With the build up to this years AFL International Cup picking up across the globe - the anticipation of seeing nations making their debut is one of the many highlights of these tournaments. The first appearance of the Solomon Islands will be a fine achievement building on the work of many over the last 10 years in particular - including the Australian High Commissioner to South Africa Graeme Wilson who as Special Coordinator of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) played a key role in getting the Solomon Sharks first national representative team to Tonga in 2010 for the Oceania cup of that year.
With the formation of the official body of the Solomon Islands AFL the tireless efforts of Job Vulita as National development officer as well as more recently Rowan Fajerman helping oversee the progression we now see the graduation of the first junior side into a senior squad to take on the world - so to speak. Below is an update provided by Job.
Kurt Heatherley has been named in the squad for Hawthorn's match against North Melbourne in Launceston (Tasmania) on Friday night. Heatherley impressed many last week with his defensive efforts and attack on the ball. Another appearance with the club's senior squad would be a great bonus for the International rookie. With Birchall and Lake to miss again for the Hawks hopefully Heatherley's services will be required.
North Melbourne have named Sudanese born Majak Daw in what his supporters would hope would be a big year of senior football for the exciting ruckman.
The Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs are again Wellington’s premier team after a convincing win over the North City Demons. On a sunny day in Wellington the Demons, played in a determined fashion, but were eventually outrun by the Bulldogs as the match progressed.
The Bulldogs were undefeated throughout the season but the Demons themselves are a good news story for 2013 after the team was in recess for 2012 and a total re-build was required.
In a season where the other two teams, Hutt Valley Eagles and Wellington City Saints, ran out of commitment about 2/3 of the way through it was fantastic that these two teams could carry on and have a game to finish the year worthy of their efforts throughout in building and maintaining their teams for the season.
Three kicks, four handballs and five tackles. Not a big return on debut for Kurt Heatherley with the Hawks in tonights NAB Challenge match against an inexperienced Brisbane side that did not trouble the Hawthorn defenders too much. But commentators and the Hawthorn coach agreed that Heatherley impressed on his first outing with good solid defending and showing some footy smarts. Hawks fans will have also been pleased by the way he hit the contest hard.
Regular defenders such as Lake, Gibson, Hodge, Stratton, Schoenmakers and Birchall were all missing from the Hawks backline tonight and that list is a good reminder of how far away Heatherley probably is from getting a senior game during the 2014 season. But it is another important step for the kid who first learnt the Aussie game in NZ towards being ready for a senior debut when the time comes.
Hawthorn will field a strong team when it takes on Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on Thursday night in the NAB Challenge. Of the 29 player squad, 13 premiership players from 2013 have been selected.
New Zealand rookie Kurt Heatherley will join his fellow 2013 recruits Ben McEvoy, Ben Ross and Billy Hartung in their first game in the brown and gold. Heatherley was identified as a footballing talent in NZ and played for junior NZ and Oceania/South Pacific representative teams before being awarded an International Scholarship by Hawthorn.
After relocating to Melbourne to complete his secondary schooling and playing school football and with Sandringham in the TAC Cup, Hawthorn were able to officially add Heatherley to their playing list at the end of 2013. Heatherley has spent plenty of time at the club over the past few years and now will get to join his clubmates in action in this first round of warmup matches leading into the 2014 season.
The Kiwis very nearly defeated the AIS AFL Academy in Wellington last Saturday.Though it is a game of mainly men (NZ Hawks) against boys (AIS) this aspect has not changed and therefore the performance of the Hawks shows evidence of significant progress on-field for the Kiwis. With so many of the AIS players going on to be listed by AFL Clubs this annual game provides a clearly defined benchmark for quality development. The AIS AFL Academy is well known for producing top quality footballers. From the 30-man team that toured New Zealand in 2011, 29 now have contracts with AFL clubs.
In great news for footy viewers in NZ the Australian Football League today to announced Sommet Sports and SKY Sport have renewed their international rights for the next three years.
New Zealand sports fans will be able to watch every AFL game in the 2014 Toyota AFL Premiership Season on either the Sommet Sports or SKY Sport channels.
Each week Sommet Sports will broadcast a minimum of five matches live and the remaining matches on delay. The rights include live broadcast of the Toyota AFL Finals Series matches (including the Grand Final) and a weekly highlights program that will air over 28 weeks (on holdback).
The New Zealand Hawks and the AIS AFL Academy will renew their annual competition at The Westpac Stadium in Wellington, on the 25th of January 2014. Entry into the stadium will be free.
The New Zealand Hawks last played the AIS AFL Academy in January 2013, in a match that finished with the Australians emerging with a hard fought win. This year the fixture promises to be equally as competitive. Though NZ do not have the Hawthorn Rookies Kurt Heatherley and Shem Tatupu, Melbourne’s International Scholarship holder Maia Westrupp nor AFL legend Wayne Schwass who made his debut for his country last year there is no doubt the team will be tough competition for the talented juniors at the AIS.
The squad will blend youth and experience, and feature New Zealanders based both around the country and in Australia. Contingents of players are currently training in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, Melbourne, and the Northern Territory of Australia.