's Football League players as selected following the women's Australian rules football National Championships. The team also included Australian women athletes from a variety of backgrounds including Michelle Dench (daughter of VFL/AFL great David Dench), Matildas goalkeeper Joanne Butland and even former volleyball, touch football, ultimate disc and handball champions.
In the first test, played during the evening on 31st October at Breffni Park in Cavan, the Irish completely overwhelmed their opponents.
The refusal of the Irish to allow the Australians to tackle, reducing the compromise to an almost farcical level, with the only Australian rules being the mark and point posts. This greatly disadvantaged the Australian players and gave a definite advantage to the Irish.
First test final score:
Ireland 6.26.16 (134)
Australia 1.2.3 (15)
With Australia having a strong Gaelic football side and the USA possibly only a few years away from being able to compete with Australia in women's Aussie Rules, the lack of compromise rules could bring the entire exercise into question.
In response to the humiliation, the president of Irish Women's Football offered to play the second test with the Aussie Rules ball, something which the Australians, possibly out of pride, refused.
The second match was played at night on 4th November at Parnell Park, Dublin and saw a much improved Australian outfit tighten their defence and claw back the lead in the final half to finish respectably in comparison to the first test.
Second test final score:
Ireland 3.5.6 (39)
Australia 0.4.6 (18)
Both games were televised live in Ireland and Australia on pay TV network Setanta Sports and unlike the men's series, the women's series was generally played in good spirit.
The results are not overly surprising considering that over 100,000 women play Gaelic football in Ireland, in a highly popular women's league. When Cork defeated Armagh in the All-Ireland women's championship at Croke Park, Dublin in October, over 25,000 spectators were in attendance.
In contrast, there are just under 19,000 women's Aussie Rules players in Australia and the game has a low profile. Although the game is played in all states, there is no national competition for Women's Aussie Rules. Around the same time as the All-Ireland match was being played, Australia's strongest and best supported league, the WVFL (with 16 clubs and 3 divisions) had under 1,000 spectators to their Grand Final at the Western Oval in Melbourne. As a result, the women found it difficult securing sponsors for their tour to Ireland, but the AFL provided around $10,000 to cover uniforms, insurance and training and prestige car dealer Nick Theodossi, a member of the "Virtually Forgotten Legends" club (a group of former VFL/AFL players) also contributed a nominal sum.
Both Women's Footy and Ladies Gaelic Football are growing rapidly at both senior and junior level. Around the world the growth includes Women's Footy in the USA, Japan and more recently Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, and Gaelic football in Asia and amid the "Irish diaspora" - areas around the world where descendents of Irish immigrants are common. Gaelic football is perhaps growing faster, possibly because it doesn't have the tackling and is not as physically demanding on the body.
As yet, there has been no word from the peak body Women's Football Australia as to the hosting of the series in Australia next year.
Editor: For any Aussie Rules players who have not tried Gaelic football, they may not appreciate just how difficult it is to take possession from the opposition since tackling is not allowed - it may well be a bigger factor in the results than the use of the Gaelic round ball.
Bronagh O'Donnell, Alma O'Donnell, Caroline O'Hanlon, Caoimhe Marley (All Armagh), Bronagh Sheridan (Cavan), Angela Walsh, Norita Kelly, Juliet Murphy, Rena Buckley (All Cork), Micheala Downey (Down), Cliodhna O'Connor, Sinead Aherne (both Dublin), Aoibheann Daly, Anne Marie McDonagh, Una Carroll, Patricia Gleeson (All Galway), Grainne Ni Flathartha, , Sarah O'Connor (All Kerry), Brianna Leahy (Kildare), Lorraine Muckian, Patricia Fogarty (Laois), Dympna O'Brien (Limerick) Cora Staunton, Christina Heffernan (Mayo), Sinead Dooley, Jackie Shields, Geraldine Doherty, Mary Sheridan (All Meath), Mairead Morrissey (Tipperary), Mary O'Donnell (Waterford)
Belinda Blay (Vic); Julia Boyle (Vic); Joanne Butland (QLD); Renae Campbell (WA); Jane Clifton (Vic); Penny Cula-Reid (Vic); Michelle Dench (Vic); Angela Doyle (WA); Sarah Hammond (Vic); Anna Haynes (WA); Emma Hender (ACT); Moana Hope (Vic); Meg Hutchins (Vic); Pia Kilburn (WA); Shelley Matcham (WA); Shannon McFerran (Vic); Anna McIlroy (Vic); Janine Milne (Vic); Talei Owen (NSW); Lydia Padgett (WA); Daisy Pearce (Vic); Katherine Pender (Qld); Kerryn Stephens (Vic); Lauren Tesoriero (Vic); Kathy Zacharopoulos (Vic)
World Footy News