A general view of the production of Sherrin footballs ahead of the 2019 AFLW Grand final. AAP/PA Images
Land down under

'Telling players they have to choose isn't fair' - Aussie Rules agent hits back at Mayo ladies boss' comments

12 of the 18 Irishwomen preparing for AFLW action are managed by CrossCoders – and its co-founder Jason Hill has responded to Peter Leahy’s claims.

AN AUSSIE RULES agent has hit back at Mayo ladies football manager Peter Leahy’s suggestion that there should be a rule that Irish players should have to pick one sport or the other.

Eighteen Irishwomen are preparing for the 2020 Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW] season, which kicks off next weekend, and most will return for inter-county championship action this summer.

Earlier this week, Leahy warned against the promotion of the league Down Under, which he claims has the potential to damage ladies football “quite extensively”. 

Dublin manager Mick Bohan also said he has “mixed feelings” towards the exodus Down Under.

Jason Hill, an AFLW agent and founder of CrossCoders, an agency which has had unprecedented success in bringing Irish players to Australia, has taken issue with a number of Leahy’s statements, and contacted The42 from Australia yesterday.

“Telling the players they would have to choose between something they never thought they’d get the chance to do — play professional sport — or play for their county, their first love, isn’t fair on these amazing sportswomen who have devoted their lives to getting to this level,” Hill said. 

“These women should be celebrated as some of the best sportswomen that Ireland have produced, not questioned by someone publicly in the media about their decisions to represent their country on an international stage and fly the Irish flag.”

In his in-depth interview, Leahy  suggested that this rule that players pick one or the other would mean that “the AFLW has to financially secure them for a full year”.

At the moment, AFLW players earn between $13,400 (€8,293) and $24,600 (€15,224) for a season that spans from early February until mid-April, with pre-season running from early November.

peter-leahy Mayo manager Peter Leahy. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“Financially, it doesn’t stack up for a full-time professional career in Australia at the moment,” Hill noted.

“I’d be the first person to push for that to happen but the reality is the season is only 10 or so games-long, therefore they’re creating an opportunity which didn’t exist even five years ago.

“Right now, we have the best of both worlds and these [Irish] sports stars should be applauded for the fact they’re willing to uproot their lives to move to a country they’ve never been to before and play a game at the highest level. The fact they take this all in their stride is nothing short of spectacular.”

Westmeath native Leahy also voiced his concerns that “a big sponsor like Lidl for example” might not want to sponsor a competition should it be without an increasing number of high-profile players.

“Why do we have to limit it to those who have to choose,” Hill added.

“Saying that sponsors will pull out of the [ladies football] league if the best players aren’t playing… do you think they will stick around if you then ban players who want to play and who the public want to see play?”

The Australian-based Englishman went on to question the opportunities available for elite sportswomen in Ireland at the minute.

“Right now,” Hill began, “I think that Irish sport for women at the elite level has a lot to think about when it comes to opportunities for those women who are making it to the top as they’re obviously elite but yet what’s on offer to them isn’t as enticing as what could happen overseas.

“This isn’t to say that the AFLW has got everything right, but they’ll have every match live on TV, the grounds are free entry so crowds will be between 8,000 and 20,000 for almost every game and the girls are treated like their male counterparts within the clubs and therefore don’t feel like second class or forgotten when they’re doing the same job.

afl-aflw-bulldogs-joint-training The Western Bulldogs - whom Tipperary's Aisling McCarthy (third from right) plays for - in pre-season training. AAP / PA Images AAP / PA Images / PA Images

“This is before you see the level of media coverage, the level clubs go to to present their players and their squad and the overall opportunities that come out of being part of it.

“When sportswomen in Ireland see this, it’s no wonder I have at least 10, from all codes, reaching out to us every week asking about the AFLW and sport in Australia and what this could be for them.”

And in response to Leahy’s claim that players say there’s nothing in their AFLW set-ups that they aren’t getting in Mayo, Hill says:

“I’d say the girls are very well taken care of when they come to Australia. They have access to facilities, coaches and data they could only dream of at home.

“If anything, county football should see this as a wake-up call to improve the standards and provisions provided to their athletes or it won’t just be the AFLW that players are drawn towards, but both soccer and rugby too.”

The Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] declined to respond to Leahy’s comments when contacted yesterday by The42, but president Marie Hickey shared her view on the current situation before Christmas.

“It would turn into a threat to our game if they start staying over there long term,” she said.

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel