International fever hits AFLW with record numbers at Crosscoders camp

INTEREST in this weekend’s Crosscoders camp from NAB AFL Women's clubs is at a high level, with each team likely to have an international rookie by the start of the 2020 season. 

There are already eight Irish players on AFLW lists: Ailish Considine (Adelaide - pictured above), Orla O'Dwyer (Brisbane), Sarah Rowe (Collingwood), Yvonne Bonner and Cora Staunton (Greater Western Sydney), Grace and Niamh Kelly (West Coast) and Aisling McCarthy (Western Bulldogs).

North Melbourne is expected to announce an Irish rookie of its own next week.

By comparison, there are 14 Irishmen at AFL level. 

Crosscoders, the conduit for many of the current Irish AFLW players and their clubs, will hold its camp in Athlone, central Ireland. It conducted last year’s inaugural camp in Melbourne.

The AFL's rookie classification rules state players must not have been on an Australian football list for the past three years.

The explosion of women's football in Australia has ruled out many players who would otherwise have been considered rookies or development players, as they're already playing at community level and therefore ineligible.

Consequently, Irish Gaelic or camogie (hurling) players are seen as valuable rookie signings. They're already top-level athletes playing sports requiring skills transferable to Australian Football, and they need only to tweak their techniques, rather than learn the game from scratch.

Clubs can sign three rookies for 2020, with some choosing to retain existing rookies from last season. 

Fremantle coach Trent Cooper is in Ireland on the lookout for a ruck after losing both Alicia Janz and Parris Laurie to West Coast. 

"We're probably looking for the best available talent, and at the same time, we're definitely going to look for some tall players, particularly someone who can play in the ruck and maybe a power-type forward as well," Cooper told fremantlefc.com.au

"We're looking for height and athleticism, which they have a lot of in the Gaelic game."

Thirty-four players will be involved in the camp, participating in information and skill sessions, skill and fitness testing, and match simulation. They also will listen to presentations on the AFLW by Cooper and McCarthy. 

The players are from countries including Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Croatia, Canada and Malaysia, with one lone Australian involved.

The Aussie participant is studying at Cambridge University and was identified after playing for an English Australian Football side.

Last year, Crosscoders brought a group of players – including Considine, Bonner and McCarthy – to Australia, but cost restrictions saw organisers relocate to Ireland this year. 

The program organisers, which include Western Bulldogs premiership defender Lauren Spark, have been thrilled with the interest this year, with AFLW clubs actively contacting them in the hunt for rookies.

In other AFLW news, Richmond has signed its first player from its VFLW side.

Key forward Courtney Wakefield, 32, will play for the club’s first AFLW side next year, making a temporary move with her two children from the family’s farm an hour north of Mildura. 

The Tigers now have nine players on their 2020 AFLW list, and can continue to add players from their VFLW side until August.

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