Can Ladies Football Survive AFLW Talent Drain?

Everything else that was going on at the time, perhaps Cora Staunton’s warning didn’t gain the traction it should have.

With the men’s and women’s championships up and running, and the men’s and women’s championships up and running, the Mayo great revealed that the happy balance that existed between the AFLW and LGFA seasons was about to turn on its head.

“I think this is probably the last season where you’ll see girls playing both,” she said.

Ahead of its seventh season, the AFLW has made a bold expansion. For the first time, all 18 AFL clubs will have a women’s side in the AFLW.

And with that growth came an increase in demand for the services of Irish players.

A total of 21 Irish footballers will be on duty when the league resumes at the end of next month.

Some have been there since pre-season began in June. Others, such as Meath duo Vicky Wall and Orlag Lally, will leave after Sunday’s All-Ireland final to join North Melbourne and Fremantle respectively, giving them just three weeks to adapt to a new sport.

Stanton explained that, with the outlay involved, clubs are likely to want their players from him much sooner.

In fact, it will soon come down to a direct option – a shot here in women’s football or the professional game Down Under.

With a few notable exceptions, such as Staunton and Brid Stack – who have already retired from inter-county play – most Irish girls signed in Australia would be expected to join their county teams were they .

Kerry’s United manager Declan Quill fears women’s football will suffer because of the lure of AFLW contracts.

“I think they are taking on our top players which in itself is quite hard on the game.

“When you come to see Meath play or Carey play, you want to see Lewis (née Mhuirchertaugh) play, you want to see Vicky Wall, you want to see Emma Duggan, you play Want to see the superstars of

“Like David Clifford and Shane Walsh, what would the show they put on Sunday be without them? Everyone’s talking about the kind of spirit these two showed.

“So when you come to watch a women’s game you want to see the best players and unfortunately the way the game is in Australia, they are taking our top players because they are fitting them directly into their teams.

“While perhaps in Australia in men’s sports they are taking them at a young age so that they can develop them and while a 28-year-old may be too old for Australian rules, our girls are in great shape physically and physically. Ruppy is really fit and strong and skilled so he is going straight into the teams in Australia because maybe that game is not developed as a men’s side. But it is worrying.”

Irish players have had a very positive experience in the AFLW.

Last season, Orla O’Dwyer broke new ground when she was named to the All-Australian squad. Staunton was the league’s oldest player, but being nominated for the same team, he was also among its best.

Financial packages on offer from Down Under have also exploded. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) salary deal ensures that the average salary of all 540 players across 18 clubs will increase by 94pc from A$23,904 (€16,356) to A$46,280 (€31,667).

Players on tier-one contracts will earn $71,935 (€49,220) for the coming season, where, previously, they were in receipts of $37,155 (€25,423).

At the lower end, tier-four contracts are now valued at $39,184 (€26,811), up from A$20,239 (€13,848).

Just eight players per club occupy the top two tiers.

And with LGFA players here often at significant costs, Quill admits that counties don’t have many cards to play to try and keep their best talent at home.

“What speaks?

“I don’t know what our cards are because the girls are going to spend money playing their chosen sport in Ireland while they’re going to make money in Australia and it’s probably going to be like, ‘We’ve got Orla o’ ‘Seen with Dior, among top outstanding performers’.

“Kora Staunton at her age is still performing in a big way over there, you know. So the Irish girls are doing really, really well.

“If it’s put to you, it’s a really, really tough choice. Me and Darragh (Long, fellow United manager) were talking in the car, Would David Clifford ever think about moving to Australia? But I David Clifford seems to have a lot to keep Kerry around because he has a fan base that is incredible. He’s a superhero to the kids out there, he’s probably just like his choice in whatever he wants to do There may be a job.

“I don’t see the allure of her going to Australia, whereas for a girl who’s playing women’s football, it might be, ‘Oh Jesus, I’m going to make my money and live a beautiful lifestyle over there,’ while Here I can be’ you don’t even recognize on the road.”

The women’s game has taken quite a leap on and off the pitch here. With the rise of standards, interest has increased on the day of the final.

Just over 27,000 attended the 2014 All-Ireland Finals. In the 2019 decider, the last final before Covid, 56,114 made their way to Croke Park.

Last season’s math rags-to-riches story sparked more interest. However, the loss of some of their most massive stars has the potential to torpedo that momentum.