After two campaigns in which AFL legend Mick Malthouse did an untold amount of work in restoring the integrity of the series, Rodney Eade has been entrusted with continuing it.
Eade has promised Australia will be on their best behaviour and there was certainly no indication of any animosity in their training game against a Victorian GAA selection on Tuesday night, even when their opponents were putting in late tackles.
Australia shouldn’t always have to be reminded about their past but with a new manager at the helm there is some trepidation.
But all the reports here are that this is a young and vibrant Australian team that want to play ball.
Similar to last year, they will look to deploy a target man at full-forward. Adam Goodes, who captained the 2010 team, was excellent at the edge of the square and Eade is hoping Geelong’s David Wojcinski can perform similar heroics.
Wojcinski is likely to alternate with the 6ft 9in Zac White, who had been linked with replacing Dustin Fletcher in the trickygoalkeeper position for Australia but that berth now looks like Matt Suckling’s.
White’s height is sure to cause a lot of problems for Ireland’s full-back line but they aren’t short on options with Neil McGee, Joe McMahon, Eoin Cadogan, Finian Hanley and Kevin Reilly available. The quintet underlines the fact Ireland manager Anthony Tohill has gone with a considerably physically bigger team this time around and Cadogan’s tenacity might just be what the visitors need in front of Stephen Cluxton.
Wicklow’s Leighton Glynn is one of less than a handful of players on the Ireland panel who are known more for their speed than anything else. Tommy Walsh is again likely to operate around the centre, although he could provide one half of a full-forward axis alongside former Kerry teammate Kieran Donaghy, while Steven McDonnell and Michael Murphy are expected to act as another.
Murphy was outstanding in the second Test of last year’s series and he is tipped to sparkle here.
Ireland’s preparations have undoubtedly been boosted by being in camp this past week to complement the training weekends back home over the last four weeks.
That and the fact they are facing an Australian squad who are largely unacquainted with International Rules should see them take a lead going to the second test in the Gold Coast next week.
But there’s also the amount of pride that’s at stake too. Ireland were bossed out of it with their own shaped ball 12 months ago and a repeat of that against an almost entirely new Australian squad would be an embarrassment.