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The Tale Of The Glasgow Born Kerry Minor Who Later Made It In Aussie Rules

The Tale Of The Glasgow Born Kerry Minor Who Later Made It In Aussie Rules
By Conor Neville Updated

Contrary to popular opinion, the first ever Gaelic footballer to switch to Aussie Rules under the 'Irish Experiment' was not Jim Stynes, but a Kerry minor footballer from the early 1980s.

There is a famous photo from the 1982 All-Ireland minor football final of Sean Wight suspended high above the ground, gripping a ball over his head. A majestic image - Joe Brolly described him as 'Kerry's ground to air missile' a couple of years back.

Wight had unusual beginnings for a Gaelic footballer/Australian Rules footballer. For one thing, he was born in neither Ireland or Australia, but Scotland.

It's clear from Wight's biography that he excelled at pretty much anything involving a ball, spherical or otherwise.

He lived in Glasgow until the age of ten until the family moved... to England. During his brief time in England, he was asked to trials at Fulham.

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Shortly afterwards, when Sean was thirteen, the family headed for Listowel in Kerry, where Wight's natural facility for ball games simply expressed itself through Gaelic football. Had he gone to Kilkenny, he's have probably hurled in a minor All-Ireland as well.

Listowel Emmets club secretary at the time, Vincent Carmody recalls driving Wight down to the Kerry minor trials in Tralee, where he had to be whipped off early by the selectors - for being, quite literally, too good.

I remember I was in charge of the Listowel minors when he started trialling for the (Kerry) minors. I always remember taking him to Tralee to the trials and he'd only be on for a couple of minutes because they'd say 'Arra, take Wight off, because no one else will get a kick when he's around!' He was very commanding.

With Kerry, Wight won a Munster minor title in 1982. In the semi-final, they disposed of unlikely Ulster minor champions Antrim.

Before the final, Wight's aunt had already tipped him off about an ad on the paper promoting the 'Irish Experiment' (after impressing at the trials he arrived in Australia on Grand Final day where he watched Carlton defeat Richmond).

However, on a traumatic day for Kerry football fans, the team were beaten by a Dublin side, which included Joe McNally, Eamon Heery and fellow multi-coder Mick Deegan, who later won a Northern Irish League title with Crusaders.

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Wight played well but Carmody remembers that he endured a painful second half - and aftermath.

He had an outstanding game. But he got injured early in the second half. He got a bang in the face. He was treated on the spot and he continued playing. Shortly afterwards, he was taken to Melbourne, you know, for a look around...

One of the directors of the club owned a sweet factory and Sean was sent working there for a while, but he was continually getting sick. What actually happened was his nose was broken in the All-Ireland final. And his nose had started to mend itself with the result that his nasal tubes weren't perfect so they had to break his nose again...

Like Stynes, he made his home at the Melbourne Football Club (The Demons), making his debut in 1985.

Wight enjoyed a superb season in 1987, finishing runner-up in the Brownlow medal best and fairest award and winning an 'All-Australian', aka, an all-star.

Read more: How The International Rules Series Came Into Being...

After enduring appalling injury problems in the early 1990s, Wight enjoyed a renaissance in the 1994 season, being one of the League's most effective defenders. Following his retirement at the end of the 1995 season, he became a director of the club.

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Wight recounted his early life to Perth Now in 2011.

At 10 years of age, I was living in Scotland. Then we moved to England, where I was asked to go to trials at a football club (Fulham); then we moved to Ireland, and all of a sudden I was playing county standard Gaelic football.

Then, all of a sudden, I'm on a plane to go to Australia to play a game of football which I knew nothing about, didn't even know existed. Then it's 'You know, I'm actually quite good at this.

In 2010, he contracted lung cancer despite, as he said himself, never having smoked and never having really drunk.

I wouldn't say I'm angry. There's nothing you can do about it. Just disappointed, I guess. It changes everything. Your goals, your expectations in life.

Wight eventually passed away on 30 June 2011.

Stynes, who would die within a year of Wight, paid tribute:

We just lost a great man, a great teammate and obviously a brother and a son and good friend. He was probably the greatest athlete I have ever played footy with. He chose football, but he could have been a professional soccer or rugby player. He was just an all-round athlete.

Years in Ireland and even more in Australia made no dent in his Scottish accent. Carmody, whom Wight used to visit on his trips back to Listowel, recalls that, until the end, he had a voice 'like Sean Connery'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmhyF0iCDnQ

 

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