Young Kiwi a sign of Pacific potential

Tuesday, December 13 2011 @ 08:20 am ACDT

Contributed by: Michael Christiansen

As much as it may pain Aussies to focus on the potential of New Zealanders, given the success of the Black Caps in Hobart in the 2nd cricket Test, there is though reason to look towards the shaky isles for talented footballers.

For followers of Australian Football internationally, one of the big questions is around the potential of the game overseas.  The well understood critical component to build a foundation for the future is juniors.  As great as the senior level competition of the International Cup is; it’s undeniable that quality junior competition and access to AFL talent pathways is a vital part of any increase in standard moving forward.  This week's AFL Youth Oceania Cup being hosted in Fiji is clearly the stand out international junior competition. 

The ability for the tournament to generate news coverage in the home nations of teams and players is an important by product of the on field action.  In New Zealand, the Waikato Times have run an article that also illustrates just how important it is for Australian Football to give itself a chance with talented juniors who may be able to pick and choose from a variety of sports. 

The story of Cody Max is perhaps typical in ‘new markets’.  “What was originally meant to be a casual trip to the park has instead begun a potential sporting career..”  Four months on, he is a member of the New Zealand U-16 squad.  Having played Rugby and Touch from the age of 7, Max stumbled across one of Hamilton’s three clubs (the Mavericks).

Joining in for a muck around, he was offered to play and soon after found himself in the Waikato men’s team in the national provincial championships.

As reported, his brother Patrick who was with him that first day has also taken up footy and has progressed to the national under-20 side.  Cody has taken a little while to adjust but now is “…serioiusly considering taking up playing where more opportunities will be on offer.”  Quoted saying “It’d be quite cool to go over to Australia and start playing it actually.”

 The challenge for the AFL program is to avoid seeing names from this squad turn up in the All Blacks (such as Nick Evans) or NRL (Matt Duffy) as others have in the past.



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