Emotional scenes as Cork legend Bríd Stack set for AFLW debut after long road back
Stack will be one of three Irish debutants Down Under this weekend.

CORK LEGEND BRÍD Stack is in line to make her long-awaited Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] debut this weekend.

A year on from sustaining a serious neck injury in a pre-season game and coming within millimetres of paralysis, the 11-time All-Ireland winner and seven-time All-Star is set to feature for Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants in their 2022 AFLW season opener against Gold Coast Suns.

There were magical, emotional scenes in the GWS team meeting as debutants were confirmed, and not a single dry eye in the room when Stack got the nod.

Encouraged by Cora Staunton to “add in the other Irish,” head coach Al McConnell looked to Stack, saying “I knew you’d charm me,” as she was warmly embraced by her delighted team-mates.

The 2016 Footballer of the Year immediately broke down, with McConnell adding: “It’s a shit way to get here, isn’t it? To have to come back twice and go through everything you’ve been through. Kick ass, alright?”

“I’ve been crying since Alan gave me the nod,” an emotional Stack said in a club interview afterwards, as she tried to sum up her feelings while joined by her husband, Carthach, and young son, Carthach Óg.

“Just so, so excited, probably massive relief. Obviously a lot of logistics to try to work out at home first before I could definitely commit. But look, there’s definitely a burning desire in me, I definitely want to give it a go, want to repay this team for the love and support they showed my family last year — and hopefully I can do that on the playing field.”

Mayo great Staunton is also set to play at Great Barrier Reef Arena on Sunday [KO 7.10am Irish time], and will become the oldest AFLW player in history at the age of 40 years and 27 days if she does so.

Stack and Staunton are two of 14 Irish players on the books of AFLW teams for the 2022 season, which has just kicked off with the meeting of St Kilda and Richmond.

Teams are being named across the board today, with Leitrim star Áine Tighe set for her own long-awaited Fremantle debut after two injury-ravaged seasons.

The ruck has endured a horrific run of knee injuries, but will look to put that all behind her as her Freo side face West Coast Eagles at Fremantle Oval on Saturday [9.50am Irish time].

Tighe is tipped to make a big impact in the league, and will kick off against three Irish counterparts in Mayo Sister Act Niamh and Grace Kelly and Tipperary star Aisling McCarthy, who are all named to start for West Coast.

The league’s newest Irish face, Rachel Kearns, meanwhile, will also debut on Saturday, making her first AFLW start for Geelong while locking horns with Green and Red team-mate Aileen Gilroy, who lines out for North Melbourne.

Melbourne have also shown their hand for their clash with Western Bulldogs, but Dublin duo Sinéad Goldrick and Lauren Magee are both absent.

You can see all the teams that have been named so far here >

Irish players to feature in the 2022 AFLW season

  • Orla O’Dwyer (Brisbane Lions / Tipperary)
  • Aisling McCarthy (West Coast Eagles / Tipperary)
  • Grace Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Niamh Kelly (West Coast Eagles / Mayo)
  • Aileen Gilroy (North Melbourne / Mayo)
  • Rachel Kearns (Geelong Cats / Mayo)
  • Sarah Rowe (Collingwood / Mayo)
  • Aishling Sheridan (Collingwood / Cavan)
  • Cora Staunton (GWS Giants / Mayo)
  • Bríd Stack (GWS Giants / Cork)
  • Áine Tighe (Fremantle / Leitrim)
  • Sinéad Goldrick (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Lauren Magee (Melbourne / Dublin)
  • Ailish Considine (Clare / Adelaide Crows)

2022 AFLW Round One fixtures

*all in Irish time

Friday 7 January

  • St Kilda v Richmond, SkyBus Stadium, 8.15am

Saturday 8 January

  • North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos v Geelong Cats, Arden Street, 6.10am
  • Western Bulldogs v Melbourne, Victoria University Whitten Oval, 8am – full deferred coverage on TG4 at 5.15pm
  • Fremantle v West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Oval, 9.50am

Sunday 9 January

  • Adelaide Crows v Brisbane Lions, Flinders University Stadium, 3.10am
  • Carlton v Collingwood, Ikon Park, 5.10am – full deferred coverage on TG4 at 11.15am
  • Gold Coast Suns v GWS Giants, Great Barrier Reef Arena, 7.10am.

You can stream every game live on the AFL Women’s official app and the AFL Live app, and will livestream every game, with coverage also available on the Telstra TV AFLW app.

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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