Why to­day’s match could be the last in Ade­laide

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - CHRIS MCDER­MOTT

IT is loom­ing as the end of an era in Aus­tralian foot­ball in this coun­try – the end of the In­ter­na­tional Rules con­cept.

The con­tests against the Ir­ish dat­ing back to the mid’80s have been a great fea­ture on the cal­en­dar for many years but, try as they have, it feels like the last hur­rah. The last stand. The farewell, un­less some- thing big­ger, bet­ter and broader is found to re­place it. The ob­ses­sion with prod­ucts like AFLX or AFL 10s, while quirky, feel too much like cricket’s at­tempt to turn “beach cricket” into a se­ri­ous sport.

It won’t work. De­spite pop­u­lar opin­ion, I’m not a com­plete sad sack but re­ally? Seven-a-side footy on a cricket pitch! That’s it?

Peo­ple aren’t go­ing to flock to it just be­cause the bounce has been taken out of it.

What’s the prod­uct? Cricket has done it well. Learn from the best. T20, the Big Bash, IPL - in what­ever coun­try the 20/20 for­mat has been a sen­sa­tion.

Ev­ery other sport is en­vi­ous of what cricket has done.

It tweaked its dy­ing for­mat of the 50-over game but main­tained its heart and soul.

A shorter game. Three hours max­i­mum but still 20 wick­ets and al­most 400 runs with no gim­micks. A free hit the only real vari­a­tion.

In all hon­esty, the game doesn’t need it. A new game, a world­wide phe­nom­e­non and an end­less money pit has been cre­ated. The game has never been bet­ter. It has never been more pop­u­lar and it has never ap­pealed to ev­ery man, woman and child on the planet like it has to­day.

All cricket did was shorten an al­ready proven, but dy­ing, prod­uct. In an age where peo­ple are time-poor and look­ing for a bet­ter prod­uct, cricket lis­tened. The big ques­tion is, is the AFL lis­ten­ing or is it sim­ply try­ing to cash in?

To squeeze the lemon dry and to milk more out of the peo­ple who al­ready go?

Where is their at­tempt to cap­ture a new au­di­ence? In­ter­na­tional Rules doesn’t do that. I don’t think it even tries. In­ter­na­tional Rules was ini­tially a way of re­ward­ing the best.

Thirty years ago, the Al­lAus­tralian side, se­lected from state games played through­out the year, were handed their well-earned Aus­tralian jumper and of­fered a trip to Ire­land or a home se­ries to play against a coun­try with a game most com­pa­ra­ble to Aus­tralian rules. Gaelic foot­ball.

The rules were tweaked, chopped and changed to find a happy medium and when they found it the com­pe­ti­tion flour­ished. Crowds of over 80,000 turned up.

The Aussies got to ex­pe­ri­ence one of the great en­vi­ron­ments in the world in Croke Park and the se­ries started to gain some pop­u­lar­ity.

Un­for­tu­nately, that’s where it ended. No-one had the vi­sion of how to take it fur­ther.

It may have at­tracted a flood of Ir­ish­men to Aus­tralia to have a crack at our game but that’s all and that didn’t please the Ir­ish.

Ten­sions were strained and the game col­lapsed.

It was re­built, but it has never been the same. We blew it. End of story. The game as it stands to­day is over. This may be the last time we see it.

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