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Aussies must step up their game if Rules Series is to stay alive


Aussies must step up their game if Rules Series is to stay alive

HERE'S a revealing postscript to this year's turkey-shooting season - aka the International Rules clashes witnessed in Cavan and Croker over the past two weekends. "Essendon has delisted small forward Alwyn Davey in the wake of the AFL trade period.

"The 29-year-old played 100 games for the Bombers and most recently represented the Indigenous All Stars on their Ireland tour," reports The Age newspaper.

"Davey was a popular figure at Essendon and list manager Adrian Dodoro said on Wednesday it was a tough call to cut him."

We're sure it was: after all, Davey kicked 120 goals over seven seasons with Essendon. In other words, despite his diminutive frame (just 5'9" according to last Saturday's match programme) he was a serious Aussie Rules pro over a lengthy period.

But the fact remains that his club now feels his best days are behind him and, according to The Age, it is "unclear" whether he'll try and continue his career.

Meanwhile, older brother Aaron, 30, retired from the AFL in late August after a ten-year career with Melbourne ... yet both players were deemed good enough to represent Australia this autumn.



The decision to bring an all-indigenous Aussie team to Ireland may have been predicated on the most noble of motivations.

Nor should it be forgotten that the AFL season just gone was blighted by some shocking examples of racial vilification perpetrated by so-called supporters against Aboriginal players - the most notable one coming last May when a massive controversy was sparked by a 13-year-old girl calling Sydney Swans legend Adam Goodes an "ape".

So, it behoves us Irish viewers who have ridiculed the last two Test matches not to indulge in any casual racism either. On that score, GAA president Liam O'Neill struck the right note when speaking to the media on Tuesday, stressing that Croke Park "never" expressed official misgivings to their AFL counterparts while highlighting just how significant it was for Australia's indigenous population to represent the AFL.

However, from a viewpoint of revitalising a flagging concept or making it even vaguely competitive, the idea clearly didn't work. Results don't lie.

It didn't help that the multi-decorated Goodes was injured or that Lance Franklin was only available for the first Test; but by having such a constricted playing pool in the first place (roughly 10pc of the AFL pick) Australia left themselves open to such an almighty fall.

Yet, in a perverse way, our suspicion is that the 101-aggregate defeat which followed could be just the kickstart the series needs.

Clearly the ball is in the AFL's court. Crowds have been dwindling in both hemispheres and, after the one-sided mismatches of 2011 and 2013, another repeat could kill it off for good.

However, Australia can only hope to regain their old competitiveness if many more of their top players make themselves available for combat. You can't blame the Indigenous All-Stars for what happened in Melbourne and the Gold Coast two years ago.

The rules may be tweaked but don't expect any radical oval-shaped departures. A later November scheduling would certainly help when it comes to player availability; we also reckon the series must be played on an annual basis or not at all.

Ultimately, though, it boils down to whether the Australian players - and their clubs - want it badly enough.

Representing your country should not be an obligatory addendum to your AFL contract. As O'Neill remarked on Tuesday: "You can take a horse to water but I don't think you can make it drink."