Robert Shirley heading to Ainslie

Robert Shirley heading to Ainslie

Robert Shirley chooses Ainslie over the AFL.

A desire to win a premiership before he retires helped convince former Adelaide Crows midfielder Robert Shirley to turn his back on an AFL career and join AFL Canberra club Ainslie.

Shirley has knocked back an offer from new AFL franchise Gold Coast FC and will instead join Ainslie on a one-year deal.


The recruitment of the 29-year-old is a massive coup for Ainslie, which lost the 2009 grand final to Belconnen.

Shirley said the lure of premiership success convinced him to cut short his AFL career and move to Canberra.


''I'm looking for success and I don't think the Gold Coast are going to have any in the time I would have been there,'' Shirley said.

''Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to play AFL footy, so I really tossed and turned trying to make this decision. But at the end of the day it came down to a gut feel and [the Gold Coast opportunity] didn't feel quite right.

''I'm turning 30 next year and haven't got a medallion against my name with a premiership."

''I want that team success and at the end of the day that's what it boiled down to. I think Ainslie gives me the best opportunity.''


Shirley played 151 games for the Crows between 2000 and 2009 and was at one stage considered the best tagger in the game by the likes of superstar midfielders Chris Judd and Gary Ablett.

He was delisted by the Crows at the end of last season and spent a week in Canberra last month, training with Ainslie and touring the club's facilities.

The Gold Coast then offered him a position on its list ahead of its inaugural year in the AFL in 2011. The interest prompted Shirley to nominate for the AFL's pre-season draft, but after consulting with his family he decided against continuing his AFL career.

''They were pretty keen,'' he said.

''I just didn't have a good gut feel about it, whereas Ainslie, when we came over and spent time at the club and around the players, did feel right.

''I guess we were looking for something different other than AFL and full-time footy. I've got a carpenter's ticket that I want to pursue in the next year or two.''

By David Jean, The Canberra Times