Irish Watch: AFL Round Two Review

After a week of incredible upsets to kick off the 2019 season, round two did not disappoint with a number of tight finishes and incredible results headlining an action-packed weekend of footy.

It would again be five Irishmen to take the field this weekend for their respective sides, while the rest wait anxiously for their various state league fixtures to kick off this coming weekend.

Starting with the feel-good story of the week, Irish veteran Pearce Hanley would be a key contributor as the underdog Suns pulled off an in upset victory over the inform Fremantle Dockers on Sunday afternoon.

With many critics questioning whether the Suns would even win a game in 2019, coach Stuart Dew had the boys from up North playing an inspired brand with a number of unheralded youngsters paving the way for a defining win in the club’s short history.

Alongside the club’s youth, Hanley was superb in guiding the side with his experience as he claimed 19 disposals in a clinical display off the half back line.

With injury wrecking his past two seasons up on the Gold Coast, it was great to see Hanley fit and firing at Metricon Stadium on Sunday Afternoon, with the trademark dash that saw him become one of the most exciting players in the competition beginning to come back into his game.

He would also show great leadership throughout the match, with his cool head proving critical at time as the Suns grinded out an impressive victory.

After being overlooked last week, Sydney brought back crafty Irish defender Colin O’Riordan for their massive Friday night clash with the Adelaide Crows at the SCG.

Despite one major blunder where he inexplicably gifted Adelaide rookie Chayce Jones a baffling 100-meter penalty due to the new rules introduced this season, the 23 year old was gallant in defense taking five marks and having 15 disposals.

Kicking at 73%, O’Riordan was always willing to take on the risky option and get the Swans ball movement moving positively after a stagnant start to the season.

He was also pivotal in helping Sydney curtail the influence of some of Adelaide’s premier forwards, with the likes of Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts, Tom Lynch and Josh Jenkins only combining for five goals.

Despite his efforts, the Swans were simply outclassed by the Crows who claimed a crucial 26-point win to get off the mark in season 2019.

It was a thriller at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. After holding a comfortable 30 point lead at three-quarter-time Conor Nash’s Hawks would fall victim to an incredible comeback that saw the Western Bulldogs kick nine goals to one in the last term and steal a famous victory.

After playing his role to perfection in last week’s upset win over the Crows, Nash would have a quitter afternoon at the home of football only managing eight disposals and a tackle on a wet afternoon in Melbourne.

Despite his low stats, Nash would still find ways to contribute with his pressure around the ball and energy at the contest yielding positive results for the Hawks on a number of occasions.

It was a demolition job down at the Cattery on Saturday night as Mark O’Connor’s Cat’s drew revenge on the Demon’s from last year’s elimination final to claim an emphatic 80-point win.

After having perhaps, the best game of his career last week against Collingwood, O’Connor wouldn’t have quite the same influence against Melbourne as he only gathered 11 disposals in a rain-soaked match down in Geelong.

Despite this, the defensive aspects of O’Connor’s game were exceptional as he along with the rest of the backline kept Melbourne to a lowly 46 from an astounding 72 inside 50’s.

His disposal was also solid in the wet, with his dash off half back setting up the Cats for scores on multiple occasions.

It was another dismal day for the Bombers, who after being destroyed by GWS in round one failed to bounce back, suffering a humiliating 11-point loss to a re-building St Kilda.

In a match headlined by comedic errors from the Bombers, McKenna stood tall off half back claiming 17 disposals in what was a gallant performance.

Renowned for his run and dash off half back, the Irishmen would do all he could to inspire his teammates as he constantly looked to take the game on and be aggressive with his ball use.

After a few solid seasons at the top level, McKenna is beginning to show signs of big improvement in 2019 as he hopes to become a regular high performer in the Essendon side and lead them out of the major hole they find themselves in just two weeks into the season.

So, with another week under the belt things intensify in the wild world of AFL, with shock results and as teams adjust to the new rule and interpretation changes – nothing is certain in this competition.

With more Irish players set to start their seasons next weekend either at AFL or state league level, it will be interesting to see how far they grow as 2019 looms as a transcendent year for Irish footballers.

Irish Watch: AFLW Grand Final Review

A record crowd saw Ailish Considine and the Adelaide Crows win the 2019 AFLW Grand Final in commanding fashion over Carlton.

53,034.

This incredible figure will be a talking point for many years to come, as South Australian’s flocked to the Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon to witness a history-making AFLW Grand Final.

In a match riddled with incredible stories from both Adelaide and Carlton, Irish pioneer Ailish Considine would make her mark on the biggest stage as she became the first European AFLW premiership player.

