AFLNZ establishes new sport in Northland

AFL has become part of the sporting landscape in Northland, due to a successful Play AFL Project undertaken by AFL New Zealand.

The Northland Play AFL Project was supported by Sport Northland, and involved the delivery of high quality programmes to students across the region.

The AFL KiwiKick programme, which teaches fundamental movement skills, was delivered to 1205 students aged 5-12, with schools involved stretching from Pakotai School in the West to One Tree Point in the East. Male and female participation figures were equal.

Teachers were impressed with both the content and delivery of the AFL KiwiKick programme.

“The skills they are teaching are most beneficial to other ball codes too. It is a great opportunity for staff to get professional development as they are introducing quite a number of new ideas.” Graham Elsmore, Associate Principal at Christian Renewal School

AFL Secondary School programmes were delivered to more than 700 students, stretching from the Bay of Islands College to Dargaville High School.

Programmes covered a diverse range of needs for different schools. An example of this is the AFL Coach the Coaches programme.

The AFL Coach the Coaches programme provide secondary school students with valuable work experience, and a foot in the door into a career in sport. Students have the opportunity to become accredited AFL KiwiKick coaches, and once qualified can deliver AFL KiwiKick sessions in a local Primary Schools in conjunction with experienced AFL New Zealand staff.

The positive outcomes of AFL Coach the Coaches are many and varied.Participants in the programme typically report that their communication skills and confidence dramatically improves as a result of what they learn. The Primary School children also experience the advantages of the AFL Coach the Coaches, as they experience high quality focused coaching, with an excellent ratio of coaches to students.

An important element of the Play AFL Project was the accreditation of teachers and volunteers as AFL KiwiKick coaches. Across Northland 142 Coaches have been accredited, enhancing the sustainability of AFL as a sport.

Another successful programme was the Hawks Cup, which saw male and female athletes participate in inter-school competition. Bay of Islands College proved to be very strong in both competitions.

The Regional Combine Programme, which involved talented athletes testing and measuring their skills was successfully implemented. The Regional Combine Programme in Northland was a crucial facet in the development of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme in the region.

Ben Armstrong of Bay of Islands College, who set a new NZ record in the AFL Agility Test at the AFL New Zealand National Combine.
Ben Armstrong of Bay of Islands College, who set a new NZ record in the AFL Agility Test at the AFL New Zealand National Combine.

Of the 87 athletes who participated in the Regional Combines around Northland, 8 were invited to be among the 39 athletes participating at the AFL New Zealand National Combine in Wellington. Bay of Islands student Ben Armstrong set a new National Record in the AFL agility test, a standout performance among a strong set from the Northland athletes.

Other Northlanders have excelled as part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme. Both Te Rei Clark and Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, of Whangarei Boys High School and Bay of Islands College respectively, have captained the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks. Tipene-Thomas was named AFL New Zealand Under 16 Player of the Year in April.

The presence of the AFL New Zealand High Performance programme was underlined when the Under 18 New Zealand Kahus, the premier female National AFL team, played an International match against the Australian Youth Girls in Whangarei. Many of the New Zealand team were Northlanders, including the AFL New Zealand Female Player of the Year Setarah Brown from Whangarei Girls High School.

The New Zealand Kahus played one match against Australia in Whagarei last year, a significant milestone in the development of International AFL.
The New Zealand Kahus played one match against Australia in Whagarei last year, a significant milestone in the development of International AFL.

The High Performance Programme is an area that AFL New Zealand will continue to target in Northland. The region is rich with sporting talent, and AFL New Zealand offers a pathway to National Representation and the opportunity to excel through AFL.

Further opportunities for development exist in 2014, with Play AFL Clubs scheduled to begin in October. Play AFL Clubs will offer all participants, regardless of age or ability, the opportunity to play AFL.

The importance of Play AFL Clubs is in offering a pathway and progression for current participants, along with an introduction to AFL for new participants.

AFL New Zealand will also continue to focus on AFL Secondary Schools Programmes, placing an emphasis on the Hawks Cup, Coach the Coaches and Regional Combine programmes. These programmes are cost-effective, and offer further development opportunities in AFL following their completion.

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