International Rules: Moments We Won’t Likely Forget

This coming weekend the International Rules Series returns to the Emerald Isle for the first time in four years and the highly anticipated build-up serves as a timely reminder of how this ambitious experiment to bind two codes together has effectively paid off. Indeed, the International Rules concept has provided us with a variety of memorable moments while witnessing two heavyweights in Australia and Ireland locking horns in intense battles over the years. It is a rivalry where the will and determination to prevail for your nation severely overwhelms the obvious tyranny of distance. Since its inception back in 1967, we have witnessed inspirational performances that have bonded the nation’s finest quality players together as well as fiery moments that have threatened to place the series on the brink of collapse.

However in the midst of 2010, the competition which comprises of two matches is healthier than ever as both of the nation’s representatives vie for the prestigious Cormac McAnallen Trophy. To celebrate the occasion, here is a select list of the most memorable moments witnessed in the International Rules concept:

The Inaugural Series, 1967- few could have predicted the ultimate influence this inaugural series would have on the eventual exposure and expansion of Australian Rules Football. The World Tour which was  organised and promoted by prominent Australian radio broadcaster Harry Beitzel in October 1967, would mark the inception of the Galahs Football Team consisting of respected Australian Football champions Ron Barassi, Royce Hart, Bob Skilton and John Nicholls just to name a few. This astute squad would prevail over several Gaelic teams all around the globe in matches that comprised of rules mostly based upon the Gaelic football code with elements added from the Australian game. This series would ultimately serve as the stem for a growing International Rules concept in an attempt to showcase the Australian game in a broad manner. The series would resume the following year which again resulted in a victorious tour for the Galahs. However it was eventually deliberated that the tournament would be placed on temporary hiatus due to factors such as travel fatigue and reduced scheduling. However the humble seed had been planted and the idea would be embraced by both the Australian and Irish nations in the decades to come.

The Return, 1984- Seventeen years following their maiden voyage to Ireland, the Australian side returned to Irish territory in 1984. This series marked the commencement of the current International Rules concept with three tests held throughout the series and each match would be televised into Australia via Channel Seven. Under the helm of legendary WA football figure John Todd, the Australian side consisted of the finest players from each of the major state leagues in the VFL, SANFL and the WAFL. The Aussies enjoyed the historic spoils with a 2-1 victory in an intensifying and closely-fought series.

Ireland Isn’t the Only Location With Icy Winds, 1986- The Australian public received its first taste of the complex International Rules Series, only to witness the host nation succumbing to a 3-0 whitewash at the hands of the Irish. However, this series will no doubt be remembered for the icy Second Test at none other than VFL Park, Waverley. The freezing conditions failed to damper the spirits of 10 000 hardy spectators or the Irish for that matter who had no trouble contending with the vast expanses of ‘Arctic Park’, defeating the Aussies by 16 points to cement a series victory.

Back in Business, 1998- Following an 8 year hiatus, the International Rules Series returned to the fore, boasting what is now the current format; a scheduled two test series where the victor would be determined by goal difference. An added bonus to the concept involved the agreement between the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and AFL to initiate an annual series held every October between these two leagues, where the location would alternate between both Australia and Ireland every year. The series kicked off in a thrilling manner which saw an Australian victory by a solitary point. North Melbourne champ Wayne Carey and Essendon goalkicker Matthew Lloyd worked in tandem up forward to score 8 overs between them. Meanwhile Brian Stynes (Jim’s Brother) was the pick of the scorers for the Irish, booting 4 overs. Ireland would eventually redeem themselves the following week posting an 11 point win to effectively win the series on goal difference.

True Australian Spirit, 2002- It is fair to claim that Australia’s victory in the First Test of the 2002 Series is one of the most underrated sporting performances in the nation’s history. The Aussie team looked on in a mortified manner in their respective Dublin hotel rooms as news regarding Bali Bombing Terrorist Attacks filtered through, with reports claiming that almost 100 Australian tourists were among the dead. Emotion was significantly high in the Australian camp as many players were quite wary of the fact that there was a distinct possibility of teammates from their respective AFL clubs being among the casualties. In a matter of hours, the Aussies were preparing to front up against Irish in the first test with emotion still prominent within the side. Despite trailing at the major break by a mountainous 19 point margin, the Australians staged a remarkable comeback in the second half to defeat the home side by just seven points in a free-flowing and entertaining contest. The victory indicated the true Australian attitude that involved triumphing over adversity.

