Rising Australian Rules star Conor Nash believes AFL clubs should pay ‘compensation’ to the GAA clubs they recruit from.
Former Meath minor Nash made his competitive debut for Hawthorn in August and played in their last five games, scoring two goals.
The 6’5” powerhouse was rewarded with a fresh two-year contract and is determined to be a long-term success Down Under.
His loss was felt by the Simonstown Gaels club this year as they failed to complete a three-in-a-row of Meath SFC titles in their first full season without him.
There’ll be a record number of Irishmen in the AFL in 2019 and this has prompted calls for the GAA clubs that nurtured them to be compensated.
“I certainly think there is a case for some sort of compensation for the (club),” Nash told the We Are Meath podcast. “Certainly, it has to be the club, I wouldn’t think it would be the county board. I certainly think if it was the club, yes, I’d be all for that, whereas if it was the county board, probably not.
“I’d love to see it go back right to the roots, because we all know, everybody knows, that clubs could do with a bit of spare cash now and then.”
But Nash admitted it could conflict with the amateur ethos of the GAA and he raised another practical issue about AFL recruits who may have been involved in a number of sports here.
Nash himself is a former underage rugby international who turned down a Leinster academy place to pursue his AFL dream in late 2016.
“Look at my situation where I was playing football and rugby the whole way up,” he said. “Do you compensate both of them? Do you compensate one more than the other? That’s the other question. If he does play two or three sports, do you compensate everybody?”
Another headache for GAA clubs is that players like Nash are often told not to play football or hurling when they return in the off-season.
Nash admitted earlier this year that Hawthorn were ‘a bit disappointed’ that he didn’t inform them when he helped Simonstown to back-to-back Meath titles in 2017.
And ex-Kerry minor Mark O’Connor was forced to apologise to the Geelong club for playing a championship game for Dingle while back at home this year.
Nash said he doesn’t envisage Aussie Rules clubs softening their stance on the issue.
“I would be open to it (playing GAA in the off-season),” he said. “But it’s a tough one because we are contracted and it’s in the contract what you can’t do.”
Nash said his target in 2019 is to establish himself in the Hawthorn first-team from the opening round.
“The main goal is to be in there in Round 1, that’s the main one,” he said. “Just try to train the house down in pre-season and then just keep giving them reasons to put you in there.”
Former Kerry legend Tomas Ó Sé has been a vocal advocate of a compensation system with payments being made straight to GAA clubs. “With the amount of clubs struggling financially, and these (AFL) fellas swan in and out poaching. Disgraceful,” he tweeted recently. “It’s a great opportunity for lads and (I) don’t blame them one bit but what a kick in the hole for clubs who’ve brought them through and given them everything.
“Charge the Aussies (and) get money for the club,” he added. “It’s wrong that they can come in and take the top (GAA) players and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s a farce.”