Main content

IRS: Five things you might have missed

Match Highlights: AUS v IRL, First Test Australia and Ireland clash in the 2017 International Series
Chad Wingard celebrates scoring in the first Test - AFL,International Rules
Chad Wingard celebrates scoring in the first Test

Is Wingard more valuable as a forward?
The Port Adelaide star was electric early up forward, reminding everyone of his high-end talent. He defied common practice with his left-foot checkside kicking – preferred to the right-foot kick around the body – and his slips catch in the opening quarter was incredible. He dived full stretch and dragged the ball in with his left hand, then grasped it with his right hand falling to the ground. The dual All Australian spent more time than ever in the midfield this year and topped 30 disposals five times in a smooth transition. Power teammate Robbie Gray is equally capable of switching between the two areas and being a match-winner. Wingard and Gray provide something very different to clearance beast Tom Rockliff, but does the ex-Lions skipper's arrival mean they will be inside 50 more often? 

WATCH: Wingard's diving grab, Irishman's speccy

Physicality in vogue for the Fighting Irish
The International Rules Series was indefinitely put on ice after the controversial 2006 edition, in which Ireland was angered by Australia's on-field physicality after a series of incidents. One of them involved a Danyle Pearce tackle that left Irishman Graham Geraghty unconscious, which was reported as a 'square up' for Geraghty's knee to Lindsay Gilbee's head in the first Test. Much has changed in the decade or so since, with the Irish the agitators in Sunday's match. Ireland captain Aidan O'Shea, a 196cm, 100kg lump of a lad, instigated a tussle with Nat Fyfe when he tried to rip him to the ground with the ball out of play. Zach Tuohy also bounced to his feet to remonstrate with Australia's Travis Boak after taking exception to a tackle. Tuohy and Boak exchanged pleasantries post-match, so there didn't look to be any lingering hard feelings, and the brief melees added a bit of interest without going overboard. 

Nat Fyfe and Aidan O'Shea get acquainted during the first Test. Picture: AFL Photos

No current champions take the field
In a quirk, neither AFL premier Richmond nor All-Ireland champion Dublin was represented on either side in the first Test of the Virgin Australia International Rules Series on Sunday. Dublin completed a historic hat-trick of titles in mid-September, but its biggest stars chose rest over getting on the plane to Australia. It is the first time no Dublin players have featured in the series. The Tigers are a similar story. All Australians Dustin Martin and Alex Rance were Richmond's contenders under the selection rules, but turned down the opportunity after ending the club's 37-year flag drought. On the flip side, runner-up Adelaide had Rory Sloane, Eddie Betts and Rory Laird, while Irish bridesmaid Mayo sent out Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison and captain Aidan O'Shea. 

Fyfe back to his best
If you're a Dockers fan and didn't tune in then you missed out. Club captain Nat Fyfe turned his back on free agency to re-commit to Fremantle for six years in July, but wasn't quite able to return to the peak of his powers in the 2017 season after breaking his left leg a second time in early 2016. But the sight of Fyfe leaping for and holding overhead marks in contested situations, and covering the ground as well as anyone, evoked memories of his 2015 Brownlow Medal-winning campaign. He will be only 26 at the start of the 2018 season and looks primed to reclaim his spot among the best handful of players in the game. 

Open forward line a delight
The teams' drastically different playing styles were clear, with Australia relying more on handball to move forward without the Irish's natural command of the ball by foot. Ireland may not have won, but those kicking skills – particularly in the opening half – enabled it to open up space for veteran forwards Conor McManus (game-high seven overs) and Michael Murphy (one goal and four overs) to work into. It was a wonderful throwback to the 1990s-style AFL, where full-forwards had room to move inside 50 and largely had just one opponent to combat.