NZ’s Annual Biggest Week of Football
Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 10:04 am ACST
Contributed by: Rod Shaw
Sure, we know that the St Kilda Saints will be playing their annual ANZAC Day game in Wellington, this time against the Brisbane Lions, but it is the opportunity that it affords NZ football to showcase their talent which is truly exciting for those with an interest in football on the east side of the Tasman.
Firstly there will be a two match series for the 2nd time between the NZ Hawks and the South Pacific Nations. Last year the series was won 2-0 by the New Zealand Hawks.
The South Pacific Nations will be looking to take revenge, and have a strong side capable of sparking an upset win. Their team is heavily weighted with NZ’ers such as St Kilda International Scholarship holder Joe Baker-Thomas, alongside some of the key players in New Zealand AFL, including Andrew Howison and Shane Leat. They will be coached by long time NZ representative Andrew Congalton. An exciting crop of young Kiwis in Levi Inglis, Kyle Smith, Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, James Little, Ben Miller will be part of the team who have represented New Zealand at age group level with distinction. A strong contingent of players from the Pacific Islands will be joining them. Ha’ele Finau and Fohe Latu from Tonga, Sam Bua from the Solomon Islands and Chris Cakabou from Fiji are all leading players from their respective islands.
It appears that this year representatives from PNG will not be part of the team.
The first match of the series will take place on the 25th of April, and will serve as the curtain-raiser to the St Kilda Saints vs Brisbane Lions match at Westpac Stadium. Gates will open at 4.45.
The 2nd match will take place at Hutt Park, on the 27th of April at 10.30am, and will run in conjunction with an AFL New Zealand Have a Go Day. Spectators and supporters are welcome to attend.
For the New Zealand Hawks, their hopes will rest on a core of experienced stalwarts. Chris Mundell, Michael Gregson, Andrew Christensen, Jared Court, James Terry and Stanley Chung have earned many New Zealand caps previously, and will be looking to use that experience to shut out the younger South Pacific Nations team.
New Zealand Hawks coach Justin Davies and Congalton will be watching all New Zealand players with great interest. Performances in the series will be crucial for players wishing to represent New Zealand at the International Cup in August. Competition for places in the 2014 team will be fierce, as the tournament is the highlight of the International AFL calendar.
Game 1) New Zealand Hawks vs South Pacific Nations. April 25th, 5.00pm, Westpac Stadium. Curtain-raiser to St Kilda Saints vs Brisbane Lions.
Game2) New Zealand Hawks vs South Pacific Nations. April 27th, 10.30am, Hutt Park.
Meanwhile adding to the carnival type atmosphere of the week the AFL New Zealand Under 18 National Championships will also be held.
Some of the most talented young athletes from Northland to Otago have been identified through the Hawks Cup Secondary School competitions, as well as testing combines conducted throughout the country, will participate in two days of fixtures at the picturesque Hutt Park.
From this tournament an initial Under 18 New Zealand Hawks squad will be selected in preparation for fixtures against Victoria to be played in Auckland in October 2014.
Representatives from several AFL Clubs will be on hand in the hope of signing talented individuals on an International Scholarship that could lead to a professional AFL career.
24th April Hutt Park
11.00am Games Day 1 Commence
25th April Hutt Park
9.15am Games Day 2 Commence.
Off field the annual AFL New Zealand High Performance Awards Evening will be held at the Macs Function Centre, Wellington City on April 24th.
As a former Wellingtonian it is well known that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day - but a whole week such as this- truly memorable!
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