Giants pay tribute to Cora Staunton legacy after AFLW departure

Cora Staunton has called time on her career in Australia. Photo: Sportsfile

Colm Keys

Cora Staunton has been hailed by her club Greater Western Sydney Giants for the impact she made as an AFLW player over the last six seasons.

The club confirmed her departure after a stellar career in Australia, where she is the Giants’ leading goal-kicker and games record-holder. With 55 goals, she is the joint second all-time highest scorer, despite playing a season fewer than some of her peers.

AFLW has accelerated in profile in recent seasons and the impact of Irish players has been profound. It is expected that up to 30 will be on the books of AFLW teams by the time the deadline for signing comes this week.

Staunton, an 11-time All-Star with Mayo and one of the biggest stars in the ladies game, was the pioneering Irish player when she travelled over for the 2017 season. At 41, she is the oldest-ever AFLW player, a fact referenced in the club’s statement.

Staunton said she had made her mind up some time ago but felt it was the right move, given the direction Giants were now headed.

“I spent five years, six seasons out there since 2017,” she told Today With Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1. “I thought I’d only be there one year so to do six seasons was huge, especially at my age. The direction the club is going is a bit different. We brought in a lot of youth. They are a few years away from achieving success. That made my decision easier. I knew I wasn’t going to be part of that success long-term,” she added.

Staunton, who detailed her journey in Australia in her diaries on, said she was happy with the pathway she created for other Irish girls to go out and play professionally.

“It gives me great enjoyment. That pathway has been created and the amount of Irish girls out there will be up on 30 or more this season and is going to increase.”

Staunton is currently involved in the backroom of the Galway camogie team and is a regular RTÉ Gaelic games analyst. Giants head of women’s football Briana Harvey praised Staunton for her AFLW career.

“I congratulate Cora on not only everything she has achieved in our game of Aussie Rules, but throughout her sporting career,” Harvey said. “She has been with us through our highest highs and lowest lows and helped to build and shape the foundations and standards within our club.

“Cora will not only leave a legacy as a successful cross-code player and leading goalscorer, but I would imagine that one of her proudest legacies she leaves us with is the establishment of the weekly Jacinda Barclay Fearless Award.”

That award commemorates the contribution of a former Giants player who, as Staunton explained on Today With Claire Byrne died by suicide in October 2020.

The four-time All-Ireland medal winner recalled how helpful Jacinda had been when she arrived and the award honours a feat of bravery and commitment each week which the Giants’ players vote on.

“Cora has formed life-long friendships with players and staff at the club and her presence will be missed,” added Harvey.