AFL swoop on league set to broaden - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL swoop on league set to broaden

By Sam Lienert, Robert Grant & Steve Larkin 03/06/2010 06:20:37 PM Comments (0)

The AFL's poaching from rugby league could spread beyond the expansion clubs, with North Melbourne coach Brad Scott and Collingwood's Mick Malthouse backing the concept.

The recruitment of Karmichael Hunt to Gold Coast and Israel Folau to Greater Western Sydney appeared to be more of an AFL-driven publicity ploy for the new clubs than a football-inspired move.

The two pioneering code-crossers will earn more in marketing dollars than playing payments as the AFL seeks to build support in traditional rugby league territory.

But Scott said on Thursday that the Kangaroos wanted to get in on the act and there were several more players he believed could make the transition.

Malthouse agreed that some league players' athletic talents could be harnessed in the AFL and said clubs that dismissed the option might be left looking on enviously as others successfully took the punt.

Former Brisbane premiership player Scott would not identify the Kangaroos' potential targets, but said there were some definite candidates.

"I could think of a number of players we'd love to have a crack at," he said.

"We'll be having a look - but we don't want to poach anyone from the Melbourne Storm."

He had no doubt that Hunt and Folau would prove to be successful AFL players.

"The Gold Coast have got great development and Western Sydney will have too and Folau and Karmichael Hunt will I'm sure make a good fist of AFL football," Scott said.

"And we would back our development system as well to turn those players into very good AFL players because athletically they're absolutely capable."

Scott, a former assistant coach of Collingwood, said the speed with which young Irishman Marty Clarke - who has since returned to his homeland - acquired AFL skills at the Magpies highlighted what was achievable in a code switch.

He said Clarke quickly developed from never having kicked an AFL ball to becoming "one of the elite kicks in the competition".

Malthouse said Carlton forward Setanta O'hAilpin's move from hurling - whereas Clarke and most other Irish recruits have a Gaelic football background - was an even more shining example.

He also cited the success of former AFL players Darren Bennett, Ben Graham and Saverio Rocca as punters in the NFL.

Malthouse said Folau and Hunt had an "excellent chance" of a successful switch.

"If you've got the talent and you've got the coaching and you've got the patience, and I think the latter is the most important thing, then they will have an opportunity to display their wares," he said.

He said Folau's ability to convert spectacular high grabs into tries indicated he could do "a lot of special things in AFL".

Malthouse said rugby league fields were among many areas being scoured by the Magpies' recruiting staff.

"Once you confine yourself to limits, you can only then wonder why other clubs do it and maybe succeed," he said.

"We've got no limits here, the recruitment department's very active in pursuing players from all codes all over the world and that's what we'll see.

"I think we'll see that more and more."

But Adelaide coach Neil Craig cautioned that most clubs did not have the salary cap concessions that allowed Gold Coast and GWS to take such expensive risks, or the same obvious marketing need.

Craig said Folau and Hunt were "exceptional players" who he hoped would succeed, but wanted his own recruiting staff concentrating on the traditional talent path.

"If you have to set priorities, I know where I am going to suggest our guys go first."

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