Collingwood head coach, Nathan Buckley has predicted the recruitment of international players by AFL clubs will reduce significantly when sporting action resumes in Australia.
GAA players have been recruited since Roscommon’s Paul Earley made his debut for Melbourne in 1984.
Earley was the first of 24 GAA players to play in Australia (it was the VFL at that time) in the 36 years since, though only a handful have had an enduring impact, but with elite Gaelic games players now adopting professional preparation at underage level, recruiting has stepped up in recent years.
Collingwood had their own success with Marty Clarke, who is one of just eight former GAA players to play more than 50 AFL games, having played 73 times. The Down native is now prominent in coaching youngsters thinking of making the transition to the code.
Mark Keane (Cork) and Anton Tohill (Derry) are on the Pies’ books at present, while Sarah Rowe (Mayo) is a star of the AFLW squad.
Keane was hotly tipped to make his debut in just his second year having impressed in pre-season, before the campaign was postponed after just one round due to coronavirus.
The Melbourne club also have former American basketballer Mason Cox, who has made a significant impact in the League in the past two seasons.
Buckley, who played alongside Clarke, expects that financial constraints imposed due to the pandemic will put paid to international recruiting for the time being at least.
“Appreciate your international players because it’s probably going to be a lot harder for them to get into the top-level and a lot harder for us to find them than it may have been in previous decades,” said Buckley in an online discussion with fans.
“We spent a bit of money to do that and maybe the industry may not be able to afford it because we have to look after first things first, but that’s yet to be seen.”
Cox has stayed in Melbourne during the AFL shutdown period, while Keane and Tohill were among a septet of Irish players to return home. Buckley said the Magpies were working with AFL and government officials to get the Irish pair back to Melbourne ahead of a possible return to training this month.
“Getting the boys back from Ireland is a logistical challenge at the moment. The regulations of our Australian border control to support our fight against this virus is part of it, so we’re working with the government and with the AFL to get our Irish boys back.”