THE AFL has confirmed that Mick Malthouse will coach that Australian team to travel to Ireland for the 2010 International Rules series.
While the GAA are yet to confirm who will coach the Irish team, Malthouse is contracted to international duty for another year. The Collingwood coach will make the trip having been at the helm for the 2008 series which took place in Australia. The AFL withdrew from the planned 2009 series due to financial reasons.
The Australian coaching panel will begin the job of putting together a panel in August. "We'll start contacting players late in the home and away season to see who is available," AFL spokesperson Patrick Keane said.
"It's about finding out who is free to play and not just because of injury, some players will have already booked weddings or travel so we need to see who is available."
The AFL has expressed delight at getting the opportunity to play at a new venue with the first test confirmed for October 23 at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. The final test will be played a week later at Croke Park. "We're really supportive of the GAA changing venue. We really enjoyed Galway and it's always great to go somewhere new. It's attractive for players to get to see different parts of Ireland so that's a real carrot for them."
While the series usually brings with it talk of AFL scouting in Ireland, the AFL are hopeful that the 2010 series won't provoke such debate. Season 2009 saw the GAA regain many of their young stars with Martin Clarke, Brendan Murphy and Kevin Dyas all electing to return to Ireland to play Gaelic football after stints with AFL clubs. However, Kerry lost two of its stars after their All-Ireland triumph with Tadhg Kennelly opting to return to the Sydney Swans and Tommy Walsh signing a two-year rookie contract with Melbourne based club St Kilda.
"We just hope that all of the focus will be on the playing of matches and that all discussion is based around the series itself," Keane said.
As well as playing two tests at the Gaelic Grounds and Croke Park the Aussies will play a challenge in the lead up to the first test. With opposition for the traditional game usually coming in the form of a Dublin selection, the touring party have yet to decide whether they instead will face Munster opposition before the Limerick clash.