MARTIN CLARKE’S former Collingwood team-mates will sound the Down playmaker out about the possibility of returning to the AFL when they visit Ireland as part of the Australian international rules squad next month.
The Australian team is coached by Collingwood boss Mick Malthouse, but the Pies do not want to put any pressure on Clarke, who gave a strong indication this week that he would not be heading back to Oz.
Collingwood have successfully lobbied the AFL to change a rule so that it would facilitate Clarke’s direct return to the most famous club in Aussie rules without affecting any of its draft picks.
And the Pies’ chief executive Gary Pert says that the door is open for Clarke to come back.
“I’m sure some of the Collingwood players involved in the international rules will make contact with Marty in Ireland next month, but nobody will put him on the spot,” Pert said.
Up until now, players who had been registered with an AFL club in the past three years and wanted to return after a period of absence had to do so through the draft rather than re-joining their former club.
This would have meant Clarke or any other former Irish player who wished to return would risk ending up at a new club.
The new rule states that clubs may apply for a special ruling that a player can return directly to a club’s list after a one-season absence.
The absence would be an unpaid leave of absence, for exceptional and compelling circumstances at the discretion of the AFL commission or general manager of football operations, Adrian Anderson.
The new ruling comes into effect immediately, effectively meaning that Collingwood would have a case to re-sign the Down star should he decide he would like to return to Melbourne.
AFL spokesman Patrick Keane confirmed that it was Collingwood who requested the amendment and that Clarke would be eligible for a return to the club as a result of that change.
“They’d have to make an application to us but yes (it can happen). That’s a call for the commission.”
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