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The Irish Experiment



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In the early 1980s Ron Barassi and Barry Richardson announced to the football world that the Dees were to prospect the Emerald isle for potential players .This proposal was met with a combination of amusement, sceptisism and scorn by the wider VFL (as it then was ) community .That attitude changed markedly when we in our early batch we produced 2 All Australian recruits and had possibly a 3rd in Paul Earley if he hadn't  been consumed by homesickness and returned home .The recruiting  move was a radical success. Fast forward to 2024 ,and ironic as it  seems  many clubs have Irish players,i(n some cases like Brisbane and Geelong  more than one) ,and we as the founders of the scheme  have no-one at all. .In fact it is more than 20 years since our last Irish hopefuls  Kevin Devine and Nick Walsh tried out .i acknowledge that the AFL made things difficult for us  ,which is of itself not unusual , after the Wight -Stynes recruiting coup ,by requiring us to use draft picks to recruit this untried talent. But now we can use Category B selections so this is no longer a valid excuse .What happened ? Where did it go wrong ? Why aren't  we even  in the market for these players?. Don't we have a past network of contacts to assist in the process ? Irish players are not even mentioned in men's recruiting discussions at all  although in fairness the women's team has been creditably proactive . We  just seem to just have this fascination with basketballers who are tall but not much else as  our category B rookie targets .Can you throw light on why we are no longer interested in rebooting the Irish experiment ?

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It's a worthy question KD.

This issue was raised by Dazzle in the Port vs Casey thread.

Hopefully someone in the know can shed some light on this on the men's side.

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On a basic level we're now competing with 17 other clubs for the signature of maybe one or two players a year. There's also valid reasons why those guys might prefer to be based in Brisbane or Geelong, and go to clubs which already have Irish accents on the list.

There are also costs/risks involved and the talent likely has less exposure by coming over at a younger age. How many absolute Irish gems have been found since Stynes, compared to plucked from local/other sports?

Where I think clubs might be missing a trick though, if they haven't been doing so already, is in scouring the hurling stocks. It's a dynamic, multi-skilled sport that I think translates well to the AFL. 

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13 hours ago, kallangurdemon said:

In the early 1980s Ron Barassi and Barry Richardson announced to the football world that the Dees were to prospect the Emerald isle for potential players .This proposal was met with a combination of amusement, sceptisism and scorn by the wider VFL (as it then was ) community .That attitude changed markedly when we in our early batch we produced 2 All Australian recruits and had possibly a 3rd in Paul Earley if he hadn't  been consumed by homesickness and returned home .The recruiting  move was a radical success. Fast forward to 2024 ,and ironic as it  seems  many clubs have Irish players,i(n some cases like Brisbane and Geelong  more than one) ,and we as the founders of the scheme  have no-one at all. .In fact it is more than 20 years since our last Irish hopefuls  Kevin Devine and Nick Walsh tried out .i acknowledge that the AFL made things difficult for us  ,which is of itself not unusual , after the Wight -Stynes recruiting coup ,by requiring us to use draft picks to recruit this untried talent. But now we can use Category B selections so this is no longer a valid excuse .What happened ? Where did it go wrong ? Why aren't  we even  in the market for these players?. Don't we have a past network of contacts to assist in the process ? Irish players are not even mentioned in men's recruiting discussions at all  although in fairness the women's team has been creditably proactive . We  just seem to just have this fascination with basketballers who are tall but not much else as  our category B rookie targets .Can you throw light on why we are no longer interested in rebooting the Irish experiment ?

I think about this every time I see an Irish recruit playing AFL. The MFC visionaries that started this deserved to have their foresight preserved. We could have had a real, and substantial,  competitive advantage maintained. 

Not that we could possibly have had a monopoly on these players, but we could have definitely established a mindset in Ireland.   If you want to get well paid to display your Gaelic football skills then go to Australia.  And go to the team that first respected your abilities and culture!

As you say, our AFLW team have benefited greatly, but on the men's side, nothing. The AFL has ensured we now virtually get no access to the 'developing' states and Tassie is now high risk.  They are, and will continue to provide a rapidly increasing number of high end talent. And don't get me started on the NGA access!

It's only going to get harder for Victorian teams to get the best young talent. Jason Taylor can only do so much. I'd be rapt if we re-established our Irish connections, but we also need another left-fied strategy.  

But we better do it soon, otherwise it's back to the dark ages for us. 

 

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17 hours ago, Skuit said:

Where I think clubs might be missing a trick though, if they haven't been doing so already, is in scouring the hurling stocks. It's a dynamic, multi-skilled sport that I think translates well to the AFL. 

Interesting idea Skuit, but kicking is such an important skill in Aussie Rules. Can't imagine even the best hurling player in Ireland learning to kick to an acceptable level.  

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On 16/04/2024 at 11:55, dee-tox said:

Interesting idea Skuit, but kicking is such an important skill in Aussie Rules. Can't imagine even the best hurling player in Ireland learning to kick to an acceptable level.  

