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Sunday, January 17 2021 @ 03:49 pm ACDT

Footy Shorts - Irish press fear Aussie raid and Thieves target water supplies as drought worsens

General News

In the latest round of Footy Shorts we report on the good form of Colm Begley leading to controversy in Ireland, with the young gun showing impressive form just 18 months since starting out in Australian Football. And there's the strange but apparently true story of thieves stealing water from a football club in Brisbane - perhaps not surprising given the degree to which drought is now hurting much of Australia, perhaps even to the point of threatening footy.

Begley bouquets have GAA clubs worried

The great early season form of young Irish star Colm Begley at the Brisbane Lions is sending ripples of worry through Ireland, with Irish media asking whether the Lions and other clubs will continue to raid GAA club ranks. The answer from veteran Brisbane coach Leigh Matthews could be summed up as "absolutely". He indicated picking up such a player every year would be highly desirable. If the International Rules series doesn't resume then the GAA would seem to have no leverage over the AFL to try to stop the "poaching", with an AFL career very attractive to many of the young players in the strictly amateur Gaelic football and hurling ranks. Of course this isn't new, with English soccer also making regular raids. Perhaps if the trend continues the very fabric of the amateur nature of Gaelic clubs in Ireland will change, with the GAA well known for raking in money from packed grounds around Ireland, but very little finding its way back to the players. Aussie Rules fans should be sensitive to such issues, as they too have seen grass roots sports damaged by professionalism, but perhaps a change in Ireland is just another inevitable step. Read more about Matthews' comments here.

Drought leads to water thieves targeting sports club

The drought in Australia is apparently so bad that thieves have reportedly stolen 12,000 litres of water from a Brisbane rugby league club's rainwater tanks. Fans outside of Australia may not realise just how severe the drought has become. The major river system of Australia is the Murray-Darling, comprising multiple rivers, running from Queensland and New South Wales down through Victoria and ending on the coast south of Adelaide. Much of recent rains won't find their way into the Murray-Darling system as the falls are generally on the wrong side of the Great Diving Range that runs down the east coast of Australia. Farmers are dependent on the river flows for irrigation the entire length, and it also provides South Australia's major drinking supply, with Adelaide having only small nearby hills not providing very much water to its reservoirs - not enough for a population of over one million. The water that makes it to the end of the line is very salty and small in volume. For many years now the Murray mouth has had to be dredged to keep it open, and environmental damage along the system has been severe.

For years calls to save the natural environment have mostly been ignored, with more water continuing to be allocated upstream, with rice and cotton the most controversial crops. Now the drought is really hitting home with people in the cities being affected. Most Australian capital cities have tight water restrictions in place, with many people letting their gardens and lawns die off completely. The federal government has warned that there may be zero allocation to irrigators this year. The South Australian government is now considering a plan to block where the Murray flows into adjoining salty lakes in the hope of guaranteeing drinking water for the state for the rest of the year, and the calls for desalination plants grow stronger, while Queensland is planning to include recycled water in its drinking supplies.

With long term modelling suggesting much of southern Australia will become drier, and WA, SA, Victoria and Tasmania already suffering severe shortages, climate change could become a major threat to Australian Football which needs large grassed fields. With the grass on many ovals allowed to die off to save water, and even well-maintained playing surfaces still rock hard well into Autumn, footy is facing a serious issue that probably wasn't even contemplated a few years ago.

Links to the water theft story can be found at www.savefooty.com

Note: Solid rains in Adelaide in the 24 hours following this story are a good start to relieving some of the pressure at the end of the river system, but won't make a major impact unless followed by more heavy rain across large parts of the catchment.

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