With five Irish girls beginning this incredible AFLW journey, Considine would fly the Irish flag fittingly to the end as after just eight weeks of professional football she managed to achieve the ultimate goal.

After obliterating the Cats in the preliminary final last weekend, the Crows came into the Grand Final red hot favourites to overcome a Carlton side that built solid momentum throughout the back end of the season.

Typical of all grand finals, it was on from the first bounce as a fired-up Carlton outfit pressured the Crows into mistakes early and managed to hit the scoreboard first.

Despite the best efforts of the Blues early, the Crows machine would eventually kick into gear as they began to match Carlton around the contest and burn them on the outside.

In a dazzling first-half display, the Crows skipped away to a huge 42-point lead at the main break, with the Blues simply unable to match their class.

After a couple of solid weeks upon returning to the side, Ailish Considine continued to thrive in her role as a pressure forward with her attack on the ball and relentless ferocity critical in causing Carlton mistakes.

She would also contribute a crucial first quarter goal to get the Crows rolling, with the Irishwoman saluting to the 50,000 strong crowd in what turned out to be a memorable moment.

As the siren sounded, the Crows would see themselves 45 points ahead as they claimed a very well deserved second AFLW premiership.

The only downside from the afternoon would be ACL injuries to forward Chloe Scheer and superstar Erin Phillips, with the latter claiming best on ground honours despite being stretchered off in the third term.

So, with the AFLW season now finished it has been truly incredible to see the growth of the Irish players with all five making solid contributions to their respective clubs.

With Ailish fortunate enough to taste the glory of a premiership, it is amazing to think how far these girls can come in future years and the talent they will inspire to come over and participate in the great game of Australian Rules Football.

By Zac Standish.

2019 ANZAC Cup Player Profiles – Tom Mason

One of just 28 selected Australians for the 11th annual ANZAC Cup is Tom Mason, who is somewhat of a football nomad.

Tom is an experienced footballer, playing all his junior years for the South Bunbury Tigers in Western Australia, before travelling and moving south to the Birdwood Roosters Football Club in Adelaide.

Coming over to Europe for study, Tom also brought his passion for Australian football over with him, playing for the Delft Blues Football Club in the Netherlands and even able to represent the Netherlands national team against Great Britain in London before his recent move to Germany.

On the 27th of April Tom will be representing his family and country on the very soil that his family members fought on when he lines up for the Australian Spirit side against the French national team.

Each year sees a huge build up to the game, with the ANZAC Day service and locals remembering all sacrifices made by diggers throughout the ‘Australia Week’ festivities in Villers-Bretonneux. The town demonstrates a very special way to honour people that were in the monumental second battle, much like Tom’s family.

“To spend time in the region, play in the Anzac Cup and help preserve the bond between Australia and the people of France would be an honour like nothing else I have experienced before. It’s something I would look forward to taking back to Australia and sharing with other young Australians, who have similar family history or an interest in our World War history but have not had an opportunity to experience a commemoration such as the one at Villers-Bretonneux first hand.”

Tom’s great grandfather, Robert Colling fought in France around the surrounding areas of Villers-Bretonneux. Adding extra sentimental value to this life changing trip that Tom is about to experience, Robert was mentioned twice in despatches for his service.

With such a great connection to the small town in France already, one would think Tom couldn’t have any closer links to this event. But in fact, his great-grand uncle, Stanley Breakell fought this same battle and has his name engraved on the walls of the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. Stanley was enlisted as a cook, later joining regular infantry and was killed by artillery, just before he could take his place on the front line.

Tom is so proud of his family and is also honoured to be a part of Germany today, where forgiveness is present.

“To be present at Villers-Bretonneux at all would be a humbling experience for a young Australian a couple of generations descendant from those who fought there in WWI. To now live in Germany and call many of them friends, sheds another light on a conflict I would have been expected to take part in 100 years ago.”

“I guess the important connection between me going to Villers-Bretonneux for the ANZAC Cup this year and my ancestors’ story is that we can hold these events at all and celebrate old national friendships in a peaceful setting.”

Having been to Villers-Bretonneux a few times already and even experienced the iconic ANZAC Day Service, Tom has felt many of the same feelings his Australian Spirit teammates will face upon their first arrival in this town steeped in history and remembrance. This trip and being able to represent his family and country in a whole new way, will top his previous experiences, as he can dedicate his game and overall trip to his wonderful family.

Tom’s interest already in his family’s noble past is present in his life, and this chance to increase awareness and create a memory for his family will be cherished and spoken about endlessly for many years to come.

Special thanks to the National Australia Bank for their continued support as Major Partner of the ANZAC Cup.

Liam McAllion – AFL Europe