AFLNZ Premiership continues to excite in year three
Wednesday, February 21 2018 @ 11:10 am ACDT
Contributed by: Frederick Shaibani
The autumn season brings a lot of things to Auckland - the Chinese New Year celebrations and test cricket matches at Eden Park, just to name a few - but it’s also the beginning of AFL New Zealand’s premiership season. The quartet of teams have produced lots of highlights in the previous two seasons of competition, and the excitement continues as participation rates grow across the Tasman Sea.
Images Source: aflnz.co.nz
Round 1 Recap
The opening round saw two major upsets, with the Central Giants defeating their cross-town rivals, the Southern Saints, for the first time since 2016. Giants captain Sam McKenzie had a lot of new faces to work with in his side, including youngsters such as James McKenzie (no relation), Dean Smith, and Declan Crann. Crann, in particular, showed his class in the field alongside Blake Nahu and James Dakin.
The Giants recorded a statement-making 42-point win over the Saints, whose vaunted backline couldn’t keep up with Central’s high-scoring ways. James McKenzie booted three goals to lead the Giants.
After waiting so long to defeat the Saints, the Giants were exuberant winners. Sam McKenzie praised his team’s unity: “I feel that we have a great team culture, so early on, that showed out on the field,” he said.
Final: Central Giants 8.21.69, Southern Saints 4.3.27
Goalkickers (Giants): James McKenzie (3), Brendan Clark (2), Blake Nahu, James Bowden, Declan Crann
Goalkickers (Saints): Alex Fakatoumafi, Michael Boyce, Daniel Howie, Ryan Marsland
Best on ground (Giants): Blake Nahu
Best on ground (Saints): Daniel Howie
In the other match at QBE Stadium, the Western Crows took on the Northern Suns. It was a fresh start for the Crows under new coach Andrew Crighton, and the side responded with a rain-soaked 44-point win over the Suns. AFLNZ’s top draft pick, Jake Tucker, kicked two early goals to spark a solid start for the Crows; the 17-year-old put on a clinic early on despite some fast-paced footy from the opposition.
The Suns showed plenty of athleticism and classy ball movement despite the damp conditions, with Tim Stokes, Josh Allen, and Ari Cohen moving the ball up the ground and keeping the score close in the first half. However, it seemed that for everything the Suns tried, the Crows had an answer.
Crighton praised his side’s opening round performance: “Our defence gelled early on in the game and put in a phenomenal effort.”
Final: Western Crows 9.11.65, Northern Suns 3.3.21
Goalkickers (Crows): Jake Tucker (3), Zach Maio (3), Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, Ryan White, Jed Williams
Goalkickers (Suns): Josh Allen, Tim Stokes, Ari Cohen
Best on ground (Crows): Steph Tabaillou
Best on ground (Suns): Pete Rodgers
Round 2 Recap
After two momentum-boosting Round 1 victories, the Crows and Giants clashed for the first time in 2018 in Round 2.
Jake Tucker once again proved why he was so highly-regarded, kicking the first goal of the game for the Crows, but the Giants knew they could count on Sam McKenzie to answer the call. This served to lift the Giants even more, and James McKenzie and James Bowden kicked a combined seven goals as their side dominated the contested marks.
After being held scoreless in the third quarter, the Crows looked to be finished, but they mounted a roaring comeback courtesy of young standout Joey Alesich-Tamariki, who booted a sensational four goals in six minutes. But in the end, the Giants took home the win, 10.16.76 to 9.1.55.
Final: Central Giants 10.16.76, Western Crows 9.1.55
Goalkickers (Giants): J. McKenzie (4), Bowden, Crann, Lockwood, S. McKenzie
Goalkickers (Crows): Alesich-Tamariki (4), Tipene-Thomas (2), Tucker, Smtih, Kemp
Best on ground (Giants): Dean Smith
Best on ground (Crows): Jake Tucker
In the second game of the second round, the Saints and Suns both showed that they are potential contenders in 2018. Veteran Alex Fakatoumafi showed his classy play in the first half, kicking two goals to help the Saints head into halftime with a narrow lead.
After a disappointing defensive effort against the Crows, the Suns needed a chance to make amends in Round Two. Both Mitch Ryan and Alex Awatere were excellent off of halfback, winning contests and rebound-50s. Forward Robbie Mostert helped the Suns tie the game up, booting two late goals as the third quarter concluded.
In the end, Joel Brown and Jackson Clince both kicked match-sealing goals, as the Suns completed the comeback effort to win by 11.
Final: Northern Suns 10.9.69, Southern Saints 8.10.58
Goalkickers (Suns): Mostert (3), Clince (2), Brown (2), Walker, Scarf-Matthews, Sedgwick
Goalkickers (Saints): Fakatoumafi (3), Sucu (2), De Toit, Howie, Morgan-Ranui
Best on ground (Suns): Alex Awatere
Best on ground (Saints): Josh Morgan-Ranui
Round 3’s action has the undefeated Giants playing the Suns at 11:30 AM, while the Saints will clash with the Crows at 1:45 PM. Both games will be played at QBE Stadium, located in Albany, Auckland.