The Inaugural game of the AFL New Zealand Premiership will feature the Central Giants go up against the Southern Saints (Kick off 11.45am) in what will be an exciting and pulsating start to the 2016 season.
It is the first time AFL New Zealand has run a national competition like this and means that the talent pool has increased across the four teams which will provide top quality football.
The Central Giants feature a squad full of talent, with hard running players spanning across multiple positions on the field. Watch out for this team to excite the crowds throughout the season.
Coach: Shannon Wall
The current New Zealand Under 16 Coach is obviously well versed at developing young talent. This is very evident through the success he achieved with St Kilda Football Clubs first International Scholarship signing, Joe Baker Thomas. The procession of young talent and their continued improvement in the Wellington region have all passed through Walls guidance at some point.
His success with the younger age group will to some extent benefit other teams other than the Central Giants when it comes time for the New Zealand National Draft but this is not Walls concern. “I’m looking forward to the success of all the players in the AFL New Zealand Premiership. If we as coaches can assist with the players development then I have done my job. I am likely to be able to reacquaint with some of the players I coached two and three years ago and so I can’t wait for the challenge.”
Tasmanian born, Shannon Wall is a student of the game and his growing knowledge of training and development techniques will be of great benefit to the Giants.
Captain: David Rattenbury
Rattenbury is currently player coach with the Waitakere Magpies within the Auckland AFL competition, a team that he has also won two Grand Finals with in a playing capacity in 2010 and 2013 since his debut in 2005.
Appearing for New Zealand in three consecutive International Cups in 2008, 2011 and 2014, alongside AFL Academy campaigns in 2012 and 2014, Rattenbury is blessed with an impressive report within AFL in New Zealand.
“It’s great that the competition will not only provide a step up for club players but also a place for young players to accelerate the development of their skills. If I can be a small part of creating a competition that attracts interest from AFL clubs and lines up more kiwis with International Scholarships, then I’m in!”
Players to watch:
Number 1 Draft pick Will Gregson hails from the Waitakere Magpies club. He has travelled through the high performance system after initially debuting at international level for the New Zealand Under 18’s team. A strongly built backman with a great leap and electric pace, he is likely to fill in a key role in the backline and in negating prominent opposition goal scorers.
The 26 year old University Blues goal kicker was a key member of the 2014 International Cup squad and most recently represented New Zealand against the AFL Academy at Westpac on ANZAC Day earlier this year. His height and mobility, his ability to kick goals will be the number one asset likely to maintain the interest of coaching staff.
Mt Roskill Saints player Liam Ackland is one of the youngest ever players to pull on the NZ Hawks Guernsey. Ackland was only 16 years old when he played in the 2008 International Cup and managed to impress talent scouts with his extreme pace and hard-nosed attitude. The roving midfielder had a brief stint with the Glenelg Football Club in 2009 and is now back in Auckland where he will make a big impact in the Premiership.
The Southern Saints have compiled a mix of experience and youth within their squad and will be pushing hard to be at the top of the ladder at the end of the season.
Coach: Andrew Congalton
Andrew Congalton is a well known and respected member of the International football community. The current Senior AFL New Zealand coach, he has a history with New Zealand representative teams that spans back more than a decade. He captained New Zealand in both the 2005 and 2008 International Cups, leading New Zealand to victory in the 2005 campaign and also selected in the World Team in both these campaigns.
Due to ongoing injuries, Congalton changed his focus to coaching with assistant coaching roles with the New Zealand Senior team from 2011 onwards before taking on the lead role for New Zealand earlier this year against the AFL Academy.
Captain: Michael Boyce
The current captain of the Mt Roskill Saints, Boyce has a quality AFL career within New Zealand to match those of his counterparts. Representing New Zealand at the 2014 International Cup as well as campaigns against South Pacific and AFL Academy, Boyces association with New Zealand teams can be traced back to junior age groups more than a decade ago.
A Grand Final victory with the Mt Roskill Saints in 2013 alongside an AAFL Best and Fairest medal, add to his list of achievements in the game.
Players to watch:
Sam McKenzie also has a stake in to regional competitions with ties to both Mt Roskill Saints in Auckland and North City Demons in Wellington. He is a marking forward/midfielder whose contesting marking skill provides him with the ability to play against much bigger defensive opponents and still provide potency with his goal kicking ability.
Having represented New Zealand at all age levels, hard running Kyle Smith is just 21 years old but plays the sport like an experienced veteran. The Christchurch Bulldogs captain generally plays on the wing and will be an asset in any Premiership team.
Robinson, who hails from Rotorua represented New Zealand in the sport of Volleyball at last year’s Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China and has also been involved with U19 and U21 NZ teams. He was involved with the AFL Zealand National Combine in 2014, where he holds the record for the Vertical Leap of 81cm.