Brits stick to home grown talent

Wednesday, June 04 2008 @ 06:30 am ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

As countries begin settling on their line-ups for the third International Cup, it’s interesting to note that the coaching staff behind the British Bulldogs are very much focussed on players that have been developed in the UK, even if that means overlooking, in theory at least, potential players Down Under – even an AFL-listed one.

When it was drawn to the attention of WFN staff that Adelaide Crows ruckman/key position player Brad Moran was probably eligible for Great Britain (he only moved to Australia's Gold Coast region as a teenager) our first thought was that he’d be no chance of playing in the Cup. Having been swapped to Adelaide from North Melbourne, Moran is still in the early stages of his career, and highly unlikely to be released by the Crows or even want to take the time away from building what is, after all, his livelihood.

Nevertheless we checked with the AFL and yes, he would most likely be eligible. However the Adelaide Football Club’s CEO, Steven Trigg, advised that a release would be unlikely but was unaware of and supportive of a formal invitation. But even on the outside chance, would AFL Britain go after him?

The perhaps surprising answer is no. WFN spoke with Martin Smith, on the management staff of the British Bulldogs. His forthright answer, “Firstly, in its current format, IC08 is and should remain an amateur comp. Period.”

Smith explained, “Our coach Charlie Kielty and I are in complete agreement on this. We have taken the time to work with home grown talent, who learnt to play in the UK, and who are in the current training squad through playing merit, hard work on the training ground, and through fair trials etc. What message would we send to them, plus other hopefuls just outside the squad, if we were to even consider this?”

As much as there could be some good PR in at least sounding out Moran, Smith sees it as potentially detrimental to the Bulldogs, “not to be in the spirit of the competition” and something he’d hope other countries would not entertain.

These issues will become more significant in the years ahead, as each nations’ top players will tend to gravitate towards Aussie leagues. The very foundations of the tournament will be tested. Will it seek to be the best it can, continuing to allow players that have come to the game late in Australia, or headed there to finish off their skills, or will it aim to remain at the amateur level? Time will tell, but for now the intentions of the British Bulldogs staff is quite clear – talent developed at home is their focus.

As for Moran, he’s probably blissfully unaware he was up for discussion, happy just to focus on getting his body, currently injured, right for hopefully a long and successful AFL career.

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