Tadhg Kennelly says critics of Australia’s all-indigenous International Rules squad selection have labelled it ‘reverse racism’.
The Kerry man and former AFL title winner with Sydney Swans is part of Mick O’Loughlin’s Australian management team this year.
They are in charge of a novel bunch of players from the indigenous community and called the Indigenous All-Stars.
Ex-Ireland player Kennelly claimed it as a ‘big move by the AFL to recognise the part that indigenous footballers play in the game of AFL.’ But he admitted the development and the series in general continues to have its detractors in Australia and Ireland.
“Look, there’s knockers, of course there’s knockers,” said Kennelly. “There’s people that don’t want it to succeed on both sides of the world. I think every time I play it they’re always saying ‘it’s on its last legs.’
There’s a bloke obviously that’s passed away, Jimmy Stynes, who was one of the biggest believers in it. If anything, it’s about leaving a legacy to that man because he loved playing the series.
“But there is, of course, knockers. With these indigenous boys, it’s ‘Why do it? Is it reverse racism?’ They’re the kind of comments coming out which is a load of bull really. But that’s going to happen on both sides of the world. You’re going to have knockers of the series, claiming it’s not strong enough or it’s just not happening.”
The 2009 All-Ireland medal winner with Kerry said he took the Australian role partly because the rules are weighted towards Ireland and the AFL players need a helping hand.
“It’s a bit different coaching with Australia against my own country,” he said. “But I’m passionate about the series and I want to keep it going. I probably think the Australian boys need more help, adapting and transitioning to the games and that’s probably why I got involved, to tell you the truth.”
He added ahead of Saturday’s series opener in Cavan: “The games has probably gone top far towards suiting the Irish boys better and probably needs to be balanced more.”