Australian coach Alastair Clarkson has expressed the hope that the international rules series will revert to a two-test series. Speaking at this morning's media conference in Perth before tomorrow's test in Subiaco, Clarkson commented on the capacity crowd of just over 40,000.
“It makes it worthwhile, doesn’t it? It’s only a one-test series and we want it to be more than that and so we want to reinvigorate the series so we get an opportunity to travel abroad next year.”
The Australian attitude to the series has always been key to its fortunes and Clarkson’s comments will build hopes that the internationals may continue.
Only the best players
He also said that he believed the policy of selecting only top players should be maintained. This year’s AFL team are on paper the strongest in history, as they comprise only players who have won All-Australian awards (equivalent of All Stars).
“If those guys want to continually put their hand up to play this great game of ours then there’s about 780 footballers who want to do exactly the same thing.
“That leadership is going to be crucial for this concept from an Australian point of view anyway. This concept will hopefully stay alive and build. It’s waned a little bit in the last few years. We’re committed as an AFL and I’m sure the GAA are as well to get this up and going again and make it a really vibrant and ongoing thing for many years to come.”
Neither side have yet named their match panels for the test but Ireland manager Paul Earley said that he would not be selecting both goalkeepers, Paddy O'Rourke and Niall Morgan - despite his concerns about kick-outs should there be an injury to one of them.
He added that he expected pace to be an important element.
“I expect it to as fast game: both sets of players are quick and very skilful; that’s why they’re playing for their country. We’ll try and use our kicking skills to move the ball quickly. We did it well last year and it’s no secret we’ll be doing that again. When both teams have had their best players in the past, the game have been played at ferocious pace. The best players can perform the skills of the game under whatever pressure comes their way.”
A fast squad
Clarkson wasn’t as inclined to place that emphasis on how the test match might unfold.
“There’s one area of speed which is to do with how quick your legs can like Fred Flintstone or Barney Rubble, but there’s another element of speed in terms of decision-making and speed of lateral movement and we think we have got a squad - particularly on those two areas - that is absolutely first class.”
Australia haven't won a home series since 2005 and were beaten in 2008 and 2011. Having thrown a lot of resources at this year's series and agreed the involvement of a strong panel, which includes seven club captains the home side will be anxious to halt the dismal trend of recent years.
‘A real shame’
One player who definitely won’t be able to assist them is local Fremantle star Nat Fyffe, one of the most exciting talents in the Australian game, whose absence was confirmed by Clarkson.
“He’s had scans and they’ve indicated that his shoulder’s just a little unstable so he just needs to get that fixed up so that’ll mean unfortunately for us he’s not going to be able to play.
“He’s a fantastic player in our game and was playing really well last Tuesday so we’re going to miss his presence but we’re going to miss the fact that he’s a West Australian boy and would have loved to be playing in front of his Perth crowd, which is a real shame but he won’t be playing on Saturday afternoon.”