Bríd Stack, the first Cork LGFA player to secure a professional contract with a Women’s Aussie Rules club in Australia talks to Ger McCarthy about her big move Down Under
MAYBE it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when news broke of Bríd Stack’s decision to sign for Women’s Aussie Rules side Greater Western Sydney Giants.
That’s because the former Cork ladies’ senior football star’s Instagram account included two interesting images that pointed to something new on her horizon.
One image displayed a post-it with the words ‘Be brave enough to be bad at something new.’ Another Instagram entry stated, ‘Note to Self: You are not too old and it’s not too late’.
An 11-time All-Ireland winner and a seven-time All-Star, Stack announced that she, her husband Carthach and one-year-old son Carthach Óg were moving to Australia.
By her own admission, the exhausting media frenzy that followed took the 34-year-old and her family completely by surprise.
It shouldn’t have.
Few footballers, male or female, have made such an indelible mark on their chosen sport as Stack has. One of only four players to win 11 All-Ireland medals, the former St Val’s stalwart was crowned Ladies’ Footballer of the Year in 2016 and retired from the inter-county scene with seven All-Star awards.
Stack is a superstar in her own right but has taken the brave decision, to come out of retirement at the age 34, and become an ‘international rookie’ for the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
There, she will link up with two Irish teammates in the form of Mayo LGFA superstar Cora Staunton and Donegal’s Yvonne Bonner.
It was not an overnight decision by any means and a move Stack and her family have been preparing for over the past 12 months. ‘The seeds had been planted a few years ago,’ Stack told The Southern Star.
‘Moving to Australia has not come to fruition until this year. Things hadn’t previously lined up but now, this year, we are in a position to make the move, thankfully.
I’m on a career break, (my husband) Carthach can travel and the baby is just after turning one. He is a bit sturdier and mad for action so we, as a trio, are looking forward to a new adventure.’
Having Cora Staunton and Yvonne Bonner in the same dressing room was a major factor in Bríd Stack’s decision to move to Sydney.
‘I got to know the two girls very well over the last couple of years as we have been on quite a few All-Star trips together,’ the former Cork and St Val’s defender admitted.
‘The two of them are absolutely “A1” and two straight shooters. I’m sure they won’t hold back on telling me what’s what when we get out onto the pitch. They have assured me that I will be well able to fit into the club and surroundings.
‘They know how hard I am willing to work and to fit into the ethos of the club. I’m very lucky to have two Irish girls over there and, yes, it probably would have been a lot more daunting if there was no Irish presence at the club.
'Thankfully the two girls are over there, and they will make the whole transition that bit easier.’
Clearly, Bríd Stack has put a huge amount of time and effort into planning a move that will re-ignite her playing career and transform her young family’s lives. AFL Ireland Women’s Mike Curran has been working with Stack on her kicking technique with a new rugby-shaped ball. Elite Fitness’ Colin O’Shaughnessy has helped hone the former Cork All-Star’s fitness over the past 12 months.
Yet, for all her talents, Stack didn’t grow up experiencing the kind of tackles (around the waist) that she will encounter when stepping out onto an oval pitch with her new club.
So, any concerns going up against players for whom tackling is second nature? ‘I haven’t been able to work on that side of it yet,’ Stack admitted.
‘I’ve done a lot of groundwork with the ball and a lot of kicking as well as handballing but, yes, tackling is going to be a bit of a concern because I haven’t practised it enough.
‘That’s the whole point of going through a full pre-season when I get to Australia. Cora and Yvonne have told me that there is plenty of time to get up to speed with all the skills, including tackling.
‘Talking with Alan McConnell, the head coach of the Giants, he will be taking me for extra work on top of my regular training.
‘I have no doubt that it will be a baptism of fire when I go over, but I am really looking forward to the challenge. I’m looking forward to learning all the new skills. The tackling is something new compared to ladies football rules. Look, it is a skill I’m going to have to learn and to adapt to.’
Away from the Giants training sessions, moving to Australia means saying goodbye to family and friends as well as keeping Bríd and Carthach’s successful health and sports supplements business, ‘My Core Supplements,’ going.
‘I can see our grandparents giving us the curly finger as soon as the first season ends!’ Stack confirmed.
‘We will miss our friends and extended families terribly. I’m on a one-year contract and we will just see how it goes from there.
‘Part of the decision process in going to Australia was that Fiachra and Fionn (Keane) will still be involved in our company business. Carthach will be overseeing a lot of the administration side of things while we are in Australia.
‘Right now, my family and I are just excited about taking on this new adventure. It is a one-year stint, it is Australia, what could be better than that?
‘This is massive for us and I am very conscious of the fact we are moving to the other side of the world. It is also the opportunity of a lifetime. We have never been to Australia or done any amount of extensive travelling because we have been so heavily involved in sport for many years.
‘This opportunity arose, somewhat unexpectedly, towards the end of my playing career. You must grab these opportunities when they come about. Life is for living and we just have to give it our best shot.’
She is not too old and it’s not too late to write another chapter in the storied career of Bríd Stack. We will miss her, a rare Bríd.