Heatherley creates NZ History

History was made over the weekend when NEW ZEALANDER Kurt Heatherley became the first born and bred Kiwi to play in the AFL when he made his debut for Hawthorn against Melbourne at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.

 

The athletic 21-year-old key defender started his AFL foray in NZ when he was 15 years old, playing at a youth level in several competitions. His first big accolade was being named player of the tournament in the Under 20’s NPC held in Wellington. At only 15 years old, Kurt was a standout and showed his potential of what he has become today.

 

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He has represented NZ at Under 16, Under 20 and senior level before relocating to Melbourne to further his AFL career.

Heatherley was a late inclusion into Saturday’s side when defender James Frawley pulled out with an injured shoulder.

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Hawthorn’s sixth debutant this season, Heatherley spent two seasons as an international rookie before being promoted to the primary list at the end of last year.

Kurt has been particularly impressive in Hawthorns reserve side in recent weeks, being named among Box Hill’s best players in five of his 14 games this season.

Heatherley recently told hawthornfc.com.au his form had been the result of a more simple mindset.

“I think just getting back to basics (has been the key) – taking the first option and just being aggressive,”

“I sort of went away from that at the start of the season and got a little bit frustrated, but the last couple of weeks I’ve really started to just focus on playing my role for the team and doing whatever’s possible to try to get the win.”

During the game, Kurt showed signs that he could have a long career in the AFL with the lean key defender starting well with some early spoils and a mark. After halftime, Kurt seemed more settled, when he was seen to be directing traffic in the backline. Fellow debutant Sam Weideman (who also has NZ heritage) initially troubled him and so too did Jack Watts, but Heatherley is a likely type who will learn greatly from his first foray at the highest level.

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