The tackle that nearly took down Ailish Considine’s Aussie adventure

Adelaide Crows’ Irish player avoids ban that could have meant missing AFLW grand final

Ailish Considine in action against the Kangaroos earlier this month. The AFLW grand final is on Sunday and her club, the Adelaide Crows, are hefty favourites. Photograph: Michael Willson/AFL Media

Ailish Considine in action against the Kangaroos earlier this month. The AFLW grand final is on Sunday and her club, the Adelaide Crows, are hefty favourites. Photograph: Michael Willson/AFL Media

 

For a while on Monday, for a long and worrisome while, the gold on Ailish Considine’s winter was starting to look like pyrite. This was supposed to be the crowning week of her trip to Australia. The AFLW grand final is on Sunday and her club, the Adelaide Crows, are hefty favourites. Still just seven games into her Aussie Rules career, she was on the verge of capping it all off in riotous style.

And then she wasn’t. A call late on Sunday night informed her there was a chance she could be in some disciplinary bother for some tackles she had made in the preliminary grand final (semi-final) against Geelong earlier that day. Just like that, the sheen fairly flew off the whole experience.

“I actually couldn’t even remember the tackles,” she says. “On Sunday night, I was on such a high after we won, but then I got a phone call from Phil Harper [Adelaide general manager] around nine o’clock. And he said there were three tackles that they were looking at and they were a little bit worried about one of them.

“So I said, ‘What does that mean?’ And he went, ‘Well, potentially you could get a one-match ban or a two-match ban. So you’d miss the grand final.’ It was a long, sleepless night after that.”

Considine has played football and camogie for Clare and is no stranger to rough and tumble. Earlier in the campaign, she fractured a couple of ribs against Geelong and played on for two more games before scans found the cracks.

Bad timing

Two of the tackles were barely worth a second look, under-developed technique as much as anything. But the other one was a case of her catching one of the opposition players on the head with her hip. It was bad timing, in every sense.

“Coming from the high of the game, you know? I stress out every week over selection anyway, so to add this in on top of it just made things worse. And then on Monday, they usually have everything sorted on the disciplinary side of things by one o’clock in the afternoon, but we got to three o’clock and still didn’t know.

“By that stage, I was all ready to fly to Melbourne on Tuesday to argue my case in the appeal, and the club had their legal team ready to go as well. We were very, very anxious about it.”

I really didn’t expect to get signed or anything. I didn’t know much about the Crows when I went over

In the end, the news came through around 4.15 that if she was willing to admit to the offence, she would get no more than a reprimand. Considine didn’t need to be asked twice. She held her hand up and took the wrist slap with relief. When the third grand final of the AFLW throws in at the Adelaide Oval in the early hours of Sunday morning, she will be togged and ready to go.

Considine is one of five Irish women to feature in this season’s AFLW, the last one still standing. Her route Down Under started with her older sister Eimear, the Ireland rugby international, insisting she put her name down for CrossCode trials – a sort of AFLW version of the NFL combine, held in September for athletes from other sports to see can their skills be transferred.

“I really didn’t expect to get signed or anything. I didn’t know much about the Crows when I went over. To be honest, I probably didn’t even know that Adelaide was a place that existed. Sydney was what I had in mind – my sister had been there the previous year and I have a cousin living there. So GWS was my preference going, on the off-chance that anyone was interested in me. But as it happened, the Crows made me the offer and even though I had an interview with GWS, I went with the Crows.”

Lie of the land

In truth, once she got used the lie of the land, it was no choice at all. In the nascent AFLW, the Crows are one of the bigger beats. Considine scored the first two goals in that semi-final against Geelong, a game they ended up strolling through and winning 73-7. Any way you look at it, that’s the sort of scoreline that screams of a league still trying to get its legs under it.

Being able to kick with both feet is the big thing I had. Just having the confidence of being able to kick with both left and right

For all that she was initially unsure of her chances, Considine has thrived as the season has progressed. Her visa prevents her getting a part-time job anywhere to fill the hours outside training, so she spends most of her time at the club, doing extra kicking practice and learning the game on videos. Day by day and week by week, it’s coming more naturally to her, allowing her to build on the skills she brought over with her.

“Being able to kick with both feet is the big thing I had. Definitely, my kicking is far from perfect, but just having the confidence of being able to kick with both left and right is something they couldn’t get over. For the majority of girls, whatever leg they are, that’s the dominant leg – kicking off both legs isn’t common.

“That was something they saw in me straight away and said, ‘That’s going to be handy.’ Because you have such little time on the ball so when you get caught on the wrong side, if you’re able to still kick the ball, you have an advantage. I knew it would take me a while to get the technique but I worked hard on it and I’m getting there. I knew once I got it right, I’d be able to kick it any way I wanted. I think any of the girls that came from a Gaelic football background would say the same.”

So here she is. Grand finalist, on the medal hunt in her first season away from home. After Sunday, her next job will be to get re-signed for 2020. There’s an end-of-season holiday to Bali with her team-mates to get out of the way and then, most likely, she’ll be back in Ireland to play championship for Clare.

Making the best of herself. Here, there, everywhere.

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