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Aussies' pride is on the line

By Declan Bogue

Looking at Australian head coach Alastair Clarkson and his captain Luke Hodge sitting at the top table, you can see that the excesses of previous years have been curbed, such as the time visiting player Brendan Fevola tangled with a barman in a Galway hotel in 2006.

Hodge is also Clarkson's captain at their club Hawthorn, who have won the last three Grand Finals. These men are winners and the defeats of previous years inflicted a hurt on their national psyche.

Clarkson was in charge last year for Australia's 56-46 win. Hodge explained: "A lot of the older guys last year realised that the previous couple of series, 2012 and 2013, didn't go down that well.

"We were embarrassed a bit. There was a game out here where the Ireland boys kicked over 100 points. Looking back on it, our country needed to do something about that. We got a really good squad together last year, we took it seriously and played really well."

Compiling players on their off-season together from different corners of the globe wasn't a hard sell, according to the head coach.

Clarkson said: "It's a leave period from the game, they have about eight to 10 weeks off post-season.

"We've pulled them from various parts of the world to participate in the series and that's why it's important we had a training camp coming across."

That training camp was held in New York, and the chill of the Big Apple was a useful acclimatising exercise for the Australians, who will not be frightened by the low temperatures predicted inside Croke Park tonight.

"I think if you look at the forecasts it's 40 degrees in Melbourne at this point in time," Clarkson continued for the gathered Australian reporters wrapped in several layers and their jealous Irish counterparts.

"There's a fair range there, probably a greater range than what there is in this country… but when there's pride on the line and you're playing for your country, you don't really care.

"As long as there's green grass and an opposition, you'll have a crack."

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