The NZ Falcons Coaching staff have announced the remaining players in the NZ Leadership group, with Cantabrian Jay Johnson and Waikato based Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, joining Captain Andrew Howison.
The NZ Falcons will play their first game in over 2 years, as they take on a NZ All Stars side in a one off game on Saturday, September 25th at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.
Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas
Originally hailing from Northland, Te Kopa was awarded the 2018 Senior Men’s player of the year at the AFL New Zealand High Performance Awards following a phenomenal year.
Representing New Zealand for the second time at the 2017 AFL International Cup, the midfielder’s exceptional performance earned him a spot in World Team as one of the best 22 players at the tournament.
Te Kopa spent 5 years with the Western Crows in the AFLNZ Premiership winning 2 titles, before claiming his third in 2021 when he switched allegiance to the Central Giants.
Since his New Zealand debut in April 2013, he has carved out an impressive pathway through to the Senior New Zealand team, along the way captaining the U16 New Zealand side, and being recognised as the 2014 and 2015 U16 AFL New Zealand Player of the Year.
Jay Johnson is the current captain of the Western Crows and has represented the Falcons over the past 10years.
The 29 year old is a key figure within the high performance set up with his endurance running, smooth ball skills and calm demeanour.
Johnson has been named in every Premiership ‘Team of the Year’ since the competition’s inception and his long list of accolades include the competitions Best and Fairest winner in 2018 and the Crow’s Best and Fairest in 2016.
First representing New Zealand in 2011, Jay was introduced to the game by former AFL New Zealand representative and current New Zealand Sevens All Blacks team member, Sam Dickson.