Laura Corrigan-Duryea on the pride of wearing Jim Styne's number

She spoke to Off the Ball about her first season in the Women's AFL

BY Simon Maguire 18:57 Saturday 15 July 2017, 18:57 15 Jul 2017

Jim Stynes is honoured by team mates. Image: ©INPHO/Getty Images

Cavan native Laura Corrigan-Duryea joined Saturday's Off the Ball to discuss the first season of Women's AFL and how she expects the sport to grow in the future.

Melbourne is the hotbed of Australian Rules Football with the majority of teams in the competition coming from the capital of Victoria.

The AFL introduced a women's competition last year and the Irishwoman is encouraged with how the debut season went. 

"It's been a massive success," she told Nathan Murphy, adding: "So basically the eight teams involved are blown away with the support and just how successful it was. And then, since that, every other AFL team now has bid for a licence.

"In 2019, I think they're going to incorporate another four or six teams. So I think all mens teams - bar the Sydney Swans - have put in for a licence and that in itself says it all.

"The support and the crowds and the broadcasting and everything just exceeded expectations. 

"The first game was 25,000 and it was actually a sell-out. Collingwood-Carlton which would be like massive rivals and then the AFL had to go out to the crowds and say 'sorry, but nobody else can actually come in, we're at capacity, thanks for coming but sorry'. 

"So then, from that they had to look at all the venues."

Corrigan-Duryea follows in the footsteps of Melbourne Demons' legend Jim Stynes. The Dubliner arrived in Melbourne in 1984 as part of a project to bring GAA players Down-Under to play in the AFL.

Stynes excelled both on and off the field in Australia and in 1991 became the first player from outside the country to win the prestigious Brownlow medal (the highest individual honour in the game).  He set a league record of playing 244 consecutive matches over an eleven year period between 1987 and 1998.  

In 1994, Stynes co-founded the Reach Foundation which supports young people in the area and the organisation continues to grow to this day.  

Amongst other achievements, he went on to become President of the Melbourne Demons and was awarded the Order of Australia for his work in the wider community. He passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2012 and received a state funeral in his adopted country. 

Corrigan-Duryea wanted to honour his legacy and suggested wearing his number was a way of doing so.

"When I got picked and I knew obviously about Jim playing and all, that and I thought it would be really nice to wear his number - not thinking they're massive boots to fill but when I said it to them they were kind of thinking like that anyway.

"And, since that, I've started doing some work with his foundation anyway so I'm one of the ambassadors for the Reach Foundation in Melbourne. I've met all of his family and they're delighted to know there's a Irish person wearing his number and that I'm the first ever Irish player to play (women's) AFL.

"Obviously being to functions and meeting some of the life-long members, eighty-year-old men saying 'you'll do the number proud' and I'm thinking 'I hope I do!'".  

The full interview can be heard here: 

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