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.
The Flying Boomerangs were just too good for the NZ Hawks u16’s. This is no surprise as these indigenous Australians realistically will have been playing footy from not long after they could walk. Meanwhile many of the Kiwis will have been identified through talent spotting competitions like the Hawks Cup, with most players unlikely to have played more than twenty games ever. Over time, as the juniors come through in NZ the gap between the two sides is likely to become less, but right now the tour is best seen as a great experience for all involved!
The AFL Flying Boomerangs were formally welcomed to New Zealand with a powhiri (a welcome to country), held at Te Marae within the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, which served as a fitting introduction to the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand.
Playing with an exciting blend of skill and speed, the AFL Flying Boomerangs were simply too fast for the Hawks to keep pace. However, the Hawks earned respect through their dogged commitment throughout both games.
In a repeat of last year’s Grand Final the Magpies turned the tables on 2012 Premiers Mt Roskill Saints. In a tense match, where the lead fluctuated throughout, it was the Magpies who managed to hold their nerve and maintained a late lead, eventually running out to a 76-65 win at the Onepoto Domain.
Mt Roskill lead for much of the start of the match, going into the 1st quarter break with a 3.4:22 – 3.0:18 advantage. Waitakere hit back hard, controlling territory for much of the 2nd quarter to go into the half time break 4.6:30 – 6.4:40 up.
The Saints were by no means out of the contest though, putting together an almost perfect third quarter to retake the lead, and the momentum in the match. With the final quarter looming, they moved out to a 7.10:52 -7.4:46 lead.
In a recent announcement, St Kilda's New Zealand international scholarship holder Joe Baker-Thomas will relocate to Melbourne from his home town of Porirua City in Wellington in early 2014.
Since being signed with the Saints in April this year, the 17-year-old has been based in Wellington undertaking an AFL development program implemented by St Kilda, and supported by AFL New Zealand.
“Joe has come a long way in a short space of time considering he wasn't even aware of the AFL 12 months ago. He has progressed significantly with his football skills and we hope to build on this development through his training in the Saints Player Academy program in 2014,” said St Kilda Head of Football, Chris Pelchen.
After the running of the AFL Oceania Cup in Suva, Fiji, last week the AFL Oceania Squad has been announced. The squad will compete in next years South Pacific Cup against New Zealand and PNG.
In 2014 the South Pacific Cup will be held on the NSW mid North coast at Coffs Harbour.
As reported the result of theAFL Oceania Cup 2013 - Nauru claim the title the Nauru squad have run out victors and are well represented. Prior to last year, the tournament had included New Zealand and PNG at this point however the splitting of the tournament into the Oceania and subsequent South Pacific Cup tournament provides a solid representative pathway for even the smaller Pacific nations.
Fiji again is hosting the AFL Oceania Cup for the third successive year. AFL Tonga and AFL Nauru arrived last weekend however at late notice AFL Vanuatu were unable to make the trip.
Day 1 kicked off with a lightning premiership format with 4 squads participating : Nauru, Tonga, Fiji and Fiji/Vanuatu.
The tournament then reverted to the competition days leading up to the Grand Final in Suva on Friday. Nauru ran out deserving winners over hosts Fiji whilst in a tight tussle the Fiji/Vanuatu squad edged out an inaccurate Tonga by 2 points in the 3rd place play of.
Ben Drew, the AFL Development Officer for the Pacific highlighted the following for thanks : AFL Fiji, Coca Cola, Suva Grammer, Fiji Sports Commission, FNU (Fiji National University) for all the assistance over the week, as well as both AFL Tonga and AFL Nauru for the terrific football they have played.
From the tournament was selected the 2014 Oceania Squad - article to follow. These boys will be competing at the South Pacific Cup in Coffs Harbour April 2014.
This year has been a very positive one for Wellington AFL in that a local season of footy was played. In 2012 the competition never eventuated even after trying to commence with three teams with the North City Demons in recess.
After the excitement generated from finishing Runners Up to Canterbury in the National Provincial Championships (NPC) in late 2012, regular participation of Wellington players in NZ senior and under-age teams and the highlight of the Anzac Day game between St Kilda and Sydney at the Wellington Stadium it provided the impetus for the re-establishment of the local competition.
Football in New Zealand continues to be supported by high quality touring Australian teams.
Locally this weekend sees the Senior Championships (NPC), all local Leagues have played their Grand Finals or are due to and the school-age Hawks Cup has recently been completed. It is important that all of this local footy leads to opportunities for the players to be tested against Australians.
The schoolboys aged U16 from the Hawks Cup will play the touring Flying Boomerangs which provides real purpose for their involvement in AFL.
The New Zealand National Provincial Championships (NPC) were held last weekend in Christchurch at Westminster Park. In a thrilling weekend for footy in NZ Auckland were undefeated in their three games, though Wellington pushed them hard. Canterbury won two matches with a particularly convincing win over Wellington and Otago were winless after losing to Wellington.