High Standard of AFL at U16 National Champs

The AFL New Zealand Under 16 National Championships have been held in Wellington, with the high standard of play a highlight of the tournament.

The tournament involved the best Under 16 AFL athletes in New Zealand, and featured many players who have, or will go on to play for New Zealand.

Three teams, the Giants, the Suns and the Eagles, contested the Under 16 National Championships.

It was the Eagles who triumphed, led by strong performances from Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas, Carlos Donnell-Brown, Nathan Lenihan and Utusa’itoa Ah Kuoi.

The Eagles were coached by Michael Gregson, with Warwick Kain assisting and Murray Armstrong managing the team.

mc2201_3_4067In the first match, the Eagles defeated the Giants thanks to accurate goalkicking from Cori Albert-Hape-Kino, Nathan Lenihan and Willie Schutz. They backed it up with a 2nd win, this time over the Suns. Nathan Lenihan was again precise in front of goal.

To round out day 1, the Giants took on the Suns. The match proved to be a tense battle, with only a point separating the teams at half time. The Suns stepped up to battle through and win the match.

The Eagles were in a comfortable position at the beginning of day 2, but were in no mood to become complacent. In their first match of the day, the Eagles routed the Giants, with James Watkins and Connor McGeough starring with two goals each.

The trophy was now almost secured for the Eagles, who only had to beat the Suns to win. They did so, thanks to a dominant first half performance that included 7 goals. The Suns fought back hard in the second half, in particular through the boot of Te Rei Clark, but were unable to level the deficit.

With one match to go in the tournament, the Giants were still looking for their first win. Good initial pressure saw them take a big lead at half time, which they then extended to put the game beyond doubt. Siope Ngata was unstoppable in this match, kicking 5 goals.

The impact of players who have been part of the High Performance programme was noticeable, with tournament awards mostly going to players who have represented their country.

Brayden Herewini from Wellington was awarded the Best and Fairest for the Giants. From the Suns, James Little of North Harbour was Best and Fairest. The award for the Eagles went to Auckland’s Carlos Donnell-Brown.

The overall tournament Best and Fairest Award went to Te Kopa Tipene Thomas of Bay of Islands College. Tipene-Thomas was a deserving winner, after maintaining his intensity admirably across all four matches.

The Under 16 New Zealand Hawks will have a busy 2014, with tournaments and tours throughout the year.

From the Under 16 National Championships, the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks will be selected. Their first assignment will be the South Pacific Cup, to be held in Coffs Harbour in April.

Following the South Pacific Cup, a small selection of players will compete at the NAB Australian Under 16 National Championships, as part of a combined South Pacific Academy team.

Players will be considered for selection into the Under 18 National Championships, and subsequently the Under 18 New Zealand Hawks. The Under 18 National Championships will be held in conjunction with various ANZAC Week events in Wellington, including the match between the St Kilda Saints and Brisbane Lions on ANZAC Day.

AFL New Zealand High Performance players are encouraged to take part in Hawks Cup tournaments wherever possible, either as players or coaches of their school team. The 2014 Junior Hawks Cup will take place in term 4.

Finally, the Under 16 New Zealand Hawks will take on the AFL Flying Boomerangs in a two match series in December.


AFL New Zealand Under 16 National Championships Results:

Game 1:

Eagles: 11.4:70 (Lenihan 2, Schutz 2, Albert-Hape-Kino 2, Armstrong, McGeough, Lucas, Caldwell)

Giants: 2.2:14 (Van Der Wilt, Stuart)

Game 2:

Eagles: 6.9:45 (Lenihan 2, McGeough, Donnell-Brown, Watkins, Kainana)

Suns: 3.2:20 (Forde-Fraser, Smith, Tainui)

Game 3:

Suns 6.11:47 (Blackie 2, Lewis, Tainui, N Ah Kuoi, Clark)

Giants 5.6:36 (Ngata, Van Der Wilt, Matheson, Te Whata, Green)

Game 4:

Eagles: 7.3:45 (McGeough 2, Watkins 2, Schutz, Middleton, Curran)

Giants: 4.5:29 (Ngata 2, Herewini, Harriman)

Game 5:

Eagles: 9.6:60 (Middleton 2, Schutz 2, Lenihan, McGeough, Caldwell, Tipene-Thomas, Albert-Hape-Kino)

Suns: 5.4:34 (Clark 3, Mauafua, Little)

Game 6:

Giants: 8.7:55 (Ngata 5, Herewini, Te Whata, O’Callaghan)

Suns: (4.4:28) (Tainui, Little, Cullen, Clark)


Best and Fairest Awards:

Eagles: Carlos Donnell-Brown

Suns: James Little

Giants: Brayden Herewini

Tournament Best and Fairest: Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas