With the Australian football season due to kick off in less than a month Sportsnewsireland.com caught with the Irish duo Pearce Hanley and Niall McKeever of the Brisbane Lions to see how their preparation for the new season was coming along, how they were settling in to life in Queensland and also to get their views on the recent extreme weather conditions and how it affected them.
Sportsnewsireland.com: So, how is your preparation for the new season coming along?
Pearce: coming along pretty well actually, I had a bit of a horror injury to my ankle which kept me on the sidelines for three weeks but had my first training session yesterday and hopefully next three or four weeks I can start preparing again. But apart from that the skills are going alright and I am just learning the game plan.
Niall: My preparation is coming along well, I had a long pre season and I am looking forward to getting a game. I have gotten through pre season unscathed and uninjured so looking forward to a long season now.
Sportsnewsireland.com: what are you personal aims for the season?
Pearce: Personal aims are to play good consistent AFL footie, hopefully involved in 22 games and making the finals at the end of the year
Niall: Definitely to make a breakthrough into the senior squad this year. I’m in my second year now. I’ve built up my skills now to make the breakthrough this year and hopefully get a bit of experience.
Sportsnewsireland.com: There was a picture released back home of a much stronger looking Tommy Walsh, how has moving to Australia changed you as an Athlete (training, diet, muscle building)?
Pearce: I am pretty sure Tommy was the same size back home!! But definitely when you come over to play football size is everything. I have put on about 7 or 8 Kilos myself, but don’t want to put on much more in case it affects my running ability. You also need to eat the right foods and drink loads of liquids
Niall: Since I have come over I have put on about 5kg – I think which due to my position I am a key position player so that was always meant to happen. In terms of the overall game over here it is a bit more physical so I needed to put on a bit of size
Sportsnewsireland.com: How is your development progressing?
Pearce: I would like to think as far as the game is going I have developed pretty well, it’s just a matter of focusing on one or two skill sets that might actually take me to the next level and make become a good AFL player.
Niall: Coming along well, went down to Melbourne last well as an emergency for the NAB cup, fingers crossed I get a NAB cup game before the start of the season and progress on a bit further.
Sportsnewsireland.com: Do you still follow the GAA back home, Pearce how do you think Mayo will fare this year and Niall, Antrim?
Pearce: I love reading about The GAA back home, it’s hard to watch because of the time difference but I am always reading up on it. I wouldn’t say it will be Mayo’s year but think it will be a good deal better than last year. The new manager looks like he is getting a good team together.
Niall: I do of course, I follow it very closely me and Pearce. Antrim are in Division 2 this year, had a couple of losses but fingers crossed the boys can pull together and strong some results together. It would be very good for the county for the team to progress.
Sportsnewsireland.com: Just how big a decision was it to leave Ireland and move to Australia and how have the other Lions helped you settle in?
Pearce: It was a massive decision, leaving family and friends behind, but I was a keen sports fan growing up and all I want to do was play football but didn’t think it would be in the AFL though. The other Lions have been great, I live with a few of the lads and they all take you in and welcome you. They are a great bunch of lads and so are the coaches so I have settled in pretty well.
Niall: Yeah massively, it was a big decision, it’s the other side of the world, it’s not just a train drive away. Homesickness is always going to be a factor, I think everyone gets homesick over here but the boys are unbelievable, it’s a very close group. It is good having Pearce here too.
Sportsnewsireland.com: Putting sport to one side for a moment, how has the recent floods affected your life in Australia (in terms of witnessing the devastation, any involved in the clean up, personal experience)
Pearce: It was definitely an eye opener, it was pretty devastating to see what happened and the extent of it especially how it affected some families. We went to an evacuation centre one day, to talk to some people and bring some lions stuff out there , hopefully it might cheer them up and the following day we went out and got our hands dirty which was a bit better. It was just devastating but it was good to be able to help out and the support that everyone showed was incredible.
Niall: Thankfully none of the boys got affected in terms of my personal experience; however there were a lot of people affected. It was great to see all Queensland pull together and help each other. It really opens your eyes to what happened basically one side of Queensland was unaffected while the other side was like a different country altogether. It was a real eye opener.