In the one-off game on November 22, the home side will feature some of the cream of the AFL and Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe has warned Patersons Stadium might be a “pretty hostile” place for the visitors. But Earley fired back that the Australian team risk ending the series if they are over-aggressive.
“Hostile in the context of maybe hostile on the pitch rather than the stand,” he responded to Fyfe’s comment. “We have to prepare for that, these guys would be very proud and Australia will be hurting over the losses in the last two series. They feel this is a way to turn it around and I’ve no doubt that it will be very competitive and aggressive from the word go. We’ll be prepared for that.
“I think every time you go out and play Australia, you have to be prepared for that and we were last year. It didn’t materialise to the level people might have expected. But the reality is my brief is to go out and play football and prepare a team to play at as high as level as we can.
“For the series to continue and to be successful, it’s got to be competitive and for the right reasons. If Australia are serious about continuing this series, they will have to put their focus on the football exclusively.”
Just when it appeared counties would act against the continuation of the hybrid concept, a Central Council vote was deferred until after this year’s test. Earley would prefer a two-test series but is enthused by the soundings about the Australians’ improved attitude this year even if it has seen them been made favourites by bookmakers.
“I’m not surprised. I think there is probably a number of factors. Number one is, when they have put out their very best teams in recent years, they have been very competitive. They’ve been very good, let’s be honest about it.
“The obvious example was back in 2005 when they scored over 100 points. So when they put their best teams, they’re very strong and very competitive. The other factors are, it’s in Perth. The heat... it’s going to be 28/29 degrees. That certainly favours them. They’re going to be used to that.
“They’re back in pre season, as opposed to playing in October, when they’re still in their holiday period. They’ll have done some work already. And the rule changes (for one, all kick-outs must pass the 45 metre line) that have been made certainly favour the Australians. All those factors would probably lead to them being favourites.”
Earley yesterday named Donegal captain Michael Murphy as his skipper for the second year in succession with Aidan Walsh selected as his deputy.
Fifteen counties in total are represented with Mayo boating five players, Tyrone three and four coming from Munster — Cork pair Walsh and Colm O’Neill, Kerry’s David Moran and Tipperary defender Ciarán McDonald.
Eight players will hope to make their International Rules debuts while Murphy and Moran are two of five current All Stars chosen, the others being Neil McGee, Colm Boyle and James McCarthy. Along with captain Murphy (Glenswilly), Chrissy McKaigue (Slaughtneil), Conor McManus (Clontibret) and McDonald (Aherlow) are the only players who still have club championship commitments.
As already reported, Carlton’s Irish trio of Ciaran Sheehan, Zach Tuohy and Ciaran Byrne are not available to Earley. “I thought I saw an article on the AFL website saying the Irish players in Carlton declined the offer to join the squad. I don’t know where that information came from.
“To be fair to him, I had long conversations with Zach and I would have liked him to have been involved because he was terrific last year for us but Zach had a new baby and he felt he didn’t have a particularly good year with Carlton last year. They had a tough year and he just felt he wasn’t able to make the commitment and wanted a full pre-season and I totally respect that.
“Ciarán Sheehan, on the other hand, was keen to play but he was advised by the coaching staff not to.”
Former Cavan footballer Nicholas Walsh, who currently works with AFL club Greater Sydney Giants, will again assist the Ireland panel. “He knows the (AFL) players intimately and we have a couple of other people who we have on board over there who’ll be giving us information. There are plenty of people willing to help, I’ll put it that way!”
The Ireland squad fly to Melbourne on November 12, where they will face a Victorian Football League selection in a warm-up game on Sunday, November 16. They then head to Perth on November 18.