AFTER SEEING HIS side emerge on the wrong end of a record aggregate defeat in this year’s International Rules series, Australia coach Michael O’Loughlin wasn’t mincing his words when it came to some of the performances he witnessed over the last week.
When asked what his overriding emotion was, the 36-year old was brutally honest.
“I think disappointing. As a coach I’m a bit ill. I’m a bit sick. It’s really hurt me to the core in terms of some of our efforts.
“We kept it really simple but I guess some guys aren’t able to follow instructions. I’m not singling anyone out but there was some really terrible decision-making on our part.
“I didn’t want to say anything that I regretted in five years’ time, 10 years’ time. This is as flat as I have ever been. From a playing point of view, it’s up there. Guys just refuse to follow instructions.”
Unlike many commentators though, O’Loughlin doesn’t seem to think the result spells the end of the series. He does admit, however, that something needs to change.
“Maybe [it's the end] for the All Stars but we always knew this was going to be a one-off.
“The historical point of view was always going to be a celebration of indiginous culture so the AFL and the GAA have always been world leaders in doing things differently and walking to a different beat I guess.
“This, for us, for our people, almost 150 years ago we sent a team over and for it to happen now, unfortunately this cause and the results weren’t up to scratch but it’s taken a long time to do that. I don’t know, it might take another 150 years before we do that again.”
The former Sydney Swan doesn’t think the rules of the game need to change to keep the series alive but, if they must, then it’s not for the players or management to make those changes.
“That’s for the GAA and AFL to discuss and they had a really positive meeting from what I hear the other day.
“I think the series is… I loved playing this game. I reckon it’s one of the great games to play. As a player I was rapt to be able to represent Australia and we won it that year. We don’t get too many opportunities to do that so it must stay alive.
“Unfortunately we just didn’t have a team that could compete with the experts, the big boys, but I’m pretty sure Australia can get a team together to match that and they have in the past and I think they’ll continue to do that in the future.
“And for people to say, ‘It shouldn’t be done’, I think that’s the wrong message because, as I said, the Irish don’t get to represent their country too often, we don’t have hardly any chance to do that.
“The game is a great game, there’s nothing wrong with the game.”
And would O’Loughlin like to stay involved:
“Absolutely. I think, as an ex-player, I love the game. The biggest supporter of this game is Kevin Sheehan who’s had the relationship with the GAA and AFL for a long, long time and, as I said, I reckon it’s one of the great games and to get the opportunity to chuck your jumper on and listen to the anthem away from Australia, it’s unbelieveable.”
Thankfully, O’Loughlin doesn’t think the result of this series will have an impact on the public interest in Australia as many at home knew the indigenous All Stars concept was a one-off.
“The Aboriginal culture and the Irish culture is very similar and a lot of respect and hence my last name, O’Loughlin, so I’m very passionate about Aboriginality and also my Irish heritage so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all.
“I think you take it to the places like Perth and Adelaide and things like that. I think the people there absolutely love it and I don’t think you’ll have any dramas, especially when you’ve got the best Irish team coming out.
“A big Irish following obviously in Australia so that was where it was at. The series should absolutely 100% go ahead regardless of what happened.”
And despite being upset with his own team’s efforts, O’Loughlin still found time to praise for the performances of the Irish team.
“As we said, the Irish lads, they’re amateurs but there’s a few players there that I’d pay a lot of money to go and watch and play because some of them were outstanding so that’s where it’s at.”