Although GAA officials have some reservations, AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan believes there are genuine grounds for an International Rules test to be staged in New York either as a one-off or one half of a two-test series next year.
The suggestion was first floated last year by AFL football operations manager Mark Evans.
McLachlan will discuss the matter with GAA director general Páraic Duffy and has been buoyed by the support in New York for a game there. McLachlan said: “I’ll speak to Páraic about that but I’m hopeful they will but I don’t want to put words in his mouth. We drew significant interest in New York not just from the Australians there but from the Irish so I’m optimistic it could be a success but we’ll see what Paraic says.”
He added: “I was pretty encouraged in the meetings I had there we can get that done. It’s not exactly showcasing our game but we are showcasing 25 leaders, incredible athletes who run 16-17km a game. You get to see their skills and athleticism and I think taking that around the world, representing Australia, there’s something in that.”
Australian midfielder David Mundy is all for the New York idea: “I obviously can’t talk for the AFL heads but I think they’re pretty invested in this series regardless of the future of it, where we play it. Just coming from New York and seeing a lot of ex-pats from Ireland and Australia over there, I fully believe that it would be a very beneficial test to have over there.”
An issue for previous Australian teams has been the availability of players from clubs. While Joe Kernan has had difficulty in recruiting Ireland’s AFL players, Alastair Clarkson hasn’t had such problems aside from three or four injuries. In fact, Nic Naitanui, a big name in last year’s squad in Perth, was one of those on the All-Australian “waiting list” who missed out.
“There’s probably $12-$15m worth of player payments out there,” said McLachlan, acknowledging the Australian squad as they trained in Croke Park yesterday. “They know they are being looked after by excellent doctors, physios and support staff and they are getting as good or better coaching care.”
Unlike his predecessor Andrew Demetriou, whose view of the hybrid game was indifferent, McLachlan has shown a keen interest in the concept and rejects the suggestion in Australia that the trip is a junket.
“It is cost neutral for us over a two-year cycle but I’m prepared to invest in this beyond that - that is not a threshold issue for us.
“I like the concept of representative games and the best players coming together to represent Australia.
“I like them to see new cultures, new people and have different experiences and I like them to form friendships with the Irish.
“I like our relationship with the GAA. I would advocate to our commission and board that even if it wasn’t cost neutral, to invest in something like that because I think it shows ambition and aspiration that we want in our game.”