Anecdotal evidence, but I think most of the hurling talent also grew up kicking a round ball. No less than Mason Cox and some Sudanese migrants for example. I also took to smacking a 'slither' quite naturally. For me, hurling more closely matches the multi-skill-set and vision and athleticism required for AFL than what Gaelic footy does. My take. 

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I think it's a real shame that we haven't pursued Irish talent in 20 years. It's part of our heritage and for reasons that can't be explained we don't see the experiment as viable.

Quite often you see some very good kicks in these lads, something we could always use more of in the list. 

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4 minutes ago, layzie said:

I think it's a real shame that we haven't pursued Irish talent in 20 years. It's part of our heritage and for reasons that can't be explained we don't see the experiment as viable.

Quite often you see some very good kicks in these lads, something we could always use more of in the list. 

it's incredibly costly from all reports

we might be better off than we were a decade ago, but we don't have the cash nor support staff to spend in the likes of these areas

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12 minutes ago, whatwhat say what said:

they're just prepping em for the inevitable request to be traded to geelong

Those days are over I suspect, Parc de Princes has more competent people at the helm these days.

Agreed that Irish recruiting is not cheap and it is largely going ahead on the back of Carlton's improved finances with strong growth in memberships over the last few years.

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40 minutes ago, No. 31 said:

 

Outside the soft cap I assume so this is what rich clubs will do. Get one first round equivalent every five years and they're laughing. Surprised they publicised it as a "secret" academy would be my plan

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1 hour ago, whatwhat say what said:

it's incredibly costly from all reports

we might be better off than we were a decade ago, but we don't have the cash nor support staff to spend in the likes of these areas

Definitely wouldn't be cheap that's for sure. 

Just a bit sad.

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2 hours ago, whatwhat say what said:

it's incredibly costly from all reports

we might be better off than we were a decade ago, but we don't have the cash nor support staff to spend in the likes of these areas

Memories from the magnificent Demonwiki | The Irish Experiment

http://demonwiki.org/The+Irish+Experiment#:~:text=Paul Earley was the first,landed him the Brownlow Medal.

I can't believe that MFC sponsors like Jaguar,  Penfolds etc couldn’t see the benefits from mostly financing a trip to the Emerald Isle. We'd make sure their brand is plastered everywhere we go.

Let's do it before the AFL makes Ireland part of the Gold Coast Academy zone 😡

 

 

Edited by Palace Dees
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On 15/04/2024 at 20:03, kallangurdemon said:

Can you throw light on why we are no longer interested in rebooting the Irish experiment ?

Our Irish initiative is explained in the book Between The Flags. Dick Seddon said we started it because it was relatively cheap recruiting with no transfer fees involved. There's a story in there about some soccer genius who Seddon put up for a while over here to try Aussie Rules and who eventually went to a Premier League soccer giant, wasn't happy there and asked Seddon if he could come back to the Demons to try out some more. Seddon told him 'no way: Arsenal (or whatever club it was) will want a big transfer fee'.

The kid went on to play 100s of games and represent his country. Once he was in a system we could not afford him.

It was an advantage for us because we were first, but everyone is on to it now.

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1 hour ago, pitmaster said:

Our Irish initiative is explained in the book Between The Flags. Dick Seddon said we started it because it was relatively cheap recruiting with no transfer fees involved. There's a story in there about some soccer genius who Seddon put up for a while over here to try Aussie Rules and who eventually went to a Premier League soccer giant, wasn't happy there and asked Seddon if he could come back to the Demons to try out some more. Seddon told him 'no way: Arsenal (or whatever club it was) will want a big transfer fee'.

The kid went on to play 100s of games and represent his country. Once he was in a system we could not afford him.

It was an advantage for us because we were first, but everyone is on to it now.

I believe the soccer genius you refer to might have been Niall Quinn who played Gaelic football and hurling as a youth in Dublin, including the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final in Croke aged 16, in 1983. He once captained an Irish GAA youth side on a tour to Australia, and was offered a professional contract to play Australian Rules Football with Melbourne, but opted for professional football, in England where he played with Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland, and was ex-chairperson of Sunderland FC. He played for the Republic of Ireland from 1986 to 2002.

Quinn was a 193cm striker and I believe that had he chosen to play our football, he might have been a key forward or defender and taken us one step up the ladder in those years in the late 80s and 90s when we came close to challenging for a flag.

Needless to say, I remain disappointed that Melbourne has apparently chosen not to test the waters in this arena in recent years. Without the likes of Jimmy Stynes and Sean Wight, the club might well not even be in existence today.

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  • 1 month later...

Watching the hurling again today confirms my belief that the skills of the sport are as closely matched to the AFL as Gaelic footy, if not more. Hard to exactly pin-point, but it's in the aerial movement and space I think.

Kicking skills were brought up before, but I'm not convinced kicking a Gaelic round ball prepares anyone better for an AFL ball skill-set than any other random sport. If not already explored, I urge the MFC to take a look. 

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The AFL should give us the Irish Academy - we begin with talent pools in each Irish county.

Just like the AFL academies in NSW and Qld.

Call it The Jim Stynes Academy as I think Jim is well known back in Ireland.

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