AFL New Zealand have hosted in conjunction with the 2013 AFL Grand Final, an annual Community Awards function at the AUT Millennium Institute in Mairangi Bay. The event was a fantastic chance to recognise and thank the many people and partner organisations that have contributed to the success of AFL New Zealand over the past year.
Guests arrived during the afternoon for a buffet lunch, enjoying the meal put together by the Millennium Institute catering team. Following lunch, the awards commenced with a new promotional advert for AFL in New Zealand developed by Sommet Sports.
The many different aspects of AFL New Zealand’s strategies and programmes were put on display throughout the Community Awards. Encompassing and recognising the contributions of primary and secondary schools, regional sporting trusts, media organisations or AFL New Zealand High Performance participants and parents, the awards covered the breadth of the AFL community.
Reg Ranchhod, the National AFL KiwiKick Development Manager, gave representatives from two primary schools awards. The first award was presented to Tanya Griffin of The Gardens School, with the school from the Counties Manukau region boasting the largest AFL KiwiKick centre in New Zealand for the current year
Chris Judd, representing the Marist School in Mt Albert was also an award winner. Chris has been a strong advocate of AFL KiwiKick, particularly with regard to tournament and festival days, at many primary schools throughout his career. When asked if it was likely Marist Mt Albert would invite AFL KiwiKick to return next year, he replied that as their teams had come 2nd and 3rd at the recent Eden Albert Zone AFL KiwiKick tournament, they had unfinished business.
The development of Play AFL Clubs, due to begin in October, was highlighted through the next award. Play AFL Clubs wouldn’t be possible without the strong support of fantastic venues. Justin Leydessdorf, CEO of the Papatoetoe Sports Centre represents only one of a number of iconic venues who have embraced the introduction of a new and dynamic sport. Justin is a keen particpant who is looking forward to the upcoming AFL 9s season.
National Secondary School Coordinator and High Performance Manager, Mick Coultard presented the next award, bringing attention to the many AFL New Zealand programmes offered to secondary schools. Simon Bucknor of Sport Waitakere accepted an award on behalf of local secondary school Green Bay High School. The award was for the successful completion of AFL Coach the Coaches, a dynamic programme which teaches secondary school students valuable skills and prepares them for the workforce.
Another award recipient was Mark Cathie of Sommet Sports, New Zealand’s only free to air sports channel. Sommet Sports has been a major supporter of the AFL in New Zealand, broadcasting six matches a week live, and three with delayed coverage. Mark suggested that demand was high for a continuation of this partnership next season, in a fantastic result for AFL fans in this country who want to watch games live and free to air.
AFL New Zealand is engaged in several partnerships through KiwiSport and Regional Sports Trusts. The next two awards highlighted this partnership. Victoria Barton received the award on behalf of Sport Auckland. 15,000 primary school children within central Auckland have enjoyed AFL KiwiKick thanks to the support of Sport Auckland, and during her speech Victoria announced that AFL KiwiKick would be funded for a further 5000 children in 2014.
Business Development Manager Chris Milicich of Harbour Sport accepted an award on behalf of the organisation. For three consecutive years, Harbour Sport has funded AFL New Zealand led programmes, providing more sport to more primary school aged children. The support of Harbour Sport has been crucial in entrenching AFL KiwiKick in schools around the region.
The various AFL New Zealand High Performance programmes were highlighted through a series of videos, with an award provided to current New Zealand Hawks player Shane Leat. Shane has been part of various AFL New Zealand programmes over the past six years, including Coach the Coaches and the Gateway programme while he was at Kelston High School, and as an AFL KiwiKick Coach he has delivered to his former primary school. Shane’s story is a great example of the pathways that are available through AFL in New Zealand.
The High Performance programme is successful through the supportive families of the athletes involved in the programme and this was recognised through a Community Award presented to the Ngata family. Hawthorn Hawks International Scholarship holder Siope Ngata is an example of an athlete provided with an opportunity to follow his dreams due to the support of an his family.
The ANZAC Day 2013 clash between Sydney and St Kilda was highlighted as a major success for AFL New Zealand as the awards ceremony came to an end. After a huge year for the organisation, the Community Awards were a great chance to engage with supportive partners and look ahead to another exciting year.
Following on from the ceremony, guests were then treated to a live telecast of the 2013 AFL Grand Final. The Hawthorn Hawks were clearly the favourites among the Community Awards attendees, as evidenced by the number of Hawks colours on show for the game and their victory capped off a great occasion.