North Melbourne announces first Irish signing

NORTH Melbourne has signed its first Irish rookie, with Galway's Mairead Seoighe joining the AFLW side.

The Gaelic footballer was identified through the Crosscoders program, which has seen Yvonne Bonner (GWS), Sarah Rowe (Collingwood), Aisling McCarthy (Western Bulldogs) and Adelaide premiership forward Ailish Considine, among others, join the competition.

Seoighe is no stranger to Australian Football, having been captain of the Irish side West Clare Waves last year.

"We think Mairead [pronounced Ma-raid] will adapt to the competition quite quickly," North Melbourne list manager Rhys Harwood said.

"She's a natural front-half player over in Ireland, but we think her speed and power will allow her to be quite versatile in the AFLW. We will work with her on where her attributes can be put to best use for us.

"Mairead has demonstrated an exciting ability to move across the Gaelic field, and combined with her size and strength, we think she has the attributes to make a successful transition to AFLW."

There are now 11 Irishwomen on AFLW lists for 2020, up from just one (GWS' Cora Staunton) in 2018.

The Crosscoders program held its annual camp over the weekend in Athlone, central Ireland.

Thirty-four players took part, including recently signed players Kate Flood, Aine Tighe (both Fremantle) and Brisbane's Orla O'Dwyer.

"We had a great weekend with the girls, getting to know them better and getting to see what they can do, both from an athletic standpoint and football," Crosscoders co-founder Jason Hill told womens.afl.

"Having Trent Cooper (coach) from Fremantle and Todd Patterson (list manager) from Melbourne do presentations gave the girls a bit of an insight into what the reality is. They were blown away with how far the game has come in Australia in such a short space of time."

While some club scouts were watching on, Crosscoders sent footage of each day's activities – including drills and fitness testing – to all AFLW teams for their review.

Hill said one more Irish player had signed with a club, with the announcement due in the coming weeks, while a second has attracted contract offers from multiple clubs.

"We've got a long time until the rookie signing deadline at the end of August, so we've got some time to work through this all, and teams can also sign players in the draft," he said.

"We send full vision and data each night to the clubs, so as we were going to sleep, they were getting it while waking up. They would have a day to review and dictate what they wanted to see in our next day's work, whether that was seeing girls in different positions or scenarios."

Hill said Crosscoders' work doesn’t finish at the conclusion of the camp.

"We also provide support services that these girls need to make the move. Some of them haven't been to Australia, we work almost daily to help answer any questions, make sure they're prepared," he said.

"We also work with the clubs to make sure their flights are organised, that there's going to be somewhere for them to live when they get to Australia, then when they get here, providing a support network for them.

"If they want extra work, we make sure they're on the right visas, and then help them at the other end of the season when it comes to renegotiating contracts."