Convinced by the GWS Giants to finally have a go at making a career in the AFLW after several years of the team trying to lure her over to Australia, Irish recruit Bríd Stack’s introduction to the oval-ball game has been far from straightforward.
Stack is yet to even visit the Giants’ facilities in the west of Sydney after the COVID-19 situation, caused by the Avalon cluster, worsened, forced the team to hastily set up a temporary camp in Albury, north of the Victorian border, to ensure they will be able to travel to play in other states when the AFLW season starts later this month.
Stack, an 11-time All Ireland champion in her native county of Cork, her husband Carthach and 14-month-old son Carthach Óg, began their journey when they left Dublin on December 9.
“I don’t know any different so I’m kind of just rolling with it at the moment and the small fella has been absolutely brilliant,” Stack told aflplayers.com.au.
“We’re getting to see a bit of Australia, which is lovely. Hopefully we’ll get to Sydney in a couple more weeks and we look forward to that too.”
Stack and her family were originally bound to fly from Dublin to Adelaide to begin quarantine there.
However, those plans changed after their flights were diverted to Perth following a long layover in London and an overnight stopover in Singapore, which saw a 24-hour travel time balloon out to almost three days.
After spending 14 days in Perth’s Novotel Hotel, the young family got out of quarantine on Christmas Day and were all set to fly to Sydney on Boxing Day.
But those plans were again skittled as the Sydney COVID-19 situation became more apparent, so they flew to Melbourne instead where Stack was able to link up her teammates and complete a few training sessions there.
They were going to fly to Sydney until the borders were hastily closed to deal with the outbreak, so instead were forced to drive from Melbourne to Albury – stopping off in Ned Kelly country – Glenrowan – to get their Australian history fix along the way – to join the rest of the GWS Giants.
“It’s a fantastic experience, an opportunity for my family and I suppose I am so, so grateful and delighted that the boys could travel with me,” she said.
“We had a bit of a stressful situation in the run up to it, but look thankfully it all worked out and they are able to be with me and we’re able to experience this as a family, which I think is just going to be once in a lifetime kind of opportunity. So I’m delighted that they’re able to be here with me and experience it all.”
Stack has wasted little time in trying to fast-track her learning of Australian rules football, although she admits it has been tricky to get used to the Australian climate.
However, the support of fellow Irishwoman Cora Staunton – who was central in recruiting Stack to the Giants – has been vitally important as Stack embarks on a fresh challenge.
“I was very content when I retired from ladies football (in 2018) that I had achieved everything I wanted to achieve in ladies football,” she said.
“I am very competitive and I want to see what I’m made of so when this opportunity presented itself you know it really was a no brainer and I really want to be immersed in a professional setup and see everything that it has to offer and challenge myself with a new sport. I just hope that I do myself and my family proud and the team, you know, justice going forward.”
Stack, who is training as a defender, says this training block in Albury will be crucial in bringing her up to speed for the season ahead.
“I just need to make sure that I keep learning as fast as possible in the coming few training sessions,” she said.
“I really want to get to the pitch of things and I really want to earn a starting berth on this team.”