For the upcoming 2017 AFL New Zealand Premiership season, each of the four sides have introduced a playing assistant coach to add to the development of players and coaches to further grow the game in Aotearoa.
With these announcements, each of the four playing assistant coaches will be exempt from the upcoming AFL New Zealand National Draft are immediate selections for the base player list for their respective teams.
Mitch Ryan – Northern Suns
Mitch Ryan has been announced as the Northern Suns playing assistant coach for the 2017 AFL New Zealand Premiership season.
Mitch first represented the New Zealand Hawks at U16 level in Fiji where the team were crowned champions of Oceania in 2011.
His 2016 Premiership season was cut short by an ankle injury after only one game but continued to help head coach Chris Mundell on the sideline. A coaching highlight came in Round 4 last season when Ryan guided the Suns to an upset victory over a red hot Western Crows side.
Hailing from the North Shore, Ryan plays for the North Shore Tigers and spent two years in Melbourne playing for the Frankston Dolphins. He is also a representative of the North Harbour Rugby reserve grade side.
James Bowden – Central Giants
Former New Zealand Hawk James Bowden has been named as the Central Giants Playing assistant coach.
Bowden was the leading goal kicker for the Giants for the Inaugural season and is itching to be back playing and now coaching in the Premiership environment.
Coaching alongside former Western Crows and current NZ Hawks head coach Rob Malone will provide Bowden with extra knowledge to guide his side to victory.
Bowdens career has seen him participate in in three International Cup campaigns including a ‘Best on Ground’ performance in New Zealand’s only victorious International Cup victory on the MCG against Papua New Guinea. National Provincial Championship victories with the Canterbury Cobras and a multitude of premierships in the CAFL with the Eastern Blues are also credits on his report card.
Western Crows – Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp had a stellar Premiership season with the Western Crows in 2016 where was seen to make an impact in every game of the season. His guidance and knowledge he expressed to the young talent around the park was a big factor in the Crows winning the Inaugural Premiership.
Matt also has been developing his coaching skills over the past few AFL seasons. Kemp was assistant coach of the AFLNZ Kahu Youth Girls for their Indigenous Woomera’s campaign in December 2015 and has played a coaching role in the Inaugural Youth Competition and Academy as well.
Matt is involved with the Mt Roskill Saints in the Auckland League and has represented Auckland at NPC level on many occasions.
Andriu Sucu – Southern Saints
Andriu Sucu will join his brother Brandon at the Southern Saints in 2017.
Sucu was ruled out of the 2016 competition through injury and was named as assistant coach under Andrew Congalton.
With the body back to 100%, Sucu will pull on the boots and use his coaching knowledge and experience on the field. He will be a key addition to an already experienced backline which features 2016 Premiership Best and Fairest Brandon Sucu and Captain Michael Boyce.
Sucu has had great success with his local club the North Shore Tigers, leading them through to the 2015 AAFL Grand Final. His playing career has also seen him represent the NZ Hawks on a number of occasions with an appearance at the 2011 International Cup.