Monday 22 October 2018

Agent Nixon continues to dismiss talk of AFL 'talent drain'

Liam Henry

AFL agent Ricky Nixon has again attempted to play down claims that his controversial recruitment camps are designed to engineer a 'talent drain' of Ireland's best young GAA stars to play professional Australian Rules Football.

The founder of the Flying Start Recruiting and Marketing Network says the opposite is in fact the case. He did warn, however, that more camps are planned for next year.

Speaking at the climax of a two-day recruitment camp, attended by 16 of the country's rising Gaelic football stars at Breaffy in Co Mayo, Nixon reiterated his belief that greater co-operation between the GAA and AFL was needed if regulated, respectful and transparent recruiting processes are to be implemented.

"It is important for all parties that proper rules and regulations are put in place. The GAA and AFL plan to discuss the recruitment process in October and that will be positive for all involved," he said.

"There will be no massive talent drain. Good GAA players don't necessarily translate into good AFL players -- there is more to be considered than just the basic skills," he explained after spending two days putting the invited players through a litany of tests.

Representing five AFL clubs; Brisbane, St Kilda, Richmond, North Melbourne and Geelong, Nixon initially planned for 80 attendees at this week's camp but that figure fell to 16, with Kerry trio Barry John and Tommy Walsh and David Moran pulling out earlier this week due to their involvement in the All-Ireland series.

"Three players in particular contacted me but they were involved in the All-Ireland series and I told them that I did not want the camp interfering with GAA training," said Nixon, who also revealed that an open invitation has been issued to the GAA hierarchy to meet him.

"I have issued an open invitation for the GAA to come speak to me, to come and see what I do. No-one has ever said to me, face to face, that these camps are a bad idea. One county coach, who has never even spoken to me or attended my camps, has spoken out but that's his opinion and he's entitled to it," said Nixon.

"I have been pleasantly surprised by the skills on show this week and we will be back to run camps in other parts of the country but for these kids to get to the AFL it's not a simple thing and all these guys won't make an impact like Martin Clarke did. It may take three years or three minutes. There are three types of player: the one who could secure a contract in the short-term, the one who has other aspects to consider and the one a little further away who has lots of work to do. So there is no question of a talent drain."

Richmond coach Craig Cameron agreed with Nixon.

"Ours is a long-term view and not about signing players up from these camps straight away. We want to create a system for recruiting players and put the correct structures in place," he said.

Camp attendees Laois star Conor Meredith, Antrim's Conor Murray and Stefan Forker of Armagh all admitted they would consider a career in the AFL if the opportunity arose.

"I've had two weeks in Brisbane already and the chance to play professional football, to play every day, is something that appeals to me.

"This has been a great camp but there's a lot to consider -- college, family, the local club -- it would be a tough call," said Meredith, a point repeated by the other two players.

The players who attended the two day camp were:

Tomas McCann, Niall McKeever, Conor Murray (Antrim), Stefan Forker, Joe Feeney (Armagh), Kieran Nolan (Carlow), James Kielt, Niall Forrester (Derry), Colm Murney (Down), Kevin Nolan (Dublin), Conor Meredith (Laois), Dessie Mone, Daniel McNally (Monaghan), Brian Sheridan (Meath), Peter Hughes (Tyrone).

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