Main content

Cream of the crop: All-star team named to face the Irish

Trade talk galore, IRS stars and more Matt Thompson presents Footy Feed
Brent Harvey of the Kangaroos poses for a photo during a press conference to announce the Australian squad to compete in the Virgin Australia International Rules Test against Irelandon at Fremantle Football Club in Fremantle October 8, 2014. (Photo: Daniel Carson/AFL Media)
Brent Harvey in the jumper Australia will wear against Ireland in the International Rules game in November
I'm pretty sure that bunch of guys will never play football together again so that opportunity was just too big to refuse
North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey
The Virgin Australia International Rules Series is on November 22

THE AFL has delivered on its pledge to draw the cream of the crop back to International Rules, selecting a star-studded team to take on Ireland in Perth next month. 

The 24-man squad, made up exclusively of All Australian players, is headlined by stars Patrick Dangerfield, Nat Fyfe, Luke Hodge, Jobe Watson and Steve Johnson. 

The match committee for the Australian team, comprising of coach Alastair Clarkson, assistants Ross Lyon, Chris Scott and Tadhg Kennelly, selector Gerard Healy and AFL football operations manager Mark Evans, convened last Thursday to select the team.

Lyon said the selectors had looked for running power and speed within the squad to match the strengths of the Ireland side.

"It is a unbelievably talented squad which has achieved a lot in AFL football," Lyon said.

"The selection criteria, the capacity that we looked for was great running power and an ability to adapt quickly to the round ball. 

"There's numerous players who have played in the series before."

There are nine members of this year's All Australian team in the squad, including AA captain Joel Selwood, with a team captain yet to be announced for the one-off clash at Patersons Stadium on November 22. 

As well as Hodge, 2014 premiership players Sam Mitchell, Grant Birchall and Luke Breust have been selected to play under Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, with the Hawks the most represented team. 

Returning to play the round-ball game are Dangerfield, Hodge, Brendon Goddard, Robbie Gray, Brent Harvey, Kieren Jack, Jarrad McVeigh, Leigh Montagna and Nick Riewoldt. 

Harvey said the calibre of players involved in the squad made it an irresistible opportunity. 

"When the AFL made contact with me and they throw out another six or seven names that are elite in the competition, if not the best in the competition, it's just an opportunity that you can't pass up," Harvey said.

"I'm pretty sure that bunch of guys will never play football together again so that opportunity was just too big to refuse."

Regular goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher has also been selected for his fourth International Rules campaign. 

Of the big names not named in the squad, Gold Coast star Gary Ablett and Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury were unavailable because of shoulder operations, with Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin also absent. 

Ireland will be missing Carlton trio Zach Tuohey, Ciaran Sheehan and Ciaran Byrne after they reportedly chose not to represent their country to instead focus on preparing for another pre-season with the Blues.

Local clubs Fremantle and West Coast will be represented by Fyfe and ruckman Nic Naitanui, with big-name Dockers Matthew Pavlich and Aaron Sandilands not named. 

Hayden Ballantyne was also considered for the side but was ruled out as he requires more surgery on his fractured jaw before the Dockers' pre-season begins. 

The team will convene in Sydney on November 16 for a three-day training camp before flying to Perth on Wednesday, November 19. 

Lyon said he expects the players to return from their break in top condition. The players will all be sent an International Rules ball to practise with ahead of the match. 

"It's so hard to kick," Harvey said. 

"It's very predictable where the ball's going to bounce, a lot different to our ball. 

"But the biggest thing for us is the kicking skills. We're all getting sent out a ball and you have to practise, because if you don't practise you get found out. 

"So I'm sure the boys will come with a little bit of skill. Once we get to training, we'll work out the best way. There's a couple of ways to kick the football. We'll work out the best way for each individual. Hopefully I can pass on some of my experiences."

Australian squad:
Grant Birchall, Travis Boak, Luke Breust, Patrick Dangerfield, Dustin Fletcher, Nat Fyfe, Brendon Goddard, Robbie Gray, Brent Harvey, Luke Hodge, Kieren Jack, Steve Johnson, Jarrad McVeigh, Sam Mitchell, Leigh Montagna, Nic Naitanui, Nick Riewoldt, Tom Rockliff, Joel Selwood, Brodie Smith, Nick Smith, Harry Taylor, Jobe Watson, Chad Wingard.

Brent Harvey and Australian assistant coach Ross Lyon at the squad announcement. Picture: AFL Media