Excitement is building for the upcoming VAFA Under 18 Tour to New Zealand. The Victorian Amateur Football Association will send a team to take on the Under-18 New Zealand Hawks in two matches in Auckland.
The Under-18 New Zealand Hawks are currently in the process of selecting their ideal squad to play the touring Victorians. Players are selected based in part on their performances in the Under-18 National Championships, held in April 2013.
According to Mick Coultard, High Performance Manager of AFL New Zealand, “Our relationship with VAFA is very important to us. These games offer an opportunity for our High Performance players to test themselves against top quality opposition.”
The two matches will be held at Parrs Park on the 5th and 7th of October. While the matches are about developing and nurturing young talent, they will also be fiercely competitive. Both teams will be turning up to perform.
The Under 18 New Zealand Hawks will be coached by Chris Mundell, and will feature players who have been part of the AFL New Zealand High Performance Programme. This pathway aims to prepare young people for a career in sport, with the ultimate goal of a place in the AFL.
There have been some notable success stories of the AFL New Zealand High Performance pathway so far. The Hawthorn Football Club has two New Zealanders on contract as international rookies, Kurt Heatherley and Shem Tatupu.
Other members of the players AFL NZ High Performance programme are currently in Australia participating in Victorian AFA teams. Justin Clark, Aaron Harris, Andy Christensen and Andrew Howison have all made the most of the established links developed between the two associations.
The touring itinerary for the VAFA players will see them welcomed to New Zealand with a function on the 4th of October with departure on the night of the 7th, with the schedule busy and exciting. The visiting players will have a day in between games to explore Auckland, and experience a taste of what the city has to offer the visitors.
This will not be the first time a VAFA Under 18 team has toured New Zealand. Since 2009 a team has been sent every October, with series being hosted in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. History is against the Hawks, as the VAFA Under 18s have never been beaten in New Zealand.
Owen Lalor, a notable figure in Victorian AFL, will coach the VAFA Under 18 squad. Lalor has previously coached the VAFA Under 19 team, and has coached at premier club level.
For both squads, the tour is a golden opportunity to develop the young men involved both personally and as footballers. The VAFA squad aims to select on not only ability on the field, but also on maturity and suitability to act as ambassadors for the game.