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GAA Football

Comment: Onus on Australia to prove they're interested in continuing International Rules series

Australia celebrate with the Cormac McAnallen Cup after clinching the International Rules series in Perth on Saturday Picture by Inpho
From Cahair O'Kane at Domain Stadium

IF you judge the International Rules on its most important characteristic, then there isn’t even a debate.

When you strip it all back and take it on the merits of how entertaining it is as a sport, then it would not only survive, but it would be played a lot more often.

Paraic Duffy is bound for Philadelphia this week to scout a potential venue for expanding the series into the States and if that happens.

Given the travel involved and the potential short turnaround between the games, it remains to be seen how attractive it might be to players, but it would open it up to a whole new spectator base.

Which is just as well, because the existing one in Australia seems sadly bored of this.

Based on Saturday’s crowd of 30,112, the novelty seems to have worn off even the Irish community in the western state. There appeared a significantly bigger home support than three years ago, yet the overall figure had fallen by just over 8,000.

Most sports would love to attract a crowd of over 30,000 but no matter what clothes you put on it, it still looks like a disappointment.

All week running up to it, there had been no mention of anything but a sellout around Perth. Maybe it was the hard sell to try and create a bit of demand on tickets but it had little impact.

It was scarcely, if at all, mentioned in sports bulletins. The Weekend West, the Saturday edition of the West Australian newspaper which services almost 250,000 homes each weekend, contained five pages of coverage on the upcoming Ashes tour.

It had three pages on the NFL draft and there on the day of the game, tucked away about 10 from the back, was a third of a page on the International Rules.

The game may well have been the last at Subiaco Oval, but it didn’t have a glassy-eyed feel about it. They had done their wailing when the West Coast Eagles beat Adelaide on the final day of the regulation AFL season in August.

The sentimentality was there for the promoters to lock on to but it never seemed to go that way.

It would be different if the game hadn’t needed selling, and perhaps the crime was only complacency, but the attendance should be a worry given its place in the trend.

14 years ago at the same venue, 41,288 were in attendance. Two years later it was 39,098. Then 35,153 in 2008. It jumped back up to 38,262 in 2014 but this was the lowest crowd the Subiaco Oval had seen for a Rules test.

If the Australian public is bored of it, it presents a particular set of problems. Joe Kernan, when asked about the disappointing crowd and whether Ireland were the only ones taking this seriously, did suggest that the AFL hadn’t done enough to flog the first test in Melbourne.

The Yanks are great at selling the World Series in baseball despite being the only high-class exponents of the game, yet the GAA and AFL haven’t mastered the trick of selling a two-nation sport as something worth watching.

Because the sad thing is that it is worth watching. It absolutely is.

Those that have gone to, or even watched on TV, the last three games will testify to that. And while the Irish public must demonstrate its own desire for it to continue when it next comes around in Croke Park, the real onus is on Australia to show that the GAA aren’t the only ones interested.

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