FIRST they conquered the round ball. Now it seems the Australians are quickly coming to grips with the Irish climate.
As Dublin experienced a deluge yesterday Aussie skipper Adam Goodes laughed off any concerns that his team might struggle to cope with playing in heavy rain. Instead he claimed that the predictability of the ball’s bounce will make it much easier to deal with the elements than if they were playing Aussie Rules.
Goodes was one of the few bright lights at the Gaelic Grounds last week and possesses a pedigree that suggests he would stand out in any conditions.
A cousin of retired Sydney Swans and Australia star, Michael O’Loughlin – considered one of the most naturally talented AFL players of the modern era – Goodes is a two-time Brownlow medallist as AFL player of the year.
A team-mate of Tadhg Kennelly’s at the Sydney Swans, he looked likely to break Jim Stynes’ record of most successive games played in the AFL before suspension intervened two years ago.
Graham Canty spoke during the week of how difficult he is to mark and any hopes that he might be discommoded by the weather seem unlikely to be realised.
“I don’t think it will be a concern,” said Goodes at yesterday’s press conference in Croke Park. “At least we know the round ball is only going to bounce one way and that’s in whatever direction it comes from. In AFL the ball can bounce any way in any conditions so at least we know it is going to skid straight on. We’ve had two training sessions in the wet where we’re going to be playing so hopefully it won’t be too much of a disadvantage.
“We’re feeling pretty good. We’ve had a couple of training sessions in this very impressive stadium… on Wednesday night under lights and again this morning. It’s a lot faster deck and the balls are going to be flying around and I think the speed of the game will be a lot quicker than we had in Limerick. There is no doubt about that.”
Meanwhile Irish boss Anthony Tohill continues to approach tonight’s decisive test in optimistic mood despite the performance on Shannonside last week.
While the Derry man accepted that there was much to criticise about the first test in Limerick, he revealed that he was less disappointed after watching the video than he had been after the game.
“The pace of this game is way ahead of gaelic football; it’s probably a quicker game than the AFL guys would play because there are no rucks, no ball-ups, it’s constantly on the move, and it is difficult to make tackles because the game moves so quickly.”
HE accepted that his players “missed too many opportunities” and “should be more efficient and economical in front of goals” but Australia manager, Mick Malthouse described subsequent criticism of the hosts as “ridiculous”.
For him, the skills were very much in evidence and the game was played in the right spirit. Perhaps, he suggested, the annoyance for the Irish media, was that Australia won.
As far as the Collingwood coach is concerned, there is very little wrong with the rules of a series that in aggregate scoring 32 tests, the countries are separated by “five or six” points. The one suggestion he does make though, is that more interchanges are allowed, and consideration given to a third test to facilitate players getting more game time.
“I would love to have more rotation because I just think... for the boys that come 20-odd thousand miles and sit on the bench to play 15 or 20 minutes of the game, I feel sorry for them.
“I would like to think that they would have the opportunity to play over half the game because it’s a long way to come and a lot of sacrifices.
“It wouldn’t worry me, a third game. It’s got to fit into the players’ time span and into the GAA and the AFL calendar.
“You can’t just mysteriously find an extra week, sometimes that’s almost impossible. Perhaps over 16 days you might fit three games in, maybe Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday, or something like that.
“It’d be good if players had that capacity to play a bit more time.”
Picture: DOUBLE TAKE: Australia’s Daniel Cross gets in some catching practice yesterday ahead of tonight’s second Rules Series test in Croke Park. Picture: Sportsfile