AFL promise to use Australia's finest in this years International Rules series
After heavy defeats in the last two renewals of the International Rules series, the AFL have promised that their team will contain the best players in the Aussie Rules game for this year's showdown with Ireland.
Australia will play Ireland in a one-Test 2014 International Rules Series to be played at Patersons Stadium in Perth on Saturday November 22.
The AFL confirmed that only players who have been honoured with selection in the All-Australian squad during their careers will be considered for selection.
AFL General Manager, Football Operations, Mark Evans said the AFL remained committed to the IRS concept and was keen to revitalise interest in the Series by ensuring it involved the best AFL players available, competing under rules that suited all players.
“Australian and Irish fans want to see a spectacular and competitive contest played between the most talented AFL players and Ireland’s best Gaelic footballers,” Mr Evans said.
“We are determined to restore the prestige and popularity of the International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland.
“The AFL and GAA continue to believe the IRS is an important opportunity for players from both codes to be recognised for their elite talent by receiving the honour of representing their country.”
He said the AFL acknowledged previous difficulties in fielding the best Australian side due to the timing of the Series and the unavailability of many of the competition’s most talented and exciting players.
“Ireland’s players have proved extremely keen and competitive in recent times and so we simply cannot afford to put forward anyone less than the AFL’s best players.
“By limiting selection to All-Australian players, by scheduling the Test later in the year at the end of most players’ leave, and by amending the rules we believe we will field a strong and competitive Australian side that will re-establish the event’s standing in the eyes of fans,” Mr Evans said.
“The calibre of AFL players and officials involved is clearly a vital component and the early personal commitment and enthusiasm of so many of the competition’s big names augurs well for the future of the Series.
“The immediate future of the International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland may well depend on the success of the 2014 Test in late November so we have a very clear intention of being highly competitive and securing a good win.”
The GAA and AFL are also in talks regarding possible rule changes in order to allow for a broader range of AFL player types to be able to compete successfully.
GAA President Liam Ó Néill said he was pleased that Ireland’s best Gaelic footballers would have the opportunity in 2014 to pit their wits against the cream of the AFL.
“After the conclusion of the 2013 Series, we expressed our genuine fears for the future of International Rules if the best players from both countries were unable to commit to their national sides," he said.
"Both Associations agreed that the one sided nature of the last two Series’ has had a major effect on attendances and general public interest; it is obvious to us all that if this trend is not reversed in 2014, it will be difficult to argue that there is any sustainable future for the game at this point in time.”
O'Neill also said that Ireland would be seeking to play a meaningful warm-up game in Melbourne ahead of the Test game and that Paul Earley will again be in charge of the Irish Team, with his backroom team including Tony Scullion (Derry), Séamus Mc Carthy (Tipperary), Jarlath Fallon (Galway) and Nicholas Walsh (Cavan/GWS Giants).