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New Aussie rules as AFL scouts go nationwide

Irish-Australian relations look set to come under further strain in the coming months as news of a proposed national recruiting network designed to help AFL clubs identify and sign up young Irish talent broke in Australia yesterday.

According to a report in the 'Herald Sun' newspaper, a plan has been devised to employ a scout in each county in Ireland, who would in turn report to a national co-ordinator. That co-ordinator would place all the relevant information, videos and profiles of potential talents in a central internet port available only to clubs that have signed up to the network.

While the plan has not come from the AFL, the fact that up to five clubs -- including premier winners Geelong -- are reported to be interested at this early stage, is bound to be of major concern to the GAA.

The project is the brainchild of former Aussie Rules player Ricky Nixon, who is now one of the code's leading agents.

He is proposing to charge clubs in the region of Aus$30,000 (€18,500) a year to have access to his pool of information relating to the cream of Ireland's young footballing crop. Having sent letters to all 16 clubs outlining his plans, Nixon is confident that there will be enough interest in the project to make it a reality. "It's fair to say in 24 hours we got substantial interest from more than five clubs," he said.

"We all know Ireland is definitely untapped in its recruiting potential. Just look at Marty Clarke and what he did in 12 months of footy."

Collingwood, Carlton, Sydney and Brisbane already have an extensive scouting network in Ireland that has seen them recruiting the likes of Clarke, Kevin Dyas (Collingwood), the Ó hAilpín brothers, Michael Shields (Carlton), Brendan Murphy, Tadhg Kennelly (Sydney), Colm Begley and Pearce Hanley (Brisbane).

Nixon is offering other clubs an opportunity to tap into the Irish reservoir of talent, promising a full-time operator who will co-ordinate information provided by spotters on players from as young as 14, and expects the four that have been most successful in attracting Irish players to show an interest as well.

"The advantage is clubs would have extensive on-the-ground recruiters instead of having to fly staff over there," Nixon said.

Geelong recruiting manager Stephen Wells has already indicated that he will be proposing that the Cats sign up to Nixon's network.

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"Our club is considering what's best for us," Wells said. "Obviously Ricky has put together a good infrastructure and if we think we can get value for money, we would support it."

In his letter to the clubs, Nixon described the Irish experiment as being in the "embryonic stage" and that his company had spent four years establishing a recruiting infrastructure.

"We believe our network can alleviate the need to appoint scouts in Ireland and it would only need your recruiting personnel to go over and watch selected players as per our recommendations," Nixon wrote.

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