Cora Staunton is listed among the greatest Irish athletes of the past 100 years.
She has played at the highest level of Gaelic Football for the past 22 years, winning four All Ireland titles with county Mayo and being nominated 10 times All Ireland in the GAA women’s competition.
Now, at 36, she is here in Australia as the first international player in the AFLW, after being drafted by Great Western Sydney Giants late last year.
And incredibly, she is just two games from leading the AFLW team (which finished last in 2017) to its first crown.
Last year in the first season of the AFLW the Giants lost their first game by 36 points and never moved off the bottom of the eight-team league for the rest of the competition.
They scored the fewest points of all the teams and conceded the most.
A key weakness had been a lack of leadership and experience leading the club to taking a gamble and asking Staunton to Australia and play for the Giants.
Similarities abound between the Australian game and Ireland’s indigenous code, but the difference in ball shape and the increased tackling requirements in AFLW have meant her two months with the club have come with a sharp learning curve.
Plenty of Irishmen have successfully made the transition to AFL. The Swans’ Tadhg Kennelly and the late Jim Stynes at Melbourne are the most notable.
Staunton is looking to follow in their footsteps in the AFLW.
“It will be a huge challenge but us Irish love a challenge,” Staunton said.
Victory over Brisbane in their final regular season match on Friday would all but guarantee the Giants a ticket to the final.
“It would be huge,” says Staunton of the prospect of adding to her overflowing personal trophy cabinet.
“It’s such a different sport. There are Irish lads who have come over and played the sport well, but it’s taken two if not three years [for them] to break properly in to the team, never mind get to a grand final.”
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