With the culmination of 2015 only days away it is worthwhile recapping on what has been a fantastic year for AFL in the Wellington Region.
Our partners including Sport Wellington, Sport New Zealand, Wellington City Council, St Kilda Football Club, Wellington AFL and the AFL have all played a role in the development of the sport.
One of the biggest sporting clashes on the Australian calendar took place in Wellington with the St. Kilda Saints match up against the Carlton Blues on ANZAC Day in an AFL match at Westpac Stadium. The New Zealand ANZAC Day match has been a feature of the AFL home and away season for the past three years and has been a draw card for those keen to play AFL, especially children.
The support of Sport Wellington and strong AFL New Zealand successes in KiwiSport projects, were major enticements for St Kilda to sign both the initial one match deal, and the subsequent two year extension.
AFL New Zealand’s ‘AFL KiwiKick’ programme focuses on developing fundamental movement and ball skills for boys and girls between 5 to 12 years of age. The programme has drawn thousands of children into the sport and at the recent AFL match against the Carlton Blues, thousands of students from schools around Wellington were in the crowd. 13,500 children and their families were introduced to live AFL games through the AFL KiwiKick Programme and complimentary tickets to the 3 ANZAC Day AFL matches held at the Stadium
Students from ten schools were also invited to play AFL 9s on the Westpac Stadium field at half time, a unique and exciting experience for them.
“The kids love playing AFL KiwiKick at their schools, and they really enjoy their experience at Westpac Stadium. It is fantastic to see so many Wellington kids getting involved in this new and dynamic sport,” Wellington Coordinator Samuel McKenzie said.
Led by AFL New Zealand staff, the players streamed onto the field after the half time siren sounded. They were clearly excited to be there, shown by the waves to the crowd as they ran out.
Many of the children participating in the half-time AFL KiwiKick game had already learned the skills through the AFL KiwiKick in-school programme. The participants put their new skills to excellent use, showing how much they had learned through AFL KiwiKick.
A large group of schools from the Hutt Valley were involved, including Fraser Crescent School, Plateau School, Kelson School, Upper Hutt Primary School, Wilford School and St Joseph’s School. Paremata School from the Porirua region was also involved.
St Kilda Football Club staged its third Community Camp in Wellington in 2015. Professional players from the club visited local schools in conjunction with AFL New Zealand. Over the 3 Community Camps over 2,000 Wellington students have taken part in the St Kilda Community Camps. AFL New Zealand has also delivered “super clinics” at the Basin Reserve after each of the three ANZAC Day game.
In the past three years, over 8000 children between the ages of five and 12 have experienced the game of AFL through the in-school KiwiKick programme. This has been a fantastic increase commencing from a base of zero in 2012.
The AFL fixture held in April along with a strong school presence, has seen the AFL KiwiKick Programme receive an unprecedented take up in the last two terms of 2015. Original targets of 1,100 students in term 3 and 4 have been surpassed with 2,100 students engaged in the programme. 2016 has already seen school schedules targeting 1800 students in term 2 alone.
In 2015, 3 schools took part in an after school programme. AFL KiwiKick teaches fundamental movement and ball skills, and enables participants to become lifelong participants in sport. The fundamental skills of ‘Kick, Catch, Pass and Bounce’ are utilised throughout the AFL KiwiKick Programme and are transferable to a wide range of sports
The programme can include between 6 to 10 sessions and a match programme and takes place schools to ensure the burden of travel is reduced for parents and volunteers. It can be held before, during or after school and runs on a set day each week with session frequency, duration and cost structure designed to suit the needs of each school or centre.
Free taster sessions can be arranged for schools to provide both teachers and students with the opportunity to experience the fun and learning provided by AFL KiwiKick.
Chris Steffensen, a teacher from St Joseph’s School in Upper Hutt, noted the benefits of AFL KiwiKick in providing a pathway to further participation in sport.
“The game teaches the students so many things, like working together, communication, spatial awareness and thinking on their feet. Our students are really keen to continue playing the game and I haven’t had that from any other sport.”
Further reviews have extolled the inclusive nature of AFL KiwiKick. Edwandie Kruger from Birchville School was impressed by the ease at which girls got involved.
“AFL gives all students the opportunity to get involved. The girls did not feel excluded as the game gave them the opportunity to participate as well in a boys team.”
AFL New Zealand will continue to deliver the AFL KiwiKick programme, as it both delivers on key outcomes specified by Sport New Zealand and KiwiSport, and gives all participants an affinity with the sport of AFL.
A further area of development in Wellington has been AFL Secondary Schools programmes, delivered to more than 2500 participants in Wellington. Programmes include intra and interschool competitions, education, training and leadership programmes that use AFL as a context for learning.
These programmes have been warmly received by Secondary School teachers, in particular programmes that help students develop skills for the workforce. Liam McKinley, a P.E teacher at Rongotai College, had this to say about the Coach the Coaches Programme:
“Coach the Coaches is easy to follow and very clear on what a successful lesson needs. The coaching lesson plan book is also a very useful learning tool. AFL New Zealand runs a very professional course.”
More than 50 Wellingtonian students participated in Hawks Cup competitions last year, and of that number approximately 20 were invited to be part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme.
From Secondary School involvement, participants have gone on to be part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme and Wellington AFL Club league. Many regional players have even gone on to represent New Zealand at AFL.
Wellington has been a centre for AFL New Zealand High Performance events, including age group National Championship tournaments, the AFL New Zealand National Combine and International AFL matches, including a tour from the AFL South East, a team selected from the best young Victorian AFL players.
Wellington is becoming familiar with local success stories in AFL, in particular the success of Joe Baker-Thomas of Porirua. The St Kilda Football Club signed Joe Baker-Thomas to an AFL International Scholarship in April 2013, giving him the opportunity to secure a career in AFL. He first played the game as a student at Porirua College, taking part in the Hawks Cup interschool AFL competition. The success of Joe Baker-Thomas shows a pathway exists for talented Kiwi athletes to excel through AFL.
October 2015 saw the creation of the new exciting Youth competition to compliment the pathway for participants to excel in AFL. Within the AFL New Zealand Youth competition there is a focus on improving athletes’ skills and fitness along with a training, game and development programme that highlights the necessary requirements throughout the pathway. The AFL New Zealand Youth Boys competition includes two major centres in Auckland and Wellington. This is seen as the perfect way to transcend participants from school to club and connection with the local Wellington AFL Senior League and add to a successful year in AFL in Wellington.