A vote of the Gaelic Athletic Association‘s Central Council saw the Irish counties vote 24 to 8 for a resumption of the International Rules Series. A key factor appears to have been the Dubai document that showed a pretty thorough attempt by both sides to clarify the rules and eliminate foul play whilst still preserving the physical nature of the hybrid code. The AFL have yet to publicly respond at time of writing, but previous reports by AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou would suggest that the AFL will agree.
In the past month former Irish captain and current GAA media commentator, Colm O‘Rourke penned an eloquent piece in favour of the concept and Tadhg Kennelly spoke out passionately for the return of the series and also emphasised the point that AFL clubs would engage in open slather recruiting if there were no formal agreement between the 2 codes. This latter point probably carried significant weight within the GAA.
The Tests could resume as early as this October though that may not be logistically possible. Gerard Healy, Australian selector and passionate supporter of the hybrid games has suggested calling the games “Friendlies” rather than “Tests”. There may be some merit in that, not just to emphasise yet again that blood need not be spilt, but in being truer to the place the series has as a hybrid and exhibition style contest that is entertaining and gives fans and players of both Gaelic Football and Australian Football the chance to experience an international dimension otherwise lacking at the elite level in each code.
There are also suggestions of playing 2 out of every 3 years - ie home and away and rest year.
There’s been a fair bit in the Irish and Australian media over the past week about the possible resumption of the International Rules Series. The basis for such a resumption rests on a significant beefing up of disciplinary rules and some rather minor tweaks to playing rules, as evident in a document presented on the Melbourne Herald Sun website. The document arose out of GAA and AFL dialogue culminating in the recent meeting in Dubai before the Adelaide v Collingwood NAB Cup match.
A closely related factor making news is the increased “poaching” of Ireland’s best young Gaelic footballers by AFL clubs. The point is being made by GAA officials, including CEO Nicky Brennan who in the past has been somewhat negative towards the hybrid code, that working with the AFL will reduce rather than increase the loss of the GAA’s talent to Australia. As Fox Sports reports in Irish plunder plan rejected the AFL has recognised this and spoken against an all-out recruiting service for AFL clubs based in Ireland. On the other hand the creation of the two new AFL teams in Queensland and New South Wales has Setanta Sports reporting comments of AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou’s mentioning recruitment from Ireland as one possible source for players for the two new AFL teams.
According to reports Collingwood will find themselves playing the Blues in front of 80,000 fans later this year - but it won’t be "We are the Navy Blues" echoing from opposition supporters - rather “Molly Malone… crying cockles and mussels alive alive oh” from the Dublin fans decked out in their Sky Blue team jerseys. And it also seems that Australia versus Ireland in International Rules could resume later this year or 2009.
Most of the news around footy in Dubai at the moment is centred on the Collingwood-Adelaide clash, but two other sides are set to meet there off the field. Dubai is set down for the latest in a seemingly endless series of discussions between the AFL and GAA. It appears that the GAA will be guests of the AFL, who will have high level officials present in Dubai primarily for the NAB cup match.
The two bodies will discuss once again the likelihood of a resumption of the International Rules series. The Irish Independent news site reported today that GAA president Nicky Brennan is open minded about the resumption of the series but “If the series is to continue it will have to be on the basis of mutual respect for each other”. Just like the location of the meeting it is expected that the Irish will want the AFL to meet them more than half way.
Brennan might get a chance to catch up with Collingwood’s Martin Clarke and Kevin Dyas in Dubai as well, with the increase of Gaelic players being recruited by AFL clubs also likely to be a discussion topic.
A report in the Irish Times quotes GAA media relations officer, Feargal McGill saying whilst discussions on the future of the International Rules series between the GAA and AFL in October were "frank and cordial", they "are still set to resume...(and) nothing definite has been planned for the next couple of weeks, and it looks like it will be February before anything is set."
The article goes on to note that the AFL schedule this year will be full enough with the 150th anniversary events, and the GAA is not rushed about the series. The GAA has TV rights negotiations it is preoccupied with, which although far less lucrative than the AFL's TV rights are far more lucrative than the amateur sports association has been used to.
Talks between AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)’s president Nickey Brennan, took place in Paris on Thursday night.
It was the first face to face meeting of the two heads of their respective codes since the controversial second test match of International Rules in Croke Pk, Dublin 12 months earlier. That game, played before a full house of 82,000, finished in a convincing victory to Australia but the Irish were incensed by rough play in the first quarter, and called a halt to the series in the immediate aftermath.
Recent comments by the GAA Head of Games, Pat Daly, and the AFL Talent Manager, Kevin Sheehan, show that influential figures on both sides are willing to bring the hybrid code series back onto the calendar, but also that different perspectives remain. Daly talks of the need to stamp out violence, Sheehan of cultural differences that are hard to resist under big match pressure.
GAA Director of Games, Pat Daly, was quoted in the Melbourne Herald Sun as saying the GAA wanted a meeting by late July to discuss ways to resume the International Rules Series. He spoke of the majority of elite level Gaelic footballers wanting the chance to represent Ireland: "The players are very much in favour of it and want it to continue". The AFL's media relations manager, Patrick Keane, reiterated the AFL's desire to see the series resume, but said no meeting date had been set at this stage and they were awaiting the GAA on a meeting date.
Ireland's GAA is talking tough in the lead up to negotiations to restart the International Rules series between Australia and Ireland. All the indications are that the Irish want major rule changes and won't proceed without them.
As reported in the Irish Independent:
GAA President Nicky Brennan has revealed that efforts are underway to revive the International Rules series with Australia, just months after it was shelved. The Irish management team, led by Seán Boylan, met recently to draw up a number of issues which they feel need to be addressed if the series is to have a future. And Brennan said that further feedback had been received from the players involved in the controversial Autumn series with the Australians.
Aussie Rules or International Rules? That has been the question some Australian Football fans have been asking since the re-birth of the hybrid game several years ago. Arguments are made for and against the concept, with some seeing International Rules as a vehicle for promoting Aussie Rules amongst younger Australians who want to see international competition and also as a tool for growing awareness in the footy community of international possibilities for our game. Others condemn it as barely a hybrid and more a slightly modified version of Gaelic football and question whether the AFL will not back Australian Football and forsee a future of International Rules only. Of course most people hold a view somewhere in between these extremes, or haven't given it much thought at all. Recently David Matthews, the AFL's General Manager of National and International Game Development, gave his views on what role International Rules may have long term and whether that clashes with dreams of Australian Football going global.