On Wednesday last week, the AFL announced that the International Rules series would be continuing on this year.
In an attempt to make the much-maligned competition more popular, only players who have been selected in the All Australian side in one point in time will be eligible to take the field against Ireland at Patersons Stadium in November.
Previous years have seen Australia dish up sides that have been none other than sub-par. The 2013 series saw the Indigenous Australian side lose by a combined total of 101 points, an embarrassing state of affairs considering only one player on the Irish team was a professional, that being Zach Tuohy of Carlton.
However the question is, does anyone really care?
The game of international rules is a hybrid sport made up of a mixture of rules from Gaelic Football and Australian Rules Football, but it’s quite clear that the Irish got one up when the ball chosen was that of their sport. This makes it incredibly difficult for the Australian’s to adapt.
Crowds at Australian matches have been largely poor in recent years while the players seem to have taken the opportunity to travel to Ireland as a holiday, not taking the series seriously. One example of this is the infamous Brendan Fevola saga in 2006, where he was sent home after he was involved in a brawl at a pub.
Moreover, when the players from Australia decide to take it somewhat seriously, they seem to get involved in fights on the field, which simply is embarrassing as it portrays them as the professional bullies taking on the amateurs.
The people of Ireland have typically been more receptive to the sport, even selling out Croke Park for the second and final match of the infamous 2006 series. 2013 however saw their interest wain with only 28,525 people in to watch the corresponding fixture.
It is known that the AFL are in favour of having the headlines all year round, but is international rules the right way to get them?
Newly-chosen AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has a list of issues to deal with when he takes full charge on June 5, not less including ticket prices, TV rights and the continuation of the AFL’s invasion of the northern states.
However, another big issue is an event that hasn’t occurred since 1999; State of Origin.
The AFL Players Association have made it quite clear that they want the competition back on the agenda and even submitted a proposal to the AFL before it was shot down earlier this year.
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury has been the main advocate for the revival, expressing his views about it through social media avenues such as Twitter and Facebook.
It isn’t just the players, however, that have expressed their desire to see players represent their home state once again. Football forums are flooded with posts begging that the AFL bring it back. Fans like these have also put together hypothetical state teams to see how the teams would shape up.
Since 1999, football has grown a lot, especially in the northern states. A Queensland & Northern Territory combined State of Origin team would definitely be able to give football’s homeland, Victoria, a run for their money.
This would also help grow the game even further.
The Queensland versus New South Wales rivalry is already the biggest event of the year in Rugby League, and while the AFL will probably not ever rival it for popularity in the northern states, it is worth a shot. It may also appeal to non-football fans in both states, who would tune in purely for the rivalry. In a perfect world they would like what they saw and start watching other matches.
Of course the concept and how it should be played in regards to minimising injuries and so forth would have to be thoroughly thought about by the AFL, however the support for bringing back State of Origin is coming from all angles.
Surely it would be a much better alternative than continuing this pointless hybrid game that our players don’t take seriously anyway. Put some state pride on the line and see the real stars step up.
Bring it on.