12 months ago the match played between the AIS/AFL Academy and New Zealand Hawks at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium initiated the first ever contest between Australian and New Zealand representative teams in the sport of AFL.
The victory to the Australian team was not the desired result for the Hawks but the match had a far more important role to play than just the scoreboard. It was the catalyst in securing the first ever AFL fixture to be played outside of Australia in over one hundred years of AFL competition. ANZAC Day 2013 will see the St Kilda Football Club compete against the reigning Premiers the Sydney Swans at the same venue.
The current New Zealand Hawks team does not include any current AFL stars but a hard working group that dares to dream. Veteran Wayne Schwass with over 200 AFL games to his credit will realise a life time ambition when he represents New Zealand, his country of birth, for the very first time.
The recent signing of New Zealand youngsters Kurt Heatherley and Shem Tatupu by the Hawthorn Football Club showcases a great pathway for aspiring New Zealand players and the AFL competition now boasts 22 players, currently playing, who are eligible to represent New Zealand. So who knows what the future holds. Kurt and Shem both played in this game last year and Shem along with 2012 Hawthorn scholarship winner Ben Miller will be returning to take on the Academy side.
The value of International representation cannot be understated and that is what this weekends game is all about.
In the week leading up to the Australia, New Zealand fixture Wellington will also host our first National Combine involving 40 of our brightest young stars as well as the St Kilda Football Club Community Camp, also in Wellington.