The AFL New Zealand Heritage Team has been selected for 2021, showing the depth of involvement New Zealanders have in AFL at the highest level.
The 2021 Heritage team boasts an exciting mix of established AFL stars such as Max Gawn from the Melbourne Football Club, Richmond Tigers star Dustin Martin, youthful talent and home grown New Zealand players.
To meet the criteria to be selected in the AFLNZ heritage team, each player must either have been born in New Zealand or have New Zealand parentage.
The 2021 team consists of 15 players currently playing in the AFL week in, week out for their clubs.
Max Gawn Captains the side and Ben Rutten, coach of the Essendon Football Club has been named as the first ever NZ heritage coach.
The development programmes run by AFL New Zealand have a vision of AFL as a New Zealand sport. At every level of the game, from teaching schoolchildren the fundamentals through the AFL KiwiKick programme, to high performance training for athletes looking for a pathway in sport, to regional leagues played around the country, AFL in New Zealand is on a roll. The introduction of the AFLNZ Youth Competition in 2015 was a major success in placing High School aged students on the pathway to AFL.
This is great news for the future of the sport in both countries. New Zealanders moving to Australia will have an understanding and enjoyment of the game, and Australian clubs will have a bigger pool of talented players to select from. The New Zealand Heritage Team is a reflection of the strong links that already exist between the two countries. A passion for AFL is one of those links that is growing stronger every year.