THE consensus is that everything has been done to ensure that this year’s International Rules Series will not exceed acceptable levels of physical aggression.
And, apart from changes in the disciplinary and playing rules, the appointment of an independent video match referee will result in an even stricter enforcement of the match regulations.
Pointing out that the last series ended in ‘an unsatisfactory manner’, GAA President Nickey Brennan said they were hopeful that the changes in rules agreed with the AFL would clear up the difficulties encountered in Croke Park two years ago and in Melbourne in 2005.
“We expect that this series will be engaging. It will be physical but we expect that,’’ he commented. “That’s the nature of this code and the nature of our individual sports. We also expect it to be a sporting series because that is what we are all here for. In many ways it is an unusual game, but a game that shows the supreme skill and athleticism of the individual teams.’’ For his part, AFL chief executive Andrew Dimetriou said it was reassuring that both sides had found ‘a want and a will’ for the series to continue. However, regardless of that happening he said that they wished to maintain a relationship with the GAA, saying: “we have learned a lot from the GAA and we have learned a lot from the series. It is important that the relationship continues to be strong.’’
In terms of the two teams responding to the challenge of making it a sporting series, GAA Head of Games Pat Daly said that players will have to take responsibility for their own behaviour and do so in the context of respect. Respect for their team-mates, respect for their opponents, respect for the match officials and more important, for this series.
“This has been on the road give or take for 40 years since Ron Barassi and the Galahs first came to Ireland and it’s important for the people coming afterwards that it’s there in 40 years.’’
Acknowledging that there were ‘cultural differences’ between the two codes, AFL International Manager Kevin Sheehan said ‘flashpoints’ were almost inevitable in bringing together two games that had developed separately over hundreds of years and in different parts of the world.
“We worked very hard with the GAA to understand their issues and they with our issues. We feel we have come up with a set of rules that really can work,’’ he commented.
Specifically, they have limited the inter-change to 10 per quarter and restricted the number of hand-passes to four. “It is football after all,’’ he joked. “So, after four hand-passes a player must kick the ball.’’
Under the heading of ‘reportable infractions’, he explained that ‘slinging, slamming or driving an opponent’ will result in a player being red-carded, no replacement allowed and a penalty kick awarded.
“The video match referee (a South African lawyer) will be able to issue red and yellow card infractions and he will have access to video replays. We feel that these sorts of measures will ensure that the game is played in the right spirit — in the true spirit of sportsmanship — although we expect it to be still a tough and hard contest!’’
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