The AFL Flying Boomerangs have taken the honours in their first match against the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks at Hutt Park.
Playing with an exciting blend of skill and speed, the AFL Flying Boomerangs were simply too fast for the Hawks to keep pace. However, the Hawks earned respect through their dogged commitment throughout the game.
Before the match, both teams challenged each other with cultural performances. The New Zealand Hawks performed their haka, led by Te Rei Clark of Ngapuhi and Northland. The AFL Flying Boomerangs also performed their War Dance, meeting the challenge set out by the Hawks.
In damp conditions that made ball control difficult, it was the AFL Flying Boomerangs who made much of the early running. Matthew Wilkes scored two goals during the first quarter, along with goals to Jordan Jeffery and Shai Bolton. The dominant display from the Boomerangs led to them leading 4.5:29-0.0:0 going into the break.
With the advantage of the wind in the second quarter, the Boomerangs extended their lead. Five more goals over the quarter reflected the passing and marking skills of the touring side. The half ended with the score 9.11:65-0.1:1.
A fired up Hawks side came out after half time, determined to put points on the board in the second half. An increase in intensity at the ball led to more possession, and more opportunities on goal. During the third quarter the Hawks scored their first goal of the game, with Jonty Hall cleaning up a loose ball to convert the opportunity. The period ended 11.18:84-1.1:7.
A hallmark of New Zealand Hawks teams at every level is the ability to keep improving right until the final hooter. So it was with the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks, the 4th quarter was their best. Their performance at the death showed that the second match of the series will be a far tougher assignment for the AFL Flying Boomerangs. The match ended 16.23:119-2.3:15.
The post match awards emphasised the culture of friendship that has characterised the AFL Flying Boomerangs tour of New Zealand. Alongside the trophies given to the standout New Zealand Hawks players, the visiting side also gifted those players Boomerangs.
Each coach selected a player from each team to award a Best on Ground trophy. Hawks coach Mick Coultard recognised Utu Ah Kuoi from his own team, and Kym LeBois from the opposition.
AFL Flying Boomerangs coach Eugene Warrior was particularly impressed with the performance of Siope Ngata, a current holder of an AFL International Scholarship with the Hawthorn Football Club. Warrior also recognised Keenan Waterbury from the Northern Territory.
Eugene Warrior was generous in his praise for how the Hawks played. In particular he noted the physicality and courage showed by the home side. “The intensity at the ball from the Hawks was world class.”
Notable guests at the game included the Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Mr Michael Potts. The Australian High Commission supports the development of indigenous sport, and tours like this have a welcome impact on the opportunities available to New Zealand athletes to excel through AFL.
The success of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme was evident throughout the match. The Under 16 New Zealand Hawks are relatively new to the sport of AFL compared to their opposition, but have been training hard under the tutelage of Mick Coultard.
The AFL New Zealand High Performance pathway will allow these young athletes to continue developing, with many players expected to represent New Zealand again in future at Under 18 and Senior level.
With the first match completed, all eyes will now turn to the second match of the series, to be held at Hutt Park on Saturday at midday. The match will be held in conjunction with the Wellington AFL Grand Final, in what will be an exciting day for fans of the sport in Wellington.
AFL Flying Boomerangs: 16.23:119 (Jeffrey 4, Wilkes 3, Johnstone 2, Bolton 2, Walsh-Bannam 2, Garlett, Simpkin, Gray)
Under 16 New Zealand Hawks: 2.3:15 (Hall, Fifita)
Under 16 New Zealand Hawks vs AFL Flying Boomerangs
Saturday 14th December, 12.00pm.
Wellington AFL Grand Final:
North City Demons vs Eastern Bulldogs
Saturday 14th December, 2.00pm