In light of Tuesday’s announcement that the International Rules Series will be making a return in 2020, we’ve taken a look at how the rivalry has panned out over the years from a Hawthorn perspective.
In the first match-up between the two countries in the new, re-energised format, Hawthorn boasted two representatives in Shane Crawford and Nick Holland. Hawthorn Hall of Fame Legend Leigh Matthews also took the coaching reigns in what was ultimately the year preceding his historic coaching stint at the Brisbane Lions. Sadly, the Aussies couldn’t quite get over the line in the Dublin-based series, losing by 10 points on the aggregate scoring.
The Hawthorn hold on coaching continued in 1999 as Dermott Brereton took over in what would be his first of two years in charge. From a playing point of view, Trent Croad made his debut for the country while Crawford returned for a second serving. The MCG hosted a 60,000-plus crowd that watched on as Ireland just overcame Australia in the First Test before a historic draw the following week in Adelaide. Ireland 2-0.
Croad was the sole Hawk in the 2000 line-up that delivered the Aussies their first winning series. Although three future Hawks assistant coaches did feature, those being Adem Yze, Brett Ratten and Damien Hardwick. Australia beat the hosts in both Tests as James Hird led the side to victory.
The Irish got things back on their terms in 2001, as the win marked the country’s first ever clean sweep. Three new Hawks gave the round ball a go with Daniel Chick, Jonathan Hay and Joel Smith having their first run for the country. Smith kicked a goal in the second test but it was otherwise another disappointing series for the Australians.
Crawford returned for his third cap in ’02, this time as captain of the side. Teammate Angelo Lekkas made his debut in the green and gold. As for the series itself, the second test marked just the second time in the history of the rivalry that a match had finished in a draw, whilst the attendance at Dublin's Croke Park for the second test was the highest in the history of the series at that stage. Australia’s First Test win therefore proved the difference.
Crawf again returned as skipper the following year and continued to prove a natural with the round ball, being named in the best in both Tests. Jade Rawlings was the other Hawk who featured in the Perth and Melbourne-based match-ups although he was on the way out at the Hawks, having been traded to the Western Bulldogs the month before. Tight tussles in both Tests saw the Aussies eventually come away with the slight victory on aggregate as the countries shared the spoils with one Test each.
No Hawks travelled to Ireland for the 2004 series and that was perhaps reflected in the fact the Irish again recorded another win.
Some are just natural sportspeople and Luke Hodge presented as just that in his first try at the hybrid game in ’05. Hodge booted three overs in the First Test and received third-best on ground for the hosts, while Croad, in his first series after a four-year hiatus, also recorded an over. Australia showed a level of dominance in this series, winning both Tests easily to run away clear winners.
The Aussies kept up their winning ways the following year, overcoming a First Test loss to wrench the aggregate score back in their favour in a strong showing the following week. Chance Bateman and Campbell Brown made their debuts, with Bateman kicking a goal in the series-clinching Second Test win. The Aussies’ win was however somewhat overshadowed by the infamous brawls that occurred throughout the series.
The Hawks had three representatives in 2008 with Campbell Brown, Michael Osborne and Brad Sewell all playing on the Australian guernsey. Following on from the series two years prior, Brown again landed in hot water when he received a yellow card in the First Test. Osborne proved a potent type in front of goal, scoring an over in both tests before being duly named amongst the team’s best players.
There were no Hawks players a part of the 2010 series, but, this time, that didn’t perturb the Aussies as they ran away victors.
The Aussies rocketed back down to earth in 2011 as they were whacked from pillar to post, with Ireland winning the series by 130-65 points on aggregate. Records were broken all over the shop as Ireland achieved its greatest ever winning test margin in the first test and greatest ever series victory, whilst Australia had their lowest ever test score in the second test. Hawks Liam Shiels and Mat Suckling, who played as goalkeeper, didn’t quite enjoy the series they were likely hoping for.
It was a true case of ‘from bad to worse’ in 2013 as the Irish again broke its record for aggregate wins. The Irish scored 101 more points than the Aussies across the two Tests. The Australians went down a different direction for this series, fielding a team of Indigenous All Stars – with no Hawks involved.
The most recent match-up between the two countries came in 2017 when Shaun Burgoyne was honoured with the captaincy of a star-studded line-up. Burgoyne kicked a goal in the series-clinching Second test win, while Jack Gunston also made his first appearance at international level. Despite being still listed at Port Adelaide, future Hawk Chad Wingard recorded two goals in each Test to kick the most goals of any Australian barring Brisbane’s Dayne Zorko (five).