AFTER a year in recess and facing extinction in the Millewa Football League, Meringur’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was to play footy again.
Having to almost rebuild their playing list from scratch, even they would have been surprised at fielding two lads from other side of the world.
Following the footsteps of current AFL players Pearce Hanley, Zach Tuohy and Setanta O’hAilpin, Irishmen Steven O’Reilly and Phil Hogan were determined to try Aussie rules football no matter where in Australia they ended up.
It just so happened they were working for the Roos’ new coach Peter Lindsay, who encouraged them to come down for a training run.
Not many would have imagined the boys with a Gaelic background would impress after such little time handling the oval shaped ball.
“These boys have a bit of talent,” Lindsay said.
O’Reilly, 25, was named in the best in both of the Roos’ games so far, kicking two goals in round one against Bambill, while Hogan, 24, has impressed in the forward line.
“We thought while we were here (in Australia) we want to give it a go,” O’Reilly said.
While Irish players aren’t common in country leagues, Mallee Football League club Beulah had three playing for them back in 2011.
AFTER coming across from county Galway and county Cork respectively, O’Reilly, who has been in the country for two-and-a-half months, and Hogan, in Australia for seven weeks, found themselves running around at Aussie rules training not long into their stay.
“It’s so similar to our game back at home,” O’Reilly said.
But there are also some key differences that they admit they haven’t become accustomed to yet.
“I think we’ve picked it up all right, other than (our) kicking isn’t too accurate,” he said.
“And the length of the games is very long,” Hogan added. “We’d only play two 30-minute halves back home while here it’s four 25-minute quarters; it’s very tiring.”
“What you call the bump, that’s our main tackle,” O’Reilly said. “We have to slap the ball out of their hands. The wrap tackle is new to us, but we both played rugby as well so it wasn’t completely foreign.
“We’re not used to catching the ball and then stopping, so even when playing Aussie rules, when we catch the ball and then land, our first instinct is to roll forward.”
“Which has caught us out a few times,” Hogan added, laughing.
He said he played some hurling back at home, which he described as “vicious”.
The Irish lads said coach Lindsay had worked on advising them about the different rules.
“But not all of them,” O’Reilly said, laughing.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Hogan chimed in.
“But we’re loving it at the moment.”
LINDSAY and Meringur secretary/treasurer Adam Astill admitted they were pleasantly surprised by what the Irish boys showed.
“Steve has a bit of talent, although he says Phil is the better player,” Astill said.
“There were five of the boys at training, and they just wanted to get a little bit of fitness under the belt, and then Steve put his hand up and said he wanted to play.”
Lindsay, however, was firm with his newest recruit.
“I was pretty strong in saying if you don’t commit for the year, I’m not going to play you ahead of these local guys,” he said.
“So he’s committed to the season, and he had a good hit-out in his first two runs.
“Phil played his first game on Saturday, and he had only trained twice, and how they played from their short time in the game was fantastic.”
Lindsay admitted the boys still had plenty to learn.
“You’re not going to learn everything about AFL in that time, and things like decision-making and tackling are the biggest things for them to learn,” he said. “In one centre contest, Steve just put his head down and used it as a battering ram to bust through the pack.
“Another time he ran through the centre and went to bounce the ball, and being a different shaped ball than at home, he just dropped it, but luckily it bounced straight back up. It was a funny sight though.
“They are really good boys.”
SINCE coming to the club, the pair have been told about the struggles of the past year and are determined to be part of some Roos victories this season.
“Just from what Pete has said, and what the lads have said, and the supporters have said, that’s its the first year back,” Hogan said. “We hope to get a few wins on the board for the boys.
“Just want to have fun, but try and win a game as well. It’s no fun getting pumped every week.”
“We’re really enjoying it,” O’Reilly added.