The first major International Rules event ever to be scheduled in Sydney will be played on Saturday 18 October, followed by the first major Gaelic Football event on Sunday November 2.
The matches will be played at Henson Park, a stadium located in Marrickville, a suburb of inner-western Sydney. Henson Park is the home of the Newtown Jets rugby league club and Canterbury-Marrickville Olympic soccer club. It is also a finals venue for the Sydney AFL has grandstand and seating capacity of 1,000 with a total capacity of about 30,000.
The Australian squad of 20 was selected from some of the best amateur players in the nation and Victoria, SA, WA and Tasmania are all represented (these are the states that are members of the amateur council).
The Australian team leaves for Ireland on Monday 29th of September and returns on Wednesday 15th of October.
The following is an edited extract of the release from the Victorian Premier's office today.
Premier John Brumby today announced Australia would play Ireland at the MCG on Friday 31 October with Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse to coach the Australian team. “The match will be a celebration of the close relationship between Ireland and Australia and the great sporting rivalry between the two countries,” Mr Brumby said.
“Melbourne is the undisputed major events capital of the world with a year round calendar of sporting and cultural events. This weekend will further boost this reputation. “We expect a huge number of visitors from Ireland, England and from across Australia to converge on Melbourne for what promises to be a fantastic long weekend of major sporting events.
“I expect there will be a great buzz around Melbourne which will provide significant economic benefits to Victoria and be a great boost for our hotels, restaurants, taxis, bars and shops.”
The International Rules series that was scrapped at the end of 2006 is set to return in October. The Irish site RTE Sport reports that the AFL and GAA have confirmed the return of the series with games in Melbourne and Perth in October. A long and drawn out process by the GAA to decide whether they wanted to resume the series left the AFL with little time to organise venues in October. Due to stadia around the country being utilised by cricket and the upcoming rugby league World Cup, the series almost fell over as the GAA put an ultimatum to the AFL to have venues arranged. The GAA’s willingness for the series to continue was evident by an extension of their original deadline for the AFL to confirm venues. Even now it is not known what the venues in the two cities will be.
As the GAA and the AFL debate beginning the International Rules series again, may I suggest a Third Way – a tri-nation series between Ireland, Australian and the USA played in the United States. By bringing USFooty, the North American GAA and the New York GAA into the series it would help to promote the game and the two codes – Australian football and Gaelic football in one of the largest economies in the world. It would also be likely to decrease the “tensions” associated with the previous series by putting the games in neutral territory, by being “a showcase” event for a new audience and by bringing in a third team that has not been involved in the earlier tiffs.
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.