International Sportsmen recruited to the AFL - Previous

This page is an attempt to document the various international players in Australia who were brought to the game from another sport, i.e. they did not come from a grass roots Australian football program in their home country. This list is dominated by Irishmen with Gaelic football and hurling backgrounds. The list primarily covers from the late 1980s onwards, but does not claim to be exhaustive, particularly given the number of Irishmen that were trialled but never got any further. The list is for players formerly on list, not currently. Note that some players that are listed as resigned probably did so by mutual agreement with their club with the understanding that they were unlikely to have their tenure continued anyway.

Formerly on AFL lists

Sean Wight (retired)Scotland/IrelandBorn 1964 in Glasgow, Scotland, but raised in Ireland, Wight was reportedly the first of Melbourne's Gaelic football recruits from Ireland, though the stellar career of Jim Stynes has tended to overshadow that. The high flying fullback had an excellent career of his own, playing 150 games between 1985 and 1995.

Jim Stynes (retired)IrelandBorn 1966 in Dublin, the Gaelic footballer is the iconic original in the so-called "Irish Experiment", which started when the Melbourne Football Club went looking for Gaelic talent in Ireland in 1984. His senior career started in 1987 and reached its pinnacle with the 1991 Brownlow Medal, awarded to the best player in the AFL. Stynes won four best and fairests at the Demons and played 264 matches amongst which were a record 244 consecutive games including through times when most players would have missed due to injury. The ruckman's career ended in 1998 and he has gone on to be involved in anti-racial vilification and youth charity work in Australia, leading to him being named Victorian of the Year in 2003. He also represented Australia in International Rules against Ireland, and one of his younger brothers, David, also made a move to Aussie Rules. The Jim Stynes trophy is awarded to the winning team at the Barassi Youth Tournament (for Australian and international juniors, staged periodically in Canberra, Australia) and the Jim Stynes Medal is awarded to the best Australian player in the International Rules series. Stynes became President of the Melbourne Football Club in an attempt to raise it from financial and difficulty. In 2009 he was diagnosed with cancer and will fight it with the full support of two nations.

Brian Stynes (retired)IrelandBorn 1971, the younger brother of champion Melbourne ruckman Jim Stynes. Brian was a top Gaelic footballer who also made the move to Australian Football, debuting for Melbourne in 1992 but played only two senior games before returning to Ireland where he enjoyed further Gaelic football success. He also represented Ireland in International Rules. A third Stynes brother, David, represented Ireland at the 2002 Australian Football International Cup, helping them to victory, and was again a member of the team in 2005.
Dwayne Armstrong (retired/delisted)USAAfrican-American who had a brief stint in the US NFL (Raiders 1992-1994) before being brought to Australia in an adventurous but ultimately unsuccessful attempt by Essendon's Kevin Sheedy to convert him to Aussie Rules. Went on to become the NFL's development manager for Australasia.
Aisake O'hAilpin (delisted)IrelandWith Setanta developing at Carlton the club was soon after his younger brother. Born in 1985 and recruited from hurling in Ireland in 2005, Aisake was placed on Carlton's international rookie list and in 2007 was on the normal rookie list and playing for Carlton's VFL affiliate Northern Bullants. A tall (approx. 201 cm) promising ruck prospect, he was elevated to the senior list for 2008 season but never showed the form to force a senior debut. He was de-listed at the end of 2008, and returned to Ireland.
Michael Shields (resigned)IrelandGaelic footballer from County Cork, rookie listed by Carlton for 2008. Returned home later that year, citing home sickness and that "the game wasn’t for me".
Brendan Murphy (resigned)IrelandGaelic footballer from County Carlow, rookie listed by Sydney for 2008. Played 25 reserves games and suffered a major shoulder injury. Despite recovering he decided to return to Ireland at the end of the 2009 season without a senior debut.
Kevin Dyas (resigned)IrelandGaelic footballer from County Armagh, rookie listed by Collingwood for 2008 and 2009, returning to Ireland at the end of his second year without a senior debut.
Martin Clarke (resigned)IrelandCollingwood's growing football department made good use of their large resources to track down County Downs' talented junior Gaelic footballer in 2006. Born in 1987 he was on Collingwood's rookie list in 2007 but elevated to make his debut in round 12 against Sydney (ironically fellow Irishman Tadhg Kennelly missed the match for Sydney due to a knee injury), with only around 8 months in the code. Immediately he was been labelled a star in the making, and fine form including in the 2007 finals suggested the Pies had secured the equivalent of a first round draft pick for virtually no "cost". Elevated from rookie list to senior list again for 2008, he had a solid season and in 2009 began playing regularly in the mid-field. Surprisingly he lost his place in the side mid-year and could not regain it, then announced at the end of the season after 46 games and at the age of just 22 that he would return to Ireland to pursue a teaching career and return to Gaelic football. He will be remembered as potentially as good as Ireland's two most famous recruits, Jim Stynes and Tadhg Kennelly, but lost to the game too early to prove it.
Colm Begley (resigned)IrelandBorn 1986, played Gaelic football for Laois. Drafted to Brisbane as international rookie in late 2005 and debuted in 2006. Has played mainly as a running small defender. Until Martin Clarke, he was the fastest of the Irish recruits to make an AFL debut (only one year after being recruited). Delisted at the end of 2008 but drafted to St Kilda. Unlucky in that the Saints had a powerful side that was rarely changed during the year, and he played just one game, before resigning at the end of 2009 to return to Ireland.

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