Following embarrassing performances in the last two series, Australia under a new coach, Hawthorn’s Premiership-winning Alastair Clarkson, have announced a 24-man group, including seven club captains and two former ones. The panel is selected exclusively from All Australians, the AFL’s equivalent of the All Stars.
“They’ve obviously followed through on their commitments,” said Earley.
“There’s a lot of leadership there and I know most of them. Nick Riewoldt, the St Kilda captain, is a terrific player. Jarred McLeigh, Patrick Dangerfield... they’ve played before. Then there’s Nic Naitanui, Joel Selwood... it’s probably the strongest team they’ve ever put out.”
One of the rule changes, which has encouraged bigger-framed AFL players to make themselves available this year, states all kick-outs must pass the 45 metre line.
Earley knows it will suit the “ruckmen” in the Australian side. “If they have a lot of tall men there it’s going to be a challenge to compete with them.”
Ireland trained for the first time as a collective in Ballyhaunis last weekend and will do so again this weekend in Castleknock. Another training weekend will follow before a midweek trial game at which stage the travelling party is likely to be announced. All of last year’s squad were invited to join the training group but due to injuries, other commitments and retirements nine are unavailable.
Ciarán Sheehan, Zach Tuohy and Ciaran Byrne haven’t been released by Carlton but Mayo’s AFL star Pearse Hanley has been given the green light by the Brisbane Lions. He will team up with the panel later this month before returning for pre-season training and then rejoining them next month.
Ireland face Australia in a one-off test in Patersons Stadium on Saturday, Nov 22. They head to Melbourne on Nov 12, where they will face a Victorian Football League selection in a trial game on November 16.
AUSTRALIA (IRS v Ireland): Grant Birchall (Hawthorn), Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Luke Breust (Hawthorn), Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide), Dustin Fletcher (Essendon), Nat Fyfe (Fremantle), Brendon Goddard (Essendon), Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Brent Harvey (North Melbourne), Luke Hodge (Hawthorn), Kieren Jack (Sydney Swans), Steve Johnson (Geelong), Jarrad McVeigh (Sydney Swans), Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn), Leigh Montagna (St Kilda), Nic Naitanui (West Coast Eagles), Nick Riewoldt (St Kilda), Tom Rockliff (Brisbane Lions), Joel Selwood (Geelong), Brodie Smith (Adelaide), Nick Smith (Sydney Swans), Harry Taylor (Geelong), Jobe Watson (Essendon), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide).