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'At times I think, ‘What am I doing here?' but the Irish love a challenge more than anything'

The start of the 2018 AFLW season is nearing closer and Cora Staunton is relishing her biggest challenge to date.

'At home, I'm expected to be the top scorer in every game, so this will be different.'
'At home, I'm expected to be the top scorer in every game, so this will be different.'
Image: GWS Twitter.

CORA STAUNTON HAS been settling into life in Australia nicely.

The Mayo veteran signed a professional contract with Greater Western Sydney (GWS) in the Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) in October and moved out after helping her club Carnacon to their sixth All-Ireland senior club title in December.

For both club and county over the past several years, Staunton has been notching up monstrous scores in glittering attacking displays with much of the focus before and after matches on her performance.

The 36-year-old admits that she’s looking forward to relative anonymity in the AFLW as it kicks off in the coming weeks.

“At home, I’m expected to be the top scorer in every game, so this will be different and there’ll be less pressure on me,” she told the AFL official website.

“The last two months I’ve made the news and the papers in Ireland. Every week there’s been something about me coming to Australia in the media, but the reaction has been really positive.

“There’s a little bit of a concern that the best female footballers might start leaving to come out and play here, but I don’t think that will be an issue.

“They always panic about that sort of thing, just like they did when lads like Tadhg Kennelly, Zac Tuohy and Pearce Hanley came over.

“They don’t like to lose their top stars.”

Interestingly, when Staunton and GWS line out for their first game of the 2018 season on 3 February, there’ll be another Irish player on the field. Cavan native Laura Corrigan Duryea plies her trade with Melbourne FC.

As she mentions the Irish connection through Kennelly, Tuohy and Hanley, Staunton adds:

“Most of the Irish boys out here have either called or texted me to offer their support. It’s been brilliant.

“Even the ones who were here but have gone home like Tommy Walsh have been in touch with advice.”

It’s been a whirlwind few months for the 11-time All-Star. There was Mayo’s All-Ireland loss to Dublin in September, a hectic campaign captaining Carnacon which ended in national glory yet again, that record-equaling All-Star and the move to Australia.

The venture Down Under had been in the pipeline for quite some time, but it was quite a decision for Staunton especially given the fact that she’s in the closing stages of her career.

“The opportunity to come over here and try and pick up a whole new game was too hard to turn down,” she admits.

“At times I think, ‘What am I doing here?’ but the Irish love a challenge more than anything else.

“Most of the skills are transferable. It’s the shape of the ball and the physicality that are the biggest changes.

“The rules and the terminology are also a challenge but I’ve been doing plenty of cramming.”

But GWS coach Alan McConnell has noted that she’s progressing well. Her ability is on another level but it’s for more reason than that she was added to the books, he adds.

“She’s really driven and that’s one of the biggest reasons we wanted her to be here.

“She’ll be a great role model for the rest of our team and bring a lot of experience, a wealth of knowledge, and high training standards to the group.

“That will no doubt help our group get better fast.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Emma Duffy

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