On the recent Virgin Australia International Rules series, AFL.com.au's Peter Ryan gained an insight into how three of the game's most competitive coaches came together for a common purpose.

HALF an hour after the main training session ahead of Australia's International Rules Series match in Dublin, the team coaches sat down to discuss matters that normally would have them seeking an edge against each other.

But here, on the other side of the world, the AFL's coaching 'Dream Team' of Hawthorn's Alastair Clarkson, Fremantle's Ross Lyon and Geelong's Chris Scott had a common enemy – Ireland at Croke Park. 

They were joined by chairman of selectors Gerard Healy, opposition and kick-out specialist Tadhg Kennelly, Cameron Bruce, who joined the group that day, and game analyst Chris Caporaso. 

The IRS Diaries: From New York to Dublin

Clarkson, dressed in cargo pants and a sleeveless jacket, told his team they had 45 minutes to cover three agenda items written on the whiteboard: coaching logistics, statistics and training vision. 

The group was familiar enough with the way each operated for the discourse to be comfortable, respectful and, seemingly at least, unrestrained.

Not only had the trio worked together during the 2014 series but they had spent as much collective time preparing for the Dublin Test as they would preparing for a final for their respective clubs.

Despite the attractions outside the hotel, the weeks are still filled with football. 

Match highlights: Ireland v Australia

Meetings at 9am, meetings at 9pm, and meetings in between assessing vision and training kept the agenda busy and the brains active. 

Scott and Lyon accepted their roles as assistants while Clarkson took on the leadership role. In other words, egos were left on the hook.

But when it came to providing input the trio were equals, a reality Clarkson accepted without even having to think about it.

Clarkson loved to bounce out of his chair to take to the whiteboard to make a point, standing poised, listening, grouping the respective comments. 

'That's a good point' was a phrase he uttered often as the meeting unfolded.

Clarkson was not so much the teacher at the whiteboard in this role, as a facilitator of conversation.

Irish all smiles after narrow victory

The first topic on the agenda was the respective game day roles. 

On Saturday night Lyon and Scott were to coach from the stands, a viewpoint familiar to AFL coaches but one foreign to the Irish.

Because of this there was no procedure in place to get them from the box and through the throng to the ground.

It was decided the pair would leave the coaches box before each quarter ended, to beat the traffic.

Lyon joked about whether anyone would like a coffee on the way down, with Clarkson suggesting he'd prefer a hot dog.

It was no wonder. The game was to be played in four degrees.

Such quips floated in and out of the serious conversation like a kite dipping in the wind. 

By the end of the meeting, each person knew what was expected of him at the breaks and the input required.

Lyon's mind moves quickly, across, back and to the point as he persists in investigating several angles in detail. Scott raises questions, considers answers and determines outcomes. Clarkson looks for themes.

The game plan is kept relatively simple and it is quickly agreed that the statistics stream fed into the box should measure the effectiveness of the team's ball retention and use under the heat of the Irish.

"We don't want to overcomplicate things and confuse the players," Clarkson said.

Clarkson has kept it simple for the players from the time he got the ball rolling before he left the country.

Six weeks out he sent each player a short video and a ball to assist their gradual metamorphosis from holidays to Test match.

And at the first team meeting in New York he made the objective crystal clear: "We're not going there for a kick and giggle.

"We're going there to win."

Clarkson's work ethic stands out but neither Lyon nor Scott suffer in comparison, as they have to follow rather than set an agenda.

At most team meetings all three take it in turns to present to the group, moving to centre-stage in turn to say their piece. 

The impression Western Bulldogs' skipper Bob Murphy has of the trio makes perfect sense.

"They are the same but different," Murphy said. 

There's a pecking order, admits Murphy

"All the good ones know the game inside out but they read people really quickly and they believe in themselves. They're the things to me that jump out." 

All three connect to the players in different ways but they understand that ensuring the team comes together quickly is vital.

Clarkson uses nicknames to break the ice and make people feel part of the group. 

'Punky' Breust, 'Lanky' Fletcher, 'Barra' Mundy are just a few of the more common ones to get an airing from Clarkson when the players hit the track.  

Lyon and Scott are less overt but all three use humour to carry the message, change the pace and keep the audience engaged. 

At training in New York, Lyon had blown the whistle when he anticipated a collision between two players.

The players stopped. He laughed, paid the free kick and then explained there was no reason to do so except to avoid what he feared might otherwise happen if he didn't. 

The group laughed as one.

It's a small thing in the context of the trip but a pointer to the professionalism of the three in charge.

The players' physical and emotional health was the focus throughout, with the coaches easing any anxiety early by telling the players they will all play enough minutes in the game.

"We didn't bring you halfway around the world to not give you time on the ground," Clarkson said at one stage.

But the trade-off is that they weren't brought halfway around the world to approach the game with anything less than a business-like professionalism.

At the first team meeting, all players were immediately asked to come up with three points to allow the coach to form tour trademarks.

After input from the players with Clarkson noting their comments on the whiteboard, three themes emerge:

Team. Aggression. Professionalism. 

The words framed the planning, the approach, and the training drills.

Time is running out in the Wednesday meeting as training vision is being watched with coaches trying to identify stars of the game even though they appear as small figures on the screen.

Subtle improvements have been made to the team's performance since the first practice match at the New York Jets training facility.

In the first half of that game, many in the group were being too compliant, sometimes following team rules at the expense of the best option.

Players are often inclined to do that, particularly in a new group.

The coaches quickly reset the players' behaviour, imploring them to back their instincts when the opportunity arose.

A shift begins, a sharpening of the team and its talent.

Mistakes are expected, anticipated and viewed as learning opportunities.

All three coaches had come to learn from each other, share their experiences beyond the arena about their life as a coach with someone who could empathise.

Clarkson heads to a media commitment while Lyon and Scott go about coding some of the video material.

Full days of work are the rule with this trio.

Clarkson had said to the players ahead of the game a line that could just as easily be applied to the coaches.

"It's up to how we gel the group that gives us a huge chance to win."

This group has gelled, Clarkson, Lyon and Scott.

That the team fell just short to a talented Irish team wasn't part of the plan. On a 14-day tour of two countries and involving more than 40 players and support staff, it was about the only thing that wasn't.