The recently confirmed St Kilda Saints and the Sydney Swans AFL game at Westpac Stadium on ANZAC Day, will help boost player numbers in the four AFL teams in Wellington says the Regional Development Manager for AFL NZ, James Terry.
“The big exposure from the game will have links to the clubs and community,” he says.
AFL NZ is trying to reinvigorate all the teams in Wellington through a 9s competition, which he likens to the equivalent of rugby sevens in comparison to rugby.
The eight teams that will play in that competition will then form four strong club teams for the traditional 18 men game he says.
Mark Langdon, President of Wellington AFL hopes the Anzac match will inspire more high school students to compete for the Secondary School Hawks Cup.
“I hope the numbers in that development grade increase and then feed into the senior teams like the Eagles and the Demons,” he says.
Year 13 students from Hutt Valley High School are loving playing AFL, with one student in the New Zealand AFL team, the Hawks, he says.
He is hoping that New Zealand trained players will soon be scouted by Australian AFL teams, with four New Zealanders on scholarships at the moment.
Hutt Valley Eagles Club President Alex Wood will be buying tickets to Anzac match the day they go on sale he says.
He says Wellington City Council becoming a Premier Partner of the St Kilda Saints, which allows Wellington to host ‘home-away-from-home’ games each season, will have positive flow on effects for the teams in the Wellington AFL league.
He says people watching the match may then be inspired to have a go at playing the game, and then grow the numbers of players in Wellington.
“It’s something different and new, and people who go along and watch may then want to play it,” he says.
His team, the Hutt Valley Eagles, have a strong membership of 22-24 players each season.
Training has started for the 2011-2012 season which begins in late October.
His minority sport sees numbers drop through injury and commitments to rugby academies.
He says rugby training seems to start earlier every year and has a negative effect on the summer sport.
Four leagues operate under the banner of AFL New Zealand – six clubs in Auckland, three in Wellington, another four in Canterbury and three teams in the Waikato league.
The ANZAC match is the first ever premiership match between AFL clubs that will be staged outside Australia.
Wellington hosted a pre-season game in 1998.