Seán Moran talks to the current Brisbane Lions player and former Laois footballer whose career Down Under may be at a crossroads
COLM BEGLEY, the only one of Ireland’s AFL players available for the International Rules series, has linked up with the team in Perth amid persistent speculation that he may be on the move from the Brisbane Lions club after three years.
The former Laois player, who was one of Ireland’s best players in the 2006 international series, has had his season thoroughly disrupted by injury. Back in Australia for the past fortnight, Begley confirmed he still hadn’t been re-signed by Brisbane.
“I’m still not sure about it yet. I’d love to stay with the Brisbane Lions, but there has been no indication given one way or the other. They’re still wondering whether they’re going to keep me or not or whether I’ll have to go and find a new club.
“I’ve got my manager looking at other clubs, so if it comes to it and they say ‘we’re not offering you another contract’, I’ll have a look at other clubs around Melbourne or Sydney. At the moment I’m not focused. I was expecting to be kept on, but as time goes on it could be going the other way, but that’s part of it. It’s a business in the end.
“Brisbane have made a few big signings this year and there’s a new coach and selection squad there so whether they choose to keep me is another thing. But I really, really want to focus on the next two weeks because they are very important to me and I want to give it my best.”
The uncertainty is a blow to a player whose AFL career started extremely well with elevation to the senior list in record time and, although injury restricted his appearances to just two in that debut season, he went on to become a fixture in the club during the 2007 season.
Injury again intervened this year with three months lost to a chronic quad injury, which has healed in time for the international series. During the close season he was at home in Stradbally and played in the county championship against Portlaoise.
Begley is an atypical AFL recruit, as he had already played senior championship for his county before travelling Down Under, together with Brendan Quigley, who opted to return home after a short stay in Brisbane and has been an important member of the Laois team since.
With his perspective on both of the international game’s constituent codes, Begley is sympathetic to the demands it makes on players, particularly the Gaelic footballers.
“The tackle is a very hard thing to master. You can’t just bring lads together for a few weeks and tell lads - ‘right this is how we’re going to do it differently’. You spend your whole life not pulling a fella to the ground and then you’re told that’s what you have to do. Your instinct is still to stop and corral or hit him with the shoulder because that’s what’s in your head.
“The Aussies are very good at the tackle, but we are skilful and we tend to play a different game-type altogether. We need to get the ball into the forwards as quick as we can. We need to stay with them because it always seems in the third quarter that we lose our minds and fall apart.
“It’s not fitness - when I came out here first I was straight away one of the fittest and it was the same with Martin Clarke (Down player, now with Collingwood). The GAA is training professionally at the moment so there’s no fitness issue. I think it’s a mentality issue because we lose a grasp of it, especially here in the heat and travelling away from home.”
Begley was, however, sceptical about the emphasis on cleaning up the game and said it needed some degree of physicality but also that he was surprised the AFL had agreed to accept suspensions picked up in the international series be applicable during the premiership season.
“There is a lot of talk that everyone has to be really well behaved. I saw the rules and there’s no bumping allowed but you want a bit of that. You don’t want lads going around the field lackadaisical - you want a bit of confidence and a bit of bumping.”
He also spoke about his brother Joe’s role in the Ricky Nixon recruitment drive aimed at bringing young GAA footballers to the AFL. “Graham Allen (Brisbane Lions’ operations manager) met my brother a few times and found that he’s a good people person and good to talk to. He plays football himself and knows how to read a game well.
“He was asked to have a look around at a few players, give some tips and got involved when the camp was on. I think it’s good to have someone Irish involved in the camp because you don’t want Irish lads getting taken advantage of.”
© 2008 The Irish Times
Filed under: Laois Football