Could The GAA Benefit From Drafting International Players?

A big question that the GAA needs to explore is whether it could benefit from drafting international players.
The Australian Football League have been doing it for years, maybe it is time to explore the possible benefits of such a technique.

In these heady times, when the GAA boardroom speaks of promoting the global brand to international audiences via television deals with Sky and Channel 7, there is another way to capture the imagination and experiment with the playing pool.

The GAA have sat by, stamping their feet like a child throwing a tantrum, as the AFL swooped in and scooped up the best up-and-comers.
Players such as Ricky Nixon and Tadgh Kenneally are feeding the AFL pool with new blood through the continued ‘Irish Experiment’, bred from the GAA academies up and down the country.

Counties who dream of dining at the top table of Gaelic football have been set back as talented players such as Zach Touhy, Colm Begley, Pearce Hanley, Martin Clarke and Setanta O’hAilpin were seduced by the spoils of being professional sports stars.
The GAA public have been denied the opportunity of watching Kerry’s Tommy Walsh as he plies his trade in the upper echelons of the AFL.
Maybe now is the time to turn the tables, perhaps another area to grow the sport is to lure AFL players into the GAA.

How the likes of Kildare, Cavan and Galway would love to have seen AFL legends Barry Hall and Gary Abblett turning out for their inter-county sides.
A new dimension would be born; supporters would witness international stars injecting life and perhaps a new level of fitness to the game, as Lance Franklin and Adam Goodes swashbuckle around the half-back and full-forward line.
It could re-energise the international rules game. How about luring up-and-coming or well-seasoned coaches to the GAA to introduce new coaching methods that have seen Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney capture the flag down under.

But wait, wait, they are professional stars getting paid? Yes they are but the GAA could enter into an exchange programme with the AFL, where by the Australians supplement the cost of the up and coming players playing in Ireland.
This would allow GAA players to trial and train in Australia for a period, while allowing AFL players a similar opportunity in Ireland.Management would also benefit from learning new methods.

Perhaps a drafting system would need to be introduced to allow a fair distribution and transfer of players to the counties who need an injection of talent.
Why does the Australian game need to be a foe when it could so easily be a friend, just as the IRFU and FAI were once treated with contempt before being welcomed into Croke Park to assist with paying the bills, and also as Sky have just recently been allowed to broadcast games.

Three Australian players who could have lit up Gaelic football:

Chris Judd

An All-Australian representative, two-time Brownlow and Leigh Matthews Trophy winner who lifted the 2006 AFL Premiership with the West Coast Eagles. At 30-years-old, Chris Judd remains one of the outstanding AFL midfielders. He has kicked 206 goals in 239 appearances; he possesses speed and accuracy and can take a tackle. Judd played against Ireland in the International Rules series in 2002.

Ben Cousins

The AFL bad boy who has struggled with issues off the field retired in 2010. “The most sought after (West Coast) Eagle. No player was, or is, as popular as Ben. His appeal is so diverse” said Ross Nicholas, West Coast Eagles Marketing Manager.
In 2005, Cousins dislocated a finger and missed one round after undergoing an operation. West Coast chief executive Trevor Nesbitt said, “there’s no doubt that he’s at his best when under pressure and he’s so resilient; he plays with injuries that other players wouldn’t.”

Ron Barrassi

Okay, Ron Barrassi is a ‘back in the day’ sort of player. He was born in 1936, and he may have played his last AFL game in 1969 and been inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1996, but it would have been interesting to see how Barassi would have mixed up with the likes of Dublin’s Kevin Heffernan and Longford’s Sean Murray, while being refereed by Wicklow’s Jimmy Hatton in the 1960s. Regarded as the father of the ‘Irish Experiment’, he coached Carlton and North Melbourne to four Premierships and also recruited Dubliner and Brownlow Legend Jim Stynes to the AFL.