Contributed by: Aaron Richard
In 2003, the New Zealand Junior Falcons played and won a tournament in Canberra against Nauruan and ACT junior sides. At this tournament, a young New Zealander by the name of Jeremy Blythe was picked up by ACTAFL club the Queanbeyan Tigers. Now another New Zealander, Nathan Rose, has followed him across.
WFN talks with Rose about his background in footy, playing in Canberra and the scene in Wellington as it currently stands. Nathan Rose was about 14 when he was first exposed to Australian Rules football. It was in a school sport class, and he admits he was very sceptical when he first heard what the new sport was that they're be playing for the next couple of weeks. 'I'd played soccer all my life, and wasn't expecting to be interested at all. But when I actually tried it out, I got so interested that contacted the local club through my sports teacher'. The local club were the Hutt Valley Eagles, a team which has had a recent history of mixed fortunes in the Wellington AFL, but is now back on track and building a strong reputation.
This was four years ago, and since then Rose has been a regular for the Eagles. His passion has grown to the level where he took it upon himself to make his way across to Australia to try his luck against players in one of Australia's better regional competitions, the Australian Capital Territory AFL.
'We first got in contact with Queanbeyan after they picked up Jeremy Blythe in 2003. I basically just wrote to them last year and told them I was interested in playing - they were really supportive, organised somewhere for me to stay, with some stalwarts of the club'. After his first stay in Queanbeyan in 2004, he returned to New Zealand, playing for Hutt Valley and pulling on the jumper for Wellington in the National Provincial Championships held in Christchurch in September.
Whether Rose plays for the New Zealand Falcons at the International Cup in August remains to be seen. 'I'd have to attend two training camps back in New Zealand to be eligible and the costs could be a problem. I'm looking at doing some fundraising, maybe through the Queanbeyan club, I'd definitely love to be there.
As for the scene back in New Zealand? Commenting on the matches he saw in Canterbury last September, he has this to say about the relative leagues. 'I'd say the Wellington and Canterbury leagues are about on a par as far as standard goes. Auckland are a few steps ahead, and Waikato are still very new and developing.' He does believe though that there are plenty more in New Zealand with the potential to play high level footy in Australia. 'There're plenty of guys just in Wellington who'd get a game at Queanbeyan. It's difficult because there's such a mixture of levels of skill, there are blokes who take it really seriously and their are guys who are more social players, but some of the good ones are very good'.
Rose rates two of his Hutt Valley teammates in particular very highly, these being James Kusel and Anthony James. Two very different players - James he describes as a player with the ability to kick some freakish goals and Kusel more a stronger, general athletic type, but Rose is tipping them to attract the notice of a few around Australia if they're with the Falcons in August.
Good signs from a club with a mixed recent history - Hutt Valley came close to folding a few years ago, but in 2005 came within a few goals of making the Grand Final. Rose attributes the club's change in fortune to new manager Dave Laughton, who has given the club a greatly strengthened off-field presence.
The New Zealand Falcons are tipped to be a force to be reckoned with at the International Cup, junior numbers are growing at a healthy pace and the AFL are considering making New Zealand a location for Wizard Cup matches and community camps. Whether Rose plays or not, there's sure to be more Kiwis making their way across the Tasman for a game of footy in the near future.
World Footy News