The AFL Flying Boomerangs have completed a sweep of matches on their tour of New Zealand. The Under 16 New Zealand Hawks fought hard but were unable to match the sheer skill and speed shown by the Boomerangs.
Regardless of the result, the matches provided opportunities for the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks to test themselves against some of the highest quality opposition. The AFL Flying Boomerangs are among the best young indigenous AFL players in Australia, and demonstrated their abilities in style whilst in New Zealand.
The tour was also notable for fostering links between cultures, as was shown by the exchange of gifts and cultural performances between the two teams. During the ceremony preceding the 2nd match, the visitors presented a Didgeridoo to Te Rei Clark of the New Zealand Hawks.
The AFL Flying Boomerangs were also formally welcomed to New Zealand with a powhiri, held at Te Marae within the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, which served as a fitting introduction to the indigenous Maori culture of New Zealand.
Following the matches, both teams shared their culture through teaching each other their respective prematch rituals. The New Zealanders learnt the AFL Flying Boomerangs’ War Cry, and in turn taught their guests the haka. It was a touching moment in a tour marked by friendship and mutual respect.
The match itself was a fast paced and competitive exhibition of skill, with both teams putting every effort into winning the contest. The wind was also a telling factor, in blustery Wellington conditions both teams had a much easier time playing downwind.
The AFL Flying Boomerangs were benefitted by the conditions in the first quarter. Right from the opening hooter they attacked, running clever lines to string together passes and marks. The remarkable display of skill saw the visitors race out to a 8.5:53 – 0.0:0 lead.
The Hawks, however, were not about to give up, and fought back. In an improved performance over the quarter, Sam McDougall slotted the first of his two goals for the game. The dominance of the AFL Flying Boomerangs was clear though, and they extended their lead over the quarter. At halftime the score stood at 13.6:84 – 1.1:7.
With the wind against them again, the Hawks were facing an uphill task in the third quarter. The backs worked hard to minimise the scoring opportunities available to the visitors, and the Hawks also combined to set Sam McDougall up for his 2nd goal. The score after three quarters was 18.14:122 – 2.1:13.
Up until the final whistle the Hawks kept pushing for points, and they managed to score two goals in the final quarter. In what turned out to be a higher scoring match for both teams, the final score finished at 25.18:168 – 4.3:27.
The Best on Grounds were awarded to both teams at the end of the match. From the New Zealand Hawks, Te Rei Clark and Sam McDougall were awarded the honours, after strong and consistent performances in the match.
All observers were impressed with the courage of Anthony Young of the AFL Flying Boomerangs, who committed to every tackle and contest with impressive zeal, despite being smaller than many of the players he was marking. Young was one of the visitors awarded a Best on Ground, the other was another small but effective player, John Garlett.
With a successful tour now completed, an opportunity exists to plan for the future. New Zealand Hawks coach Mick Coultard made it clear the AFL Flying Boomerangs would be welcome to return. “You are top quality ambassadors for both your sport and for yourselves.”
AFL New Zealand C.E.O Robert Vanstam agreed, though noted that a large experience gap existed between the two teams. With the successes of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme, there is every indication the gap will close given the potential for excellence shown by the New Zealand Hawks.
Touring teams play a major role in the ability of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme to offer athletes opportunities to excel through AFL. With a major tour involving each of the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks, the Under 18 New Zealand Hawks, the Under 18 New Zealand Kahus and the Senior New Zealand Hawks to be played every year, the pathway from age group to open age national representation is available to all athletes within the programme.
Upon the completion of the successful tour, AFL New Zealand wishes to thank:
The AFL Indigenous Programme and the AFL Flying Boomerangs
The Australian High Commission
Te Papa Tongarewa
Activation Upper Hutt
The Cancer Society of New Zealand
Stop Out Football Club
Most of all, the parents, supporters and family of players who were part of the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks.