I’m sitting at The Moseley, a bar and restaurant partly owned by Travis Boak and Robbie Gray, in the heart of Glenelg, listening to Gerard Healy speak about how “not everybody ‘gets’ International Rules.”
Not all fans of Aussie Rules are fans of the hybrid game.
Gerard tells me later that he has attended all bar two of the series between Australia and Ireland since he pulled on the jumper in 1986. He just loves the game.
As I look around the restaurant, I see Nat Fyfe sitting a few seats away from me.
In September 2013, just over a month before I was drafted to North Melbourne, I was sitting in the stands watching Fremantle fall to Hawthorn in the Grand Final. Draped in my well-worn purple, green and red scarf, I watched Nat Fyfe battle hard, finishing with 28 disposals. I felt that day like I rode every bump along with him. He was one of my favourite players.
And now, four years later, I’m sitting in The Moseley, with Nat Fyfe as my teammate, preparing to line up for Australia. It’s a little surreal.
As the trip progresses, I discover that I’m not alone in feeling the immense privilege of playing alongside football heroes from my adolescence. Every player here is excited to have the opportunity to play with and learn from each other.
It’s not just about playing the game together; it’s the time we get to spend together outside of that, and the chance to train together.
Immediately, I am impressed with the dedication and the work ethic of the athletes I am surrounded by.
Nat attacks training hard, executing every skill with precision. Eddie Betts maneuvers the round ball with ease. Travis Boak flies around the oval after training at the head of a large group completing an extra, self-motivated running dose.
It shows me how much more I need to do, and the work I need to put in, if I’m ever to elevate myself to their level. Watching them train gives me extra motivation to take back to Arden St for pre-season.
Learning the ropes of the round ball, the rules and tactics are a challenge, but they are a challenge we relish. As Australian Rules Footballers, this is our only chance to put on the green and gold and represent our country.
The AFL are fostering a culture of competitiveness and pride in playing for our country, and the players are buying in. Make no mistake — we want to win.
The spectacle for fans is a different one, but it’s nonetheless engaging. The second Test was one of the more exciting sporting games I’ve been a part of.
When Ireland kicked a second goal early in the match to take the series lead, I can assure you they were up and about. They wanted to win as much as we did.
And when Dayne Zorko miraculously put the ball over with his left boot to seal the game, the crowd at Subiaco Oval erupted.
The atmosphere was awesome. It wasn’t the biggest crowd, but everyone there was certainly enjoying International Rules football.
Playing for Australia in the International Rules Series was an unbelievable experience for me, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance.
It’s true what Gerard said — not everyone ‘gets’ International Rules. But I sure do. And I’m not the only one.