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Former Mayo GAA Footballer Pearce Hanley has called time on his AFL career. Since 2008, the Mayo native has played 169 games down under.
The 31-year-old was recruited in 2007 by the Brisbane Lions. By that time, he had already made his Mayo senior debut.
Subsequently, Hanley made a name for himself in Australia. He played 129 games for the Brisbane Lions. Then, in 2016 he switched to the Gold Coast Suns.
Since then he has struggled with injury. Consequently, he has only managed 40 appearances on the Gold Coast. Still, Hanley is one of the most successful Irishmen to play in the AFL. Only Jim Stynes, Tadhg Kennelly, and Zach Tuohy have made more appearances.
Hanley said he didn’t make the decision lightly. “It’s obviously a big decision but I’m ready for it.” He continued to say he’s “excited for the next phase of his life”. It remains to be seen if he will return to Ireland and the GAA.
Gold Coast Suns General Manager Jon Haines was thankful for Hanley’s contribution. He cited his experience and leadership as major attributes. Accordingly, Hanley was the team’s vice-captain.
After 169 AFL games, former vice-captain Pearce Hanley has called time on his career. As a valued part our footy club over the last four years, we wish him all the best in the future. Go raibh maith agat, Pearce ☘️
— Gold Coast Suns (@GoldCoastSUNS) September 2, 2020
Pearce paved the way
In recent years links with Australia have been a major talking point of the GAA. Complaints about Ireland’s top prospects being poached by the professional game have been plentiful. Nevertheless, Hanley was one of the first big names to go.
However, success at home does not guarantee success away. A lot of Irish players tested the waters of AFL but returned home. Ciarán Kilkenny will testify to this. Meanwhile, the likes of Conor McKenna (Tyrone) and Zach Tuohy (Laois) have stuck it out.
It finally seems like the Irish are figuring out the AFL. The most notable youngsters to leave recently are perhaps Stefan Okunbar and Callum Brown. With so many going before them they have lots to learn from. Of course, they always have to option of returning home.
Prior to Hanley’s arrival in 2008, the AFL was an unknown force for GAA players. In contrast, it is now a happy hunting ground. Irish hopefuls in Australia can look to Pearce Hanley for inspiration.