After rollercoaster of dog bites and concussion and isolation, Ailish Considine hoping for a Grand finale

After rollercoaster of dog bites and concussion and isolation, Ailish Considine hoping for a Grand finale

Ailish Considine of the Crows is tackled by Tarni Evans of the Giants during a round two game in February. Considine sustained a concussion in that match and has struggled for gametime since.

IT is difficult to articulate how eventful the past year has been for Ailish Considine, but as she sits and reflects on it now, one word seems apt: “Rollercoaster,” she says with a wry smile.

If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. Last May, the Clare footballer and AFLW star was offered a new Adelaide Crows contract. She then had her initial visa application rejected and had to redo the entire process.

Due to border restrictions she had to quarantine alone in a hotel room in Perth for two weeks over Christmas.

In the season’s second round, she sustained a concussion. A week later she had to quarantine once again after an outbreak during an away fixture.

April had more drama in store when she was attacked by a German Shepard while out running on a public oval.

This Saturday (5am, Irish time), Adelaide take on Brisbane Lions in the NAB AFLW Grand Final. It is a fixture that Considine does not yet know if she will participate in. She was an emergency reserve last week in the preliminary final win over Melbourne and is hoping to get selected in the squad for the decider.

“The season has just been so up and down. I missed 12 days due to concussion protocol. It is hard to break into a winning team. I was fortunate to get a game against Gold Coast but that was after a couple of injuries.

“Again, I was training really well. The coaches were telling me that. But it wasn’t enough to get that break. It felt like a season out of my control.

“The dog bite put me out for a week. It has been a series of unfortunate events. Throughout the last few years, if I was dropped it was because I played a bad game. It was in my hands and I didn’t perform. This year, I don’t actually think I played badly in any game. It was just unlucky. The feedback was all positive. Coaches say, ‘keep doing what you’re doing, you are close.’”

It is a big weekend for her Kilmihil household as sister Eimear will line out against France in the women’s Six Nations on the same day. More excitement.

Ailish is in contention for a spot after Adelaide’s concussed captain Chelsea Randall was ruled out. Opposing them will be Tipperary native Orla O’Dwyer. She has been a star presence on the wing all season long for Brisbane, logging 133 disposals and notching a goal last weekend.

For Considine, the success of the Irish players comes from their impulsiveness.

“I think our unpredictability is a big benefit. A lot of AFL is a similar style, systems. Gaelic football is more on instinct. It is that spark that can create something. We run in different patterns, that is the difference between getting on the ball or making an intervention.

“I think we see no danger. We just go where we shouldn’t really go a lot of the time. There is a real toughness about the Irish girls, physically and mentally.”

Despite all the internal and external upheaval, it has been a successful 2021 season given they were unable to even finish it in 2020. However, the 28-year-old does have hopes the AFLW will kick on to another level in the near future. The part-time nature means it is not financially feasible for many female athletes.

While it continues to expand, and standards still rise, it is somewhat fitting that the sides that contested the inaugural Premiership back in 2017 will do battle on the same stage five years later. Two of the tournament’s heavyweights, sporting identical season records, match-up on Saturday.

It promises fireworks.

“They are one of the most consistent teams in it. They have some really strong players and intercept markers. We will have to play at the top level to get a result.

“They are a hard running side. I don’t think it will be high scoring. It’ll be crunch tackles, hard running, contested possessions. One of those games. Two real strong teams coming together to grind out on a result. We have worked hard in preseason on our fitness levels so hopefully that carries us into the fourth quarter.

“It really is about how it goes on the day. Hopefully, we can pull out a performance and get our third trophy.”

AFLW has become front page news

Herald Sun
Herald Sun

Prior to the AFLW preliminary finals last weekend, Melbourne’s most popular newspaper, the Herald Sun, carried an image of Cavan and Collingwood star Aishling Sheridan on its front page in a testament to the game's rising profile within Australia. Since its inception in 2017, the AFLW has gradually grown both in terms of competitors and coverage. 

Sheridan was not the only front-page story in the country. Another athlete and Irishwomen Orla O’Dwyer featured on the front of Queensland’s Courier-Mail ahead of the tie.

When the 2021 AFLW season kicked off in February, the competition hoped to capitalise on providing Victoria footy fans with the first live sport offering with crowds and that was evident in places, with Collingwood’s opening tie against Melbourne attracted just shy of 3,000; even more impressive given this was the first year there was an entry charge.

Yet grievances about pay, conditions and a lack of media coverage linger. Due to a muted interest in week-to-week speculation around injuries or selection, organisations have begun to dedicate more time to colour pieces and bigger picture discussions.

Various political controversies have led to a reckoning in the country and last month thousands marched and protested in every Australian state and territory, to "put an end to the issues of sexism, misogyny, patriarchy … and lack of equality in politics and the community at large".

The AFL has not escaped this spotlight. The grand final will be given clear air on Saturday with the men’s fixtures rearranged to avoid a clash. The AFLW will also once again broadcast the game live on their website.

As for what comes next, a clear roadmap exists. League boss Nicole Livingstone has confirmed they will “have a look” at the crossover with the men’s league and whether a separate season could help while there have been player-backed campaigns for supplementary exposure such as fantasy football and increased critical analysis.

A bright, and informed, future awaits.

 

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