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The Aussies' best in IRS

afl.com.au  November 8, 2017 4:18 PM

Gunston on representing Australia Jack Gunston has been called up to play for his country in the coming International Rules matches against Ireland.

SEVEN Brownlow medallists, a swag of Norm Smith medallists and two 400-game legends feature in a best-ever Australian International Rules Series team.

On the eve of the 2017 Virgin Australia International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland, the AFL's national and international talent manager Kevin Sheehan has picked his all-time best 23, identifying six as "outstanding representatives" based on their mastery of the unique skills needed for the round-ball game.

Sheehan's elite six are Dustin Fletcher, Andrew McLeod, Shane Crawford, Nathan Buckley, Nathan Brown and the late Jimmy Stynes, who also represented his native Ireland. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first trip to Ireland by an Australian team.

"I've looked back at all the history of the concept and taken into account a range of factors before settling on those who both embraced the concept and excelled at playing," said Sheehan, who has been involved in the IRS program as a team manager, selector and laws moderator since 1984, when it became a genuine country versus country series.

"My direct involvement started a little more than 30 year ago and I certainly respect the pioneering nature of the initial Australian teams, which played the All-Ireland champion County Meath in 1967, with similar tours by Australian teams to play Irish county teams in 1968 and 1978."

Sheehan's best-of team is made up of 23 players – 15 on the field and eight on the bench. It's the same format the Australia and Ireland will stick to when they meet in the first of two IRS Tests on Sunday at Adelaide Oval.

The best-of team includes one player from the initial tour to Ireland by the Harry Beitzel-inspired 'Galahs' five decades ago – Essendon and North Melbourne champion Barry Davis.

"He was such a natural with the round Gaelic football the Irish felt he was outstanding enough to make their All-Ireland team that year," Sheehan said.

Another trailblazing star in the team is the late Melbourne great Robert Flower, who played for Australia on the Galahs tour in 1978 and was also part of the Australian squad in the first year of international competition in 1984.

The touring Galahs teams featured some of Australian Football’s greatest names, including Bob Skilton, John Nicholls, Royce Hart, Alex Jesaulenko, Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, Billy Walker, Neil Kerley and Ron Barassi, who Sheehan picked to coach his best-of team.

"Only 330 players have had the honour of playing for their country against Ireland in international competition, with most recognised as superstars of the AFL code," Sheehan said.

"This team highlights those, in my view, who excelled in adapting to the hybrid game of International Rules Football and were able to showcase their extraordinary skills and athletic ability to an even broader worldwide audience as a result of their performances against the Irish," he said.

SHEEHAN'S ALL-TIME AUSTRALIAN TEAM

GOALKEEPER

Dustin Fletcher (Essendon)
Australia: 2005, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2015 

DEFENDERS

Chris Johnson (Brisbane Lions)
Australia: 2002, 2003 2005  

Danny Frawley (St Kilda)
Australia: 1987, 1990  

Craig Bradley (Carlton)
Australia: 1984, 2000, 2001, 2002

Barry Davis (Essendon/North Melbourne) 
Australia: 1967  

Paul Roos (Fitzroy/Sydney Swans)
Australia: 1986, 1987  

Andrew McLeod (Adelaide)
Australia: 2000, 2001, 2005 

MIDFIELDERS

Jim Stynes (Melbourne)
Australia: 1987, 1999

Nathan Buckley (Brisbane Bears/Collingwood)
Australia: 1998, 1999

FORWARDS

Nathan Brown (Western Bulldogs/Richmond)
Australia: 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004  

Barry Hall (St Kilda/Sydney Swans/Western Bulldogs)
Australia: 2003, 2006   

Tony McGuinness (Western Bulldogs/Adelaide) 
Australia: 1986, 1987, 1990

Brent Harvey (North Melbourne)
Australia: 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2014

Matthew Lloyd (Essendon)
Australia: 1998, 2001   

Shane Crawford (Hawthorn)
Australia: 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003 

 

INTERCHANGE

Gerard Healy (Melbourne/Sydney Swans)
Australia: 1984, 1986

Robert DiPierdomenico (Hawthorn)
Australia: 1984, 1986  

James Hird (Essendon)
Australia: 2000, 2004

Adam Goodes (Sydney Swans)
Australia: 2001, 2010  

Robert Flower (Melbourne)
Australia: 1978, 1984 

Terry Daniher (South Melbourne/Essendon)
Australia: 1984, 1986, 1990)  

Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney Swans)
Australia: 2005, 2006 

Maurice Rioli (Richmond)
Australia: 1984, 1986

COACH

Ron Barassi (Melbourne/Carlton/North Melbourne/Sydney Swans)
Australia: 1967, 1968

ASSISTANT COACHES

Neil Kerley (West Adelaide/South Adelaide/Glenelg)
Australia: 1968 (player); 1987 (coach) 

Kevin Sheedy (Richmond/Essendon/GWS)
Australia: 1978 (player); 2005, 2006 (coach)