The Auckland Buccaneers have taken out the title of National Provincial Champions for 2016 after going through the tournament undefeated.
Held at Hutt Park in Wellington on December 10th and 11th, four regions (Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago) from around the country contested the 2 day tournament which saw some tremendous football skills on show in (at times) some very testing conditions.
It’s the first time since 2013 that Auckland have held the trophy and they were deserved winners in 2016 after overcoming all three regions. On day one, Auckland came up against Wellington in the first game and in a low scoring affair managed to hold on for a 9 point win. In their second game against Otago, Matt Kemp and Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas were the stars of the show but inaccurate kicking and 8 behinds for the match nearly cost them a victory against a gallant Riot side. Auckland only had to win their final game against Canterbury to secure the title and they did it in style running out 73 point winners. Ben Hick was solid for the Buccaneers in all three games and Adam Rice was awarded the best and fairest.
The Wellington Tigers produced their strongest squad in years and with highly talented youngster Misilifi Faimalo and seasoned veterans, James Kusel, Stan Chung and Peter Hasltead. After a narrow loss to Auckland on day 1, the Tigers played the best football of the tournament on day 2 and dominated Canterbury with Halstead and Kusel putting on a goal scoring display up front. With their tails up, Wellington scored a big win in their final game against Otago by 60 points with the two big men up forward kicking 8 goals between them. Other notable players for the weekend were Harrison Manks, Josh Morgan-Ranui and Craig Morgan.
The Otago Riot almost claimed their first win in NPC history but fell just short in losing to Canterbury by just two points on day 1. A team on the way up, Otago are full of youth and talent and are a pleasure to watch. New Zealand players, Logan Toomer (Captain), Heta Scarf-Matthews, Jay Johnson and Christian Blackie were among the best for the Riot along with Will Dickensen, Sam Browne and big Tom Bekkers dominated the ruck in all three games and was awarded the teams best and fairest.
Defending Champions, the Canterbury Cobras fielded a youthful side at this years tournament and were coached by Chris Mintern. Defenders Sam Burdett and Jared Court played their part in the backline while Captain Wayne Sullivan was a solid performer overcoming early injury setbacks. Notable players for the Cobras were Henry Boon, Kynan Stowers and Canterbury best and fairest Brad Mavor.
2017 AFL New Zealand Premiership number 1 draft pick Peter Halstead (Wellington) was the tournament leading goal scorer. Normally found in the ruck, Halstead was carrying a slight hamstring injury and was positioned up front for Wellington and with his height and aerial ability, the new Northern Suns recruit took some strong marks and ended with 9 goals for the Tournament.
The tournament Best and Fairest award went to Wellington Vice Captain James Kusel who showed why he is among the best in the country. James is the Northern Suns Captain in the AFL New Zealand Premiership and the leader was unstoppable for Wellington playing at centre half forward. The 29 year old never let up all tournament and provided great pressure in both attack and defence. Kusel kicked 6 goals for the tournament and linked in well with new Northern Suns team mate Peter Halstead.
Congratulations to everyone involved who were apart of the tournament and in particular a strong performance from umpires who represented from Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland. Under testing conditions, excellent protection was provided for those over the ball. For further coverage of the National Provincial Championships thank you to Jun Tanlayco, please go to www.juntanlaycosports.com
Tournament Leading Goal scorer: Peter Halstead (Wellington) – 9 goals
Tournament Best and Fairest: James Kusel (Wellington)
Tournament Winners: Auckland
2016 NPC Results