The Day Plugger’s Pig was Trumped By a Dog, 2004- The events that transpired within the Second Test of the 2004 Series was as hilarious as it was farcical. The action was apparent before the play was set into motion with the emergence of an all in-donnybrook following a scuffle between heavyweights Dean Solomon and Ciaran McDonald. It is believed that the brawl was fuelled by accusations that Irish team officials described the Australians to be ‘spineless’ and ‘gutless’ in the week leading up to the clash. The hysteria was compounded when a ‘Jack Russell’ bred dog was released onto the pitch by an Irish spectator, one minute into the match. The dog scurried around the arena for at least six minutes while play transpired, even managing to get its paws on the round ball in the field of play before he was eventually captured. The fiery atmosphere and shenanigans throughout the match overshadowed the comfortable Irish victory in front of over 80 000 fans at Croke Park.

Violence Places a Cloud Over Series, 2006- The results of the 2006 International Rules Series were almost irrelevant as violent square-ups and confrontations which left many injured dampened the series and placed the future of the concept in dire straits. On the field rugged Irishman Graham Geraghty required emergency treatment following a blatant tackle committed by young Australian Danyle Pearce which left his opponent unconscious. The incident sparked widespread ridicule as it was adjudged to be a premeditated attack to avenge an incident from the first test. The controversy was prominent off-field as well with Brendan Fevola effectively banished from the tour following a brawling incident with an Irish barman, further triggering the tense relationship between the two leagues. For the record, Australia won the series after inflicting a humiliating 38 point hiding on the Irish. however the repercussions of bad blood between the two parties signalled a one year hiatus on the series and the distinct possibility that the concept would permanently be banished.

Tournament Returns With a Thrilling Series, 2008- Following negotiations between both the GAA and the AFL, the series made a belated return in October 2008. Fans in Australia were treated to thrillers in both matches, with Ireland pipping the Aussies at the post on both occasions to register a 5 point aggregate victory in the series. Despite the heavy anticipation of violence, only one undisciplined act was committed when aggressive Australian defender Campbell Brown was subsequently sent off after heavily striking Irishman Finian Hanley. Australian Kade Simpson ultimately took home the Jim Stynes Medal when adjudged Player of the Series.

The tight 2008 series will no doubt whet the appetite of many footy followers around the nation when the two nations face off again this weekend in Limerick, Ireland.

If you have a particular memory of an International Rules clash, feel free to tell us by commenting below.

About Damian Watson

Hey,my name is Damian Watson and I am 14 years old. My ambition is to become an AFL broadcaster/journalist in the future. I am a keen blues supporter and I live in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I play and write for the Knox Falcons U/16's.


  1. Damian,
    In my distant memory I recall a touring Irish footie team that played an exhibition match against a combined Wagga side at Robinson Oval in the mid to late 60s. Rocket might remember the game. My father coached and played and it did get a bit willing with the bumping and tackling and a few counrty boys wanting to make a name for themselves in the hard nut department. I cant recall if it was a national side or a county side but they did play several games throughout Victoria and the Riverina on the tour.

  2. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rocket says


    I can’t recall this match – too young!

    Besides it would have been confusing with so many Carrolls, Danihers, Quades, Plemings, Nolans, et al playing for the locals.

    No wonder they had a barney – probably a continuation of a family feud from Ireland!

    I will contact my older sources to find out more details.

    Your old man was an absolute legend!

  3. Damian – I reckon it was 1981 that they sent a school boys team to Ireland for an international rules game or two. I was lucky enough to get picked to train with the squad of about 35 kids. They were taking 22 boys, and you guessed it, I was number 23 in the selection process. Unfortunately no one pulled a hammy so I missed the trip. I think the Aussie school boys won as well. Such is life.

  4. Damian, I went to the 1998(?) game that many claim regenerated the contest. Didn’t see the close finish due to boredom. An awful game which takes away the best of each sport and leaves an unsatisfying bastard child which can only be fed on fake nationalistic fervour. Qualifies as a Comm Games option as I won’t watch it!

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    I am with Crio on this. I don’t like seeing a game where players whom I know are highly skilled are made to look inept because of their inexperience with and therefore inability to properly control the ball. If I wanted a sport where I could go along and see my team humiliated, I would barrack for Carlton.

  6. Peter Flynn says

    Garry McIntosh

  7. #5 and 6 – probably not great to look at, but good fun to play.

  8. Damian Watson says

    Thanks for the comments, much appreciated.

    That recollections sounds intresting Tony and I am sure it would have been an entertaining atmosphere at that match in the Riverina. I wonder who won the encounter, in any case great story.

    Dips, I feel great sympathy for you. It is certainly unfortunate to miss out on selection by one spot. I admire the fact that you quickly adapted to the complex rules and skills of the game in the first place.

    Crio and Andrew, although I can understand your resentment towards the complex concept I still believe that the match is a great spectacle and provides substantial international exposure to our game. It is great to see our code flourishing overseas and the 80 000+ fans that attend these match at Croke Park etc. obviously share the same view.

    But I’m young so I obviously have different perspective towards the game.

Leave a